Final thoughts

After a few half-hearted attempts to step down in the past few years, I will finally be relinquishing my role as Chairman. I took this decision simply because since originally standing as Chairman I have had two children meaning that I just cannot dedicate the time to the role that I would like.

In recent days I have been reflecting on my time as Chairman, and indeed my time on the committee and at the club as a whole. I thought it may be of interest to some to hear my thoughts on bridge in Nottingham and the bridge club itself. I would stressthat these are my personal views and not those of the committee. In addition, whilst I do think I have a fairly unique insight due to my time as chairman (and treasurer before that), there are people who have been playing a lot longer than me that may have a different view.

The first thing to say is that bridge is not in the terminal decline some would suggest. However, it is declining/has declined and with the many demands of the modern world I doubt the game will ever reach the level of popularity it has in the past.

What is also noticeable is the changing make-up of the players. The key demographic for Nottingham(and pretty much every bridge club) is people who have retired or approaching retirement. This is understandable as bridge provides a way to keep your brain stimulated (with all the health benefits that come with it) and also provides a social outlet. Also, as I can attest, finding time for bridge when you have a career and young children can be somewhat challenging. It is this demographic which makes up the majority of the beginners and improvers classes and it is this demographic which we need to continue to appeal to in order to maintain numbers at the club.

It is now far more common for people to come to the game at this age, as opposed to returning to it after a break for kids etc. The members of this demographic have a range of priorities, but the most overwhelming is to have an enjoyable evening of bridge. Whilst I believe that all players want to improve, improvement does not appear to be a key priority. As such, what has declined is the more competitive element of bridge. It is noticeable that the number of people playing in club, county and EBU competitions is declining. More than that it is noticeable that attendances on Mondays and indeed most days has fallen.

This is, in my opinion, a pity. For me, one of the attractions of bridge is the competitive element and also trying to improve my game. I want people to play in competitions – both club ones and further afield. As a shameless plug I would mention that the club ones are always very friendly with an excellent tea (if on a Sunday) and only cost £2.50 (for members).Whilst I think that the committee has achieved a lot in my time as Chairman, the one area which we have yet to crack (and if I had time would have stayed on to try and crack) was the participation in competitions and on Mondays – the more the merrier!

For those of you that do want to improve, can I encourage you to be brave. By that I mean, be brave in your bidding, be brave in who you play against and be brave with who you play with – generally most people are happy to play one off games with people (I did not have a regular partner for several years when I started in Nottingham and was happy to play with anyone and everyone). In addition, read some books, however choose your level of books carefully as there no point over complicating things. Also don’t get too hung up on things like NGS, you learn more from mistakes than you do from successes.

 

[As an aside, did you know that we actually have a very successful playing population. In fact, last year a team representing this club came second in the inter-county club teams of 8 competition (so you could argue we are the second best club in the country!). We have amongst our members a former European champion, multiple England caps at various levels, and players who frequently win county competitions and challenge in national ones. All in all some very strong players – the thing is that strength is actually concentrated in a very small number of players, ideally it would be great to expand that base.]

One other thing I always hear is about junior bridge and how we should be encouraging more juniors to play. Whilst I completely agree with that, it is easier said than done and with smaller returns than focussing on the core population I mentioned above. The big advantage of encouraging juniors to play, is that it is likely that the next wave of strong players will come out of them (whilst people who start late in life can become very strong players, it is generally easier if you start earlier). However, as someone who learnt bridge at school and played at a thriving university club, I look around and relatively few of my peers are still playing – life got in the way. The ones that still play are generally ones who reached international level (and even then many do not) or have a lifestyle which means they can continue. Not one of my old school friends still play and they stopped pretty much as soon as they left school. There are more university players still going, but even that is shrinking. I would comment that if any efforts are to be directed at junior bridge, they would best be directed at the universities (as our county association is doing) as opposed to schools.

This is not to say people should not try to encourage junior bridge (I am certainly grateful I learnt at school), but you do need to limit expectations that this will solve any underlying problems (unless it became part of the National Curriculum and even then I have doubts). If people have the time and wherewithal to make the effort to promote junior bridge it should be encouraged and as a club we would encourage it (indeed if any member wants to do something in that regard, speak up and we will help however we can). I do hear of some clubs (you will have read about Stamford in the EBU magazine) who make a huge effort with junior bridge – all credit to them, but you need people to volunteer to put in the hours to get these initiatives off the ground and to run with them. This is not something that the committee can mandate, but it is something that we would support.

One of the key jobs for this (and any club) is to get people playing. We have the best facilities in Nottingham, yet the number of people attending drives is less than it was say 10 years ago (in fact it is less than one year ago). This is in part due to demographics (ultimately less people are playing bridge full stop) and also due to other factors such as traffic (I have lived in the West of the city and now live near Keyworth – I don’t think the traffic in general is that bad – but there are occasions it can be horrific – unfortunately there is not much we can do about this, so I just hope people persevere through the occasional bad day) and also an out-of-date notion that other clubs are more friendly (this may have been true twenty years ago, it is categorically not now – our members are some of the nicest people I have ever met and the club one of the friendliest I have come across).

We could (and probably will) continue to invest in the club facilities, however that is all irrelevant if we don’t get more people playing. We get lots of beginners and improvers, the hard part is transitioning them to main drives. We are becoming more successful at this – initiatives such as No Fear and Friendly Fridays are helping, as are Andrew and Graham’s efforts at their respective classes. I do know that the No Fear Fridays can cause the parking to get tight, but if it means that we get a more people coming to the club, it is worth it. If you ever do see a beginner at the club, please do go out of your way to make them welcome. Also, if you know anyone thinking of coming along – give them that little nudge they need.

