This is my first contribution to Tournament Focus. I have recently been elected Chairman of the EBU Tournament Committee (TC). My first duty must be to thank my predecessor, Andrew Petrie, on behalf of the membership. He continues as Vice-Chairman of the EBU, but its appropriate to note his contribution on the TC. No-one can have done more, and the members you and me owe him a huge debt.
I inherit a stable committee. My old friend (who I first met the very first time I played duplicate) Brian Crack has, to my great relief, agreed to continue as vice-chairman. Addis Page brings a wonderfully analytical mind to the table, and Max Bavin and Gordon Rainsfords pragmatism and experience will, Im sure, bring my occasional flights of fantasy down to earth. Paul Hackett is Paul Hackett, and I dont need to remind the readers of this august journal that that is A Good Thing. Finally, we come to the three wise men (one of whom is a woman). Philip Mason, Alan Nelson and Margaret Curtis are the backbone of the TC. Their combined experience is as daunting as it is valuable. On top of that, they dont come, like I do, from London, so a little nationwide sense to counter-balance my Metropolitan bias is going to come in very handy indeed.
I dont at this stage intend to discuss every congress going thatll be next time. I have a couple of important issues Id like to dwell on (although I would note that with regards to the Autumn Congress, you dont half like Stratford-Upon-Avon. And who can blame you?).
Firstly, Im typing this on my return from the Tollemache qualifier in Daventry. Max and Andrew have, on our behalf, been having discussions with the hotel chain and as a result a couple of days at the Barceló on the Daventry ring road have been a pleasure. Check-In is always going to be a problem there are only a certain amount of computers that can deal with it but this year, there were extra staff, so that by the time youd reached the desk youd already filled in your form, and processing was much quicker. Therell always be a queue, but now theyre expediting it as well as they can. The staff were friendly and helpful, and I dont know about you, but I reckon a three course meal for fifteen quid (and it was, to quote one of my gourmandising team-mates, bloody good) is a bargain. Kudos to the hotel for rising to the occasion, and for Max and Andrew for helping them to do so.
Secondly, and more importantly, (capital letters coming up) BRIGHTON.
Its nobodys fault (were in a recession) but attendances at Brighton have been falling. Travel and hotel costs are putting people off. This is the EBUs flagship event, and is as dear to my heart as it is to that of many. Its not just the bridge (Lord knows, playing with the sort of quality partners I get, it couldnt be) its the whole enchilada: the weather, the pier, the restaurants (good and bad), the pubs (bad and terrible) and the general joie de vivre associated with a summer holiday. This year the Swiss Pairs held up but the Swiss Teams lost numbers (midweek events do well). In the short-term the dynamic duo of Paul Hackett and Gordon Rainsford have come up with some new ideas for Brighton 2012. These will be announced soon on the web site, and promulgated in the next issue of Tournament Focus, the next issue of Club Focus, and the February issue of English Bridge. But thats for 2012. For the long-term future of the finest, nicest event in the calendar, Ill be soliciting opinions from everybody, both by e-mail vox pop, and in an open meeting at the Brighton Festival itself. I want to hear from everybody what do you want, what dont we provide, what could be done better, what do we need to change.
I need to know. I need help. Im listening.