Beyond the teaching initiatives, we have tried to do as much as possible to help attract new players. This ranges from the simple initiative of making tea and coffee free and low membership fees, to hosts on a Friday. The latter is something I did just want to pick up – whilst there is a core of people who do volunteer to be a host, we do need more hosts. My personal desire would be to have the host system running every night – this is what was in place when I joined the club (though it was underpinned by the likes of myself and Tony Neale regularly turning up without a partner). As ambitious as that objective may sound, we have c180 members – if everyone volunteered once a year we would be about there. Whilst I appreciate it is a pain to be a host when nobody turns up, once a year is not much of an inconvenience and I honestly believe that if we had hosts every night, the number of people playing would naturally grow, so we would all benefit in the long run.

Where does all this rambling leave us? In summary, I think that there is still a vibrant bridge scene, but that it has moved away from the more competitive element to more social bridge. This is absolutely fine and we should encourage the social players – at the end of the day, the more people playing bridge the better. The club is doing a good job at teaching these players (particularly through the hard work of Andrew and Graham) and we are starting to get more beginners transitioning to the main drives – but more needs to be done around this (an expanded host system being one idea).

What has gone backwards is people playing in competitions and on Monday nights etc. this to my mind is a shame and in part is the inevitable consequence of the move towards social bridge, However, I would encourage as many people as possible to take the plunge and play in competitions.

A final thought is about the county association and the EBU. The move towards social bridge has meant that there has been less of an understanding of these organisations as there is a perception that they only cater for the top players. Whilst there is some truth in that the most visible parts of the county and EBU are the county teams, and the competitions put on by both organisations, this is far from the only thing they do. Indeed, recently the county association has made great strides to attempt to be more inclusive, putting on improvers classes, sending newsletters, club forums and masterclasses (amongst other things) – whilst undoubtedly, there is more for them to do, there has definitely been a move in the right direction and I hope you have all seen it and will support them (as the club committee does) as they try and grow bridge in Nottinghamshire. The EBU also does a lot which is less visible – first and foremost they are the keeper of the laws that we operate under, but more than that the EBU provides director training, teacher training (maybe not so relevant for us with Andrew and his 30+ years experience, but still positive) and several other initiatives (including helping us to become a charitable organisation and complying with the new data protection (GDPR) rules). The EBU is far from perfect, but it is an organisation which we do need to support.

As I set out above, this is just some of my personal views and I hope people found them interesting and maybe thought provoking. If anyone wants to discuss them, just collar me when you see me.

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Charity Status

The club committee has decided to apply to the Charity Commission to become a registered charity. In order to become a registered charity there will need to be a number of steps (some of which I will set-out below), but the key one is that the members of the club will need to vote in favour of proceeding with a change in status at an Extraordinary General Meeting (‘EGM’) which is scheduled to take place at 1pm Sunday 6 November. In advance of that meeting, I thought I would set out my personal views as to why I support the move to being a charity.

For me there are five main benefits from becoming a charity. These are as follows:

  1. How we view ourselves – We are already a not-for-profit, with a constitution which states that one of the objectives of the club is to promote bridge. However, I believe that actually being a register charity will make the club go further. At times, I have heard in the past that the club is being run for the members – whilst this is clearly part of any thought process, it is not the whole picture. The club is designed to promote and encourage bridge, specifically through the club, but not exclusively For instance, the club has recently donated to the new University Bridge Club which members of the County Association are trying to get off the ground; facilitate teaching (whilst we would like beginners to come through to the club, just getting more people playing is the key); as well as a number of other initiatives. By being a charity, I think it will focus the mind to doing whatever we can to help promote bridge in Nottingham.
  2. Financial – By becoming a charity there will be a number of financial benefits. The key one is that we will no longer have to pay corporation tax (currently c£2,000-£3,000) per year. In addition, there will the opportunity to gift aid membership subscription (for those who are eligible) and potentially the possibility to apply for grants in the future. I would stress that the financial implications are not the key reason for doing this (in my eyes), however they are certainly an upside.
  3. Governance – As a result of becoming a charity we will have to be hotter on our governance, which will start with a new constitution (see below), rules and investment policy.
  4. Property – At the moment the club is an unincorporated body and as such cannot legally own property in its own right. Therefore, whilst the beneficial ownership of the property at 401 Mansfield Road resides with the club, the legal ownership is with 3 trustees appointed by the committee. This is not ideal and when we are a charity we will be able to bring both the legal and beneficial ownership into the club.
  5. Charitable status – a small one, but being a charity may mean that we will have a little more leverage in discussions we may have with authorities in the future e.g. if the council ever looked at the position re the car park.

The above all makes it appear to be a no-brainer to become a charity, and to a large extent, that is my opinion. However, there are a few downsides which I should mention:

  • Administration – there is a little more administration around being a charity e.g. filing accounts etc, but it is not expected to be particularly onerous.
  • Governance – as stated above, I think this is a good thing, but becoming a charity does give us a little less flexibility around how we produce accounts etc. Largely, the Charity Commission requirements are consistent with the rules we already have in place (as part of our constitution), so I do not see this being much of an issue.
  • No longer a members’ club – at present whilst the stated aim of the club (per the constitution) is to promote bridge in the region, we are a not-for-profit club run by the members for the members. When we become a charity, we will need to keep the charitable aspect of the activities at the forefront of our minds, which could restrict us in some way in the future (though at this time I am not sure how). In reality I doubt this will have much, if any impact on the way that the club is run, and as stated above, I think the charitable purpose is a good thing.

One of the challenges which I have heard is that we are not really a charity in the traditional sense of the word – we do not give aid to disadvantaged people, protect a national monument etc. There can be a thought that most members of the club are not in need of charity and as such there is a question whether it is right that we look to become one.

Whilst I understand the above thinking, I do not subscribe to that view. The Charity Commission has already accepted a number of bridge clubs into charitable status. This is for the simple reason that bridge clubs fulfil a vital role in the community – providing both a forum for regular social interaction, whilst at the same time, bridge clubs also promote and provide access to a sport which has proven health benefits including the slowing of dementia. It can be easy to take these massively important contributions to the community and society for granted and whilst the people who play bridge may not need financial support (and we do not offer that), the club provides support in other vital ways.

Process

The process for becoming a charity is not too arduous (at least once the legwork has been done).

In essence, it is necessary to adopt a new constitution, which has a number of specific clauses to meet the requirements of the charity commission. At the same time, we have taken the opportunity to update the club ‘rules’ (i.e. some regulations which sit outside of the constitution and which are specific to this club), and draft an investment policy.

These documents can be found at the following link:

http://www.thedunfords.org/bridge/charity/Motion.pdf

In order to adopt these new documents, and also to make the decision to apply for charity status, the members must vote in an extraordinary general meeting. The above link contains the motion that will be voted on at the EGM. In order for the motion to pass, at least two thirds of the votes must be in favour.

If the motion to become a charity is successfully passed at the EGM, then a formal application is submitted to the Charity Commission. Assuming, that is successful then the club becomes a charity.

Next step

The next step is quite simple – the members of the club need to vote to become a charity at an EGM. This is being held on Sunday 6 November (at 1pm), immediately prior to the Crantock Bowl. I hope to see as many people as possible there, but for those that cannot make it, it will be possible to postal vote.

Thanks

Finally I would like to thank David Dunford for all his help on this matter. David has been instrumental in pulling all the documents together and getting everything in order so that we are in the position to make an application.

I would also like to thank the EBU – they have produced a suite of pro forma documents, based on applications made by other clubs, which David adapted for club’s documentation

 

Chairman’s Report

Chairman’s Report from 2016 AGM

I want to start my report this year with the point I usually end with – I want to thank the committee.

As many of you know, I have been a little distracted this year due to a new arrival in the family and as such it is a testament to the hard work and effort of the committee that the club has continued to run smoothly. As always, whilst all the committee have contributed massively, I particularly want to mention Dinah for her tireless efforts and help.

On the wider bridge front it has been an eventful year with cheating scandals and the debate about whether bridge is a sport. Fortunately, it has been a bit more sedate locally.

In terms of where the club is at – we are in a good position. As Phil will shortly report, we are in a healthy financial position despite a significant amount of capital expenditure in the year. Indeed our finances are strong enough to maintain the low membership fees and still have money set aside for any future needs.

Teaching continues to be a strength. Andrew Scott runs two sets of classes, on a Monday and a Wednesday, and has also taken over the popular No Fear Fridays. Graham Brindley has continued to run his popular improvers course on a Thursday. I want to thank Andrew and Graham in particular, but also all the people who help those two out with these classes.

On the playing side the club has also had a good year.

In the county team of 8 league, Nottingham Gambit won the 1st division and will retain the title in the 2015/16 season; Nottingham Alderclarke were narrowly relegated from the 1st division last year, but currently sit 1st in the 2nd division with one match to play so have a good chance to bounce straight back to the top division; The one team that could stop Nottingham Alderclarke is Nottingham A who are currently 3rd in the 2nd division and play them in the last match of the season – this is a great effort after having been promoted to this division after winning the 3rd division the previous year; Nottingham B are unfortunately faring less well in the 2nd division and after a mid-table finish last year will be relegated this year.

In terms of individual success the most notable have been that of two of our younger members. Steve Raine made it to the final of the EBU Summer Congress Swiss Teams competition and Ankush Khandewal won the Open pairs at the London year end congress (along with racking up U25 England caps).

Locally, club members have dominated county and club competitions. What is pleasing is that there are a number of new faces that are in the winner’s circle, such as Phil Ottewell and Barbara Hatfield winning the County Mixed Pairs competition.

I just want to end on a thought. One of the hardest things to do is to get beginners to transfer from Andrew and Graham’s classes to an ordinary drive. The committee have put in place a number of initiatives, but psychologically they perceive it as a big step and are often wary of making the jump. Now we know that in most cases they just have to take the plunge and they will be fine – we all did it once upon a time!

What occurs to me though is that what applies to beginners can sometimes apply to more experienced players. In recent years entries to club competitions and also participation on a Monday night has been down. Whilst there are a number of reasons for this, the main one is a lack of new faces taking the plunge and playing in events. I realise that for some members competitive bridge or playing against better players to improve, does not interest them, but if there are any members who have thought about it, but something is holding them back, I urge them to give it a go (and persevere) – you may be surprised how small the step up is.

 

How do you get better at bridge?

This is a question that I have often asked myself, and for which I suspect there will be a different answer for each person. However, I thought it may be worth setting down my thoughts on the matter in this blog. What would be good is if other people will also share their own experiences and thoughts via the comments section so that we can get a bit of discussion going.

The first thing I would say is that once you are playing regularly, making the step up to the next level will take a bit of effort – just continuing with your regular routine is not going to be enough. That being said, the amount of effort to get to the next stage is well within the reach of all of us.

The main tips I have are as follows:

  • Play against better opposition: This makes a big difference, as it forces you to raise your game. Against less experienced opposition, you can get away with things (leading to bad habits) – you can make mistakes in the play, overbid and not get punished (often you may get rewarded for it!). Against better opponents, you are much more likely to be punished for mistakes.So how do you play against better opposition? There are a number of different opportunities.
    • Come on a different club night (just varying it should help as you will play against different people) – especially a Monday which is a more advanced night (I would particularly recommend the City Cup on the first Monday of every month).
    • Play in competitions e.g. the county and club competitions which are organised on weekends throughout the year, and the green point event weekends that take place in Spondon three times a year (the next being in Mid July);
    • Play in matches – Nottingham bridge club has 4 teams in the teams of 8 leagues (and if there is enough demand that can be increased) and I am aware a number of members play for other clubs. The matches are both enjoyable (with a sense of camaraderie which you do not get in pairs) and test you in different ways to a normal club night. Other opportunities to play in matches include the team of 4 league run by the county and to represent the county in the inter-county league (there are 3 teams and I know that the county captain – soon to be Keith Rodgers – is always on the look-out for new players!).
  • Learn from your mistakes – do not be disheartened by them. Everyone makes mistakes, no matter how good they are. The key is to try and learn from your mistakes. One piece of advice is to do a post-mortem of the hands (not at the bridge table as that can delay play, but afterwards with the hand records or online records). If you can do it in a group or with your partner great, if not by yourself is fine. If you find this idea a bit daunting, do not try and analyse every hand, but maybe make a note of a few during the evening where you think there was a point of interest and just look at those.
  • Play with more people – playing with a regular partner is great and should be encouraged. Playing with that partner you can develop and a system and understandings which allow you to improve. However, in addition to a regular partner, it is also good to have the occasional game with some other people – playing with a variety of people forces you to think around problems in a different way and exposes you to different ideas and ways of looking at things.
  • Read – it is a lot easier to learn something if you know what it is you are trying to learn! There are lots of good bridge books out there and the club has a library for you to use (superbly maintained by Irene Brown). The key to reading is to make sure you have books which are at the right level for your standard and try and look out for opportunities to implement what you have read about (perhaps when you do a post-mortem as sometimes it can be difficult to spot opportunities when they first come up at the table). As I said, the club has an extensive library which I would recommend that people use. Here are some of the reading material which I have found useful over the years:
    • Improvers:
      • Andrew Robson’s bridge column in the Times (and I believe he has done an accompanying book)
      • Daily hands on bridgeclues website (www.bridgeclues.com this is American site run by Mike Lawrence, so maybe focus on the play hands as the bidding will not be Acol)
      • Books by Ron Klinger – especially ‘Guide to better card play’ and ‘Guide to better Acol bridge’ – these two books were the two that taught me most about the basics of the game (beyond those which you pick up when you first learn the game). The former includes lots of common suit combinations and things to look at for in the play, whilst the second talks about common bidding tricks (some of which you will know, but some of which I see a lot of people get wrong e.g. reopening doubles). I would definitely recommend these books, and indeed most books by Ron Klinger who is one of the best writers of books at this level.
    • More advanced
      • Killing defence by Hugh Kelsey – still the best book on defence I have read
      • The Expert Game by Terrence Reese – seminal work, and whilst the last chapters are very advanced, there is a lot to learn from the earlier ones.
      • Squeezes by Hugh Kelsey – sets out very simple squeezes (which are a good starting point) to far more advanced ones.
      • Any Menagerie book by Victor Mollo – these are bridge story books featuring an eclectic range of characters such as the Hideous Hog – they are written with style and humour and are well worth a read (more entertaining than for educational purposes). Similar books have been written by Phil and Robert King (e.g. the King’s Tales) and David Bird (the Abbot series)
    • Very advanced (these books are superb, but do not expect to be able to replicate the brilliancies!)
      • Adventures in card play by Giza Ottlik and Hugh Kelsey
      • Bridge with the Blue Team by Pietro Forquet

A couple of health warnings though – do not focus on conventions. Whilst I love conventions, they are a crux. Far more important is to get the basics nailed down and focus on how to handle competitive bidding situations and the play of the cards as opposed to random conventions which rarely come up and strain the memory. Also, outside of declarer play, make sure you and your partner will be on the same wavelength with respect to any new tips you pick up. Finally, do not look too hard to implement your new found knowledge! A very common trap (and one I have fallen into before), is to read a book and then go and play bridge and (e.g.) see squeezes on every hand, where actually that is not the right play at all.

The above are just a taste (I have not unpacked my bridge books since moving house so I know I have more which I forgotten and there are far more including some new additions that look good, but I have not read, in the library). If you are serious about getting better at bridge, I would encourage you to read and use the library!

  • Classes – classes are another way to improve knowledge. The club has held a number of classes for improving bridge players in the past and it is my intention to hold some more again (maybe when I have slightly less on my plate).

The above only scratches the surface of ways to improve at this game. As I said at the outset, each person is different and I would welcome people to make comments with their own experiences. As always, I am happy to chat through any of the above.

Call the Director!

There appears to be a reluctance by some players to call the director to the table. The reasons behind this can vary from not wishing to inconvenience the director to just wanting to keep any infraction between the players at the table. However good intentioned this may be though, it is wrong.

Calling the Director should be encouraged and should be something that is done immediately (and in a friendly, not aggressive manner) whenever there is an infraction. It allows things to be dealt with in a friendly, fair and timely matter.

The laws of bridge can be complex (and sometimes make little sense!) – directors often do not know them without a law book to hand. Calling the director is the only way to be sure of a correct ruling, and it should be something that is welcomed by all players at the table.

Examples of when you may need to call the director (and please note these are not exhaustive!) include:

  • Insufficient bid
  • When a defender’s card is exposed
  • Lead out of turn
  • When there is any bad behaviour
  • When there is a dispute over a claim
  • When there has been any misinformation
  • When there is a revoke
  • When there is a bid out of turn
  • When there is any unauthorised information (e.g. in its most obvious form – one partner making some sort of signal or gesture which impacts on the bidding/play of the other partner)

Importantly – do not rely on someone else at the table to state the rules – it is not their job (even if they may direct on another night/elsewhere!! – they should know better and should encourage the calling of the director).

I would note that on Friday’s, which is our more relaxed night, you are still encouraged to call the director – but if the opposition is new please ensure you do it in a friendly manner reassuring them that it is a normal thing to do. The director on a Friday will generally be more sympathetic to less experienced pairs.

Remember that calling “Director, PLEASE” is never a bad idea.

Charity status

One thing that the committee has looked at it recent times is converting to a charity status. The benefits of doing so appear to be a corporation tax saving of c£2k a year and the potential to get gift aid of subs (saving c£320 a year). In addition, there should be reputational benefits to being a charity.

Whilst there would appear to benefits to converting, there would also appear to be a lot of work. The process to become a charity is not straight-forward and would involve a lot of paperwork. The EBU (to their credit) have done a lot of the leg work on this, producing proforma documents which, at the very least, would be a starting point. However, they would need to be adapted for the club. In particular, a new constitution would be needed and this would have to be very carefully considered.

Whilst the committee is happy to entertain the idea of taking on charitable status, given the amount of work involved, we are looking for a volunteer to project manage the task. There is no urgency (as you are aware we are financially secure at present), however if any club member would like to look into this further I am happy to discuss how best to take it forward with them.

Chairman’s Report

Please find below a transcript of the Chairman’s report from the AGM

As many of you are probably aware, due to impending fatherhood (and the associated restriction in free time) I was planning to step down as Chairman this year. However, due to a lack of replacements, I have agreed to continue on for one more year. As such, my apologies if this report is a little more valedictorial in style than would otherwise be the case.

When I became Chairman, there were 5 areas I wanted the committee to concentrate on and strides have been made in respect of all of these:

1) Making the club as welcoming as possible:

We started this last year with free tea/coffee, welcome packs for new joiners and reduced subs. This year we have continued the trend by keeping subs at the low levels and by improving the club’s playing environment by a refurbishment project which hopefully you will all approve of. In respect of that, I would particularly like to thank:

    • Pauline and Phil for sourcing the new chairs
    • Cathy for getting rid of the old chairs
    • Pam for the curtains
    • Dinah for arranging the decorating
    • Chris Buckingham for the bar floor refresh

What you will gather from that list is that on the implementation side I have very little involvement and it is thanks to the hard work of the committee that things get done.

I hope that you will agree that the club has become more welcoming in the last two years, but there is always more to do – this is the area where everyone can contribute by continuing to be as friendly and welcoming as possible and abiding by the best behaviour at bridge guidelines at all times.

2) Teaching

In this area there has not been that much progress as what we had in place was already working well. Graham Brindley continues to run improvers classes on a Thursday and Andrew Scott runs beginners on a Wednesday. Andrew is also going to start a second set of classes in April – as you can see at the starter levels teaching is thriving.

The one area I would like to build on is in respect of more advanced classes for club players. I have done some of these previously and hope to do so again…though it may have to wait until I do step-down as Chairman.

3) Transition people into the club

One of the hardest things to do is to move people from classes into regular club players. This is something we are working on and there are several prospective candidates who come to the No Fear Fridays which we are hoping will move up.

4) Mondays

Mondays have been in decline for a while and this is still an area which I would like to work on, but we have had some success with respect to the City Cup.

The City Cup is a competition held on the 1st Monday of every month (or 2nd if the first is a bank holiday). It is butler imps scoring (similar to teams bridge) and is popular with many people coming to play specifically in that event. If you have not tried it, I would encourage you to come along (if nothing else it is a good way to experience teams bridge without having to worry about a team).

5) Improving communication with the members

In this, Phil’s website leads the way and I would like to thank him for his work on that. In addition, there is my irregular blog.

One thing I am keen on is celebrating success. Whilst the social aspect of the club is important, we do have some players who have achieved success at bridge and we should recognise that. Some of the examples are:

Team of 8 league – David will provide details of this on the board, but some highlights are that Nottingham Gambit had retained the title and also the 3 counties title meaning that they are arguably the best team of 8 in the East Midlands. In addition, Nottingham A have achieved promotion to division 2.

At the Nottinghamshire Green Point event, William and Daniel Crook won the pairs event, whilst the team of John and Irene Auld, Keith Rodgers and Lloyd Eagling won the teams. In addition, John and Irene won the Leicestershire pairs event.

I could spend ten minutes on William Crook’s successes, but looking down them a highlight was probably coming second in the swiss pairs at the Seniors Congress with fellow club member Rob Sharpe.

I know I have missed some successes out, not least the County competitions which are invariably won by club members, so I apologise and congratulate anyone I did not mention.

Overall, I think that we have had a good year, building on the successes of the previous year. As Phil will tell you, we are in a good position financially and membership is strong. There is always more to do, but I am proud of our efforts. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the committee for all their hard work over the past year without which not much would get done; the army of volunteers who do little tasks, which whilst unheralded are vital; and in particular, as always, Dinah who does more than anyone.

Thank you all.

Club refurbishment

It has been a while since my last blog, and I just want to update you on some of the forthcoming changes you are going to be seeing around the club, along with taking the opportunity to celebrate some of the recent successes of the membership.

Club refurbishment

As you may have noticed, the club is looking a bit dated in places, and generally needs a bit of a spruce up. As such the committee have decided to go ahead with the following measures:

  • New chairs
  • New curtains
  • Repainting the rooms
  • Refinishing the bar floor

These may not be the only measures which are undertaken, but I hope you will agree are a good starting point and should make a big difference to the club.

A quick word on the new chairs. The current chairs have been in situ for c30 years, and despite having various maintenance work on them over the years, it was felt that they were becoming rickety and as such new chairs were needed. Various members of the committee tested the chair we are going to purchase and found it both comfortable and an improvement on the current stock. I appreciate that the comfort of chairs can be a very individual matter, however hopefully the new chairs will prove to be popular amongst the vast majority of members.

One side effect of obtaining new chairs is that we will be selling off the old chairs. If anyone wishes to buy one of the old chairs, please let Cathy know.

Recent successes

Since my last blog, a number of competitions have ended and I just want to congratulate the following winners:

  • Jack Hammond Trophy (Tuesday handicap) – Liz Richardson
  • Eric Nunn Trophy (mixed pairs) – Steve Fordham and Toni Smith
  • Crantock Bowl (team of four) – John Auld, Irene Auld, Lloyd Eagling, Keith Rodgers
  • Cullen Cup (Friday handicap) – Mary and Richard Buller (joint winners)

In addition, the teams season has started again, and you may note that David Wilkins has started putting regular updates as to how the club’s four teams of eight, along with the teams of four, are progressing this year on the noticeboard next to room 2.

Congratulations also to Cathy for winning the recent Christmas quiz.

Other matters

Finally, I just want to let you know that after 10 years on the committee (two as Chairman, and four (on and off) as Treasurer), I will be stepping down from the committee as at the AGM. This is mainly because the demands on my time from my job and family life mean that I cannot devote the time and energy that I would like to the committee and as such believe it is time to let someone else have a go. This won’t be the only time I say this, but I would like to thank the committee (and also wider membership) for all their help over the last two years – we have achieved a lot and it would not have been possible without their hard work.

I would just note that the committee is always looking for new members (and indeed a Chairman!) and as such, if anyone is interested in standing and wants a bit more information, please feel free to talk to me or one of the other committee members.

As a reminder, the AGM is on 22 March and will be followed by the club pairs competition (The Broadhead Bowl) and I hope to see as many of you there as possible.

Mark

Competitions

As most of you will be aware, the club organises various competitions throughout the year on either a weekend or a specific night. Unfortunately, in recent years the support for these competitions has been falling. This is a shame as I think they are fun events which are worth playing in.

I am not sure what the reason for the drop in support is, but I would be interested in any comments which members may have and if possible we will try and adapt them as necessary (e.g. day played, time, format, prizes etc).

One comment I would make is that, in general, the competitions are very similar in standard to a normal club night. Whilst there is a prize at stake, they are still relaxed events with the same people as you see every week taking part. If you have not played in a competition (other than one of the handicapped competitions), I would definitely encourage you to do so.

To whet your appetite, I thought I would just set out below (in order that they come up) the competitions we hold:

Single session events:

Max Radford Trophy and Poyser Cup – Wednesday 17 September

These are the club’s pairs competitions for similar pairs (i.e. men’s pairs and ladies pairs). The format of this competition has changed a number of times throughout the years to try and encourage more people to participate and this year is no exception.

For the first time, these events (which are held simultaneously) are going to be held on a Wednesday night – Wednesday 17 September to be precise. Hopefully, by moving it from the Saturday night slot it has been on in recent years, more people will be encouraged to attend.

The format of this competition is a one off pairs event. All pairs (of both sexes) play together, but the prizes go to the top female and male pair. There also cheese and nibbles on the night.

Eric Nunn Trophy – Saturday 11 October

This is similar to the Max Radford and Poyser, except this time it is for mixed pairs. It is being held on a Saturday, again with cheese and nibbles on the night.

Crantock Bowl – Sunday 16 November

This is the club’s team of four competition. It is held on a Sunday and is an all-play-all teams event. It is the club’s only teams event and arguably it’s most prestigious competition. Just form a team with another pair and come along – it is a great introduction to teams bridge and a fun event. There is a tea provided on the day.

Broadhead Bowl – Sunday 22 March 2015

This is the club’s main single session pairs competition. It is open to all members and is held directly after the AGM. This is probably the best attended of the single session competitions due to the AGM, but we would be happy to get more! It is just like any other evening session, except with the added bonus of a tea.

Ongoing competitions:

Cullen Cup – Fridays for six months

The Cullen Cup is a handicapped competition which takes place on a Friday. The idea is to level the playing field to give players of all abilities the chance to come top.

Some people have asked how the handicaps are calculated. In short, they are based on the results people have had on a Friday in the 6 months or so prior to the start of the competition (with the exception of county players who get an automatically high handicap). This is seen as a fair way to set the handicap and if people perform better than their handicap during the course of the competition, then that does not mean the handicap was wrong, just that they have had a good run and deserve their success. Occasionally the handicap is wrong if we get a new member or a guest – this is unavoidable on the first night they come, but if they come regularly this will be addressed.

The best average handicap score (having played a minimum number of sessions) wins.

City Cup – First Monday of the month

This is a butler pairs event on the first Monday of every month. Butler pairs is IMPs scoring – for those who do not know what this means, it is the equivalent to teams scoring. For those of you who have not played teams before, it offers the chance to play teams tactics without having to actually play in a team (very broadly, teams tactics are bid vulnerable games, make/take down contracts and do not worry about overtricks, do not suffer large penalties). For those who do play teams bridge, it offers the chance to practice (as sometimes there can be a gap between matches).

The best cumulative imp score (taking the top six results) wins.

Jack Hammond Trophy – Tuesdays for 13 weeks from September

This is another handicapped competition which takes place on a Tuesday. Again the handicap is based on recent results on a Tuesday. The difference is that traditionally the range of handicaps is less than for the Cullen Cup (4 to -4 as opposed to 7 to -7).

In addition to the above club competition we also hold the following events throughout the year which are always enjoyed by all:

Macmillan Charity evening – Saturday 16 August

This is the charity event organised by Pauline Payne each year, and thanks to her tireless efforts it is always well attended and enjoyed by all.

Strawberry Fayre – July

Bridge and strawberries – who could ask for more! This event is held in the summer and is centred around a magnificent strawberry tea put together by our wonderful volunteers. Oh, and there is also some bridge…

Simultaneous pairs

These are held at various points throughout the year. They are just like a normal session except that you have two sets of results – one at club level and then one nationally. You also get a handout which gives some commentary on the hands. The next events are:

                Monday 8 September – EBU Autumn Sim Pairs

                Tuesday 11 November – Children in Need Sim pairs

I hope that has given you an insight into the competitions and events that the club holds and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible there!

Mark

AGM speech

Please find below a copy of my speech from the AGM on 9 March 2014

My first year as Chairman, and thanks to the hard work of the Committee and other club members it has been a successful one.

On the teaching front, which is vital for the future of this club, we have gone from strength to strength:
– Andrew Scott has continued to teach his beginners classes on a Wednesday, and as usual there was more demand than places;
– Graham Brindley and Roger Staton are in the second year of the improvers’ course on a Thursday. This has proved very popular and very successful, regularly getting in the region of 7 tables;
– In addition, we have started a ‘No Fear’ event on the first Friday of every month, which intended to act as an introduction to a bridge drive for new players. The last session had five and a half tables and I am optimistic that some of the people who attended will graduate to normal Friday drives. Perhaps the most encouraging thing from the last Friday session was that there were some new faces who commented on how friendly the club was – the power of first impressions cannot be under-estimated.

As you can see we have in place an excellent offering for people starting out in the game which will hopefully mean new members in the future.

On the financial side, as you will hear from Phil, we are in a healthy position – so much so that we were in a position to offer a temporary reduction in subs from £25 to £10 this year (we will review the position again later this year to see if we can offer it again).

We have also made changes to improve club nights:
– Free tea and coffee
– 3 new directors (Mel Shepherd, Mick Dames and Wendy Walker) to complement the existing team
– Host system on a Friday night which is getting a lot of use.

Whilst not the raison d’être of the club, we have also had success on the playing front. In addition, to the club competitions (which David has presented the trophies to), our club teams have done well:
– Nottingham Gambit won the first division last year and look on course to defending the title.
– Nottingham Alderclarke won promotion to the first division and hopefully will stay up.
– Nottingham Gambit and Nottingham Alderclarke also cam first and second respectively in the East Midlands 3 counties event in the summer.
– 4 deuces won the team of four league and Ruffians won the second division of the team of four.
– In the green pointed events held at Spondon, we had winners in the teams events and highly placed finishers in the pairs.
– Last, but in no way least, Simon Spencer and Kyle Lam were part of the England U25 team that won the Junior Camrose [home nations series] and Channel Trophy [against France, Belgium and Holland].

As I said at the outset, the successes this year have only been possible thanks to the help of many people, from the Committee (who give up a lot of time), to the army of volunteers, to people who host on Fridays. I am not going to list them all for fear of missing someone – but thank you to everyone who has helped. I would just say that is anyone wants to get involved in anything please just shout up – we always need more volunteers, and as a specific plea can people sign-up to host on a Friday when they are free – as with all things in this club it relies on members help and support.

Also, whilst mentioning support there is one person I would like to pick out which is my wife for putting up with me and supporting me over the last year.

So in summary a good year – but there is still work to be done:
– Attendances are stable, but I would like to increase them back to the numbers of five years ago. Some of the initiatives I have mentioned should help that, but more could be done.
– Monday nights are in a bit of a slump due to falling attendances – I would like to reinvigorate them
– Teaching – I think we do a good job for beginners/improvers, but I would like to do more for everyday club players who want to improve.

This will all take time, but I hope you agree we are on the right track.

Thank you

Etiquette

Hi all

Happy New Year! With it being a new year it is the traditional time to make resolutions, and my resolution is to make the club the most enjoyable and best bridge experience in Nottingham (and the country!). This is going to take in a number of different factors/initiatives which you will hear about throughout the year. However, for now I want to start with the basics which are around etiquette. This is an area which I think we are very good at, but I do occasionally hear of instances where it could be better.

I would stress that I do not think that there is a major problem around etiquette at the club – but there is always room for improvement (and being an ambitious type I always aim for more). The rare instances where there is a problem is often borne out of a lack of understanding of the rules and therefore I thought it worthwhile setting out below some of the rules/expected etiquette.

Before going into the rules, the most important comment I would have is –if there is an issue call the Director, that is what they are there for and will resolve the problem. Do not try to resolve it yourself at the table (you may know the rules, but that does not mean everyone at the table will).

I would also note that whilst we want to apply the laws of bridge across all the nights, Friday night is aimed at less experienced players (although anyone is welcome) and the laws are relaxed to reflect this. It is essential that all players give a large amount of latitude to new players on a Friday night. If there is something which requires correcting call the director (who are themselves instructed to give latitude to new players) and when doing so explain that this is just to make sure everything is done right.

The main areas of etiquette that I want to highlight are as follows:

Arriving at the table

■     Bridge should be enjoyable for both yourselves and your opponents. As part of best behaviour at bridge, as soon as people arrive at the table all four players should greet one another and discussion of previous boards etc should cease.

During the auction

■     Alerting and announcing rules should be followed as set out in my previous blog (and as pinned up on the board in the far corner – opposite the results boards). There still seems to be some confusion around these rules and as such I would encourage anyone unsure to take another look.

 ■     No comments should be made during the auction outside of the announcing or responding to questions. If you have made a mistake or are unsure of what to do (or what your partner’s bid meant) you must keep quiet about it.

 ■     Asking about bids – you should NEVER ask about a bid unless it is likely to make a difference to your bid (as it can help both your opponents and your partner). If you are going to pass whatever, then you should stay quiet. You get the chance to ask about the bids at the end of the auction.

 ■     Explaining bids – You should only explain what your partnership understanding is in respect of the bid. If you do not know what the bid means (which could be quite often with unfamiliar partnerships occurring due to the host system) do not guess! Instead, say that you have no partnership agreement/have forgotten/do not know (as appropriate). In most situations that should end the conversation and your opponents should accept that answer. On a more advanced night or in a competition and the answer was not there is ‘no partnership understanding’, then the opposition can call the director who in some instances may ask you to leave the table whilst your partner gives an explanation of the bid – however, I would only expect this to occur on more competitive occasions (i.e. not on a Friday).

 ■     Bidding should occur in tempo. This does not mean that you are not allowed to think about a bid, or if you do that your partner has to pass. However, if you do bid out of tempo, your partner should only make a bid if it would have been a ‘clear-cut’ bid not taking into account any hesitation. This can be a grey (and contentious) area and the director should be called immediately if there is any disagreement on this. As commented before, on a Friday in particular a large amount of leeway should be given.

 After the auction has ended

■     If your side is playing the contract – If your partner has explained a bid wrong (including failure to alert/announce), then you must inform the opposition. It is important to note that this is just if the explanation differs to your partnership agreements, not if it differs to what you understood. If once the correct explanation is given the defenders feel that they may have been disadvantaged they should call the director.

 ■     If your side is defending – Do NOT inform the table of any misexplanations after the auction. This should be done after the hand (including the play) has ended, at which point the opposition can call the director if they feel they have been damaged.

After the play has finished

■     Avoid criticising your partner or your opponents

The above is a whistle-stop tour through bridge etiquette. As I stated at the start the above is the norm – however, it does not do any harm to remind ourselves every now and again. At the end of the day if you do two simple things you will not go far wrong – treat others how you would want to be treated, and if there is a problem call the director!

  

A few other announcements:

Bar prices

The bar is stocked due to the efforts of Jim Lyons (wine) and Stuart Wharton (everything else). They source the stock trying to get the best prices possible and do not charge for either their time or petrol – two of the unsung heroes which this club is built on!

The bar prices have been set at the same level since 2011 and we have been reviewing the prices against the costs which we are able to source the products. Unfortunately, as I am sure you are aware, the costs have been going up and therefore bar prices will be going up (from 1 Feb) – they will still be significantly cheaper than you would get in a pub though!

AGM

Just a reminder that the club AGM will be on 9 March and will be followed by the club pairs competition – the Broadhead Bowl. I hope to see as many of you as possible there.

Prior to that there will be the opportunity to nominate (and then vote for) individuals for the Harry Lodge trophy for ‘club member of the year’ (individuals who have won it in the past five years are not eligible).

Recent results

Simon Spencer and Kyle Lam recently represented in the England U25 team which won the Junior Channel Trophy (between France, Netherlands, Belgium and England)

The Jack Hammond handicap trophy on a Tuesday night was won by George Ripley.

The Cullen Cup handicap trophy on a Friday night was won by Pam Dent.

The Crantock Bowl team of four competition was won by John and Irene Auld, Keith Rodgers and Lloyd Eagling.

Congratulations to all!