I hope this message finds you well. I’d like to bring you up to date on some organizational changes and developments. I am pleased to announce that Julius High has joined our tournament support staff. He will be assisting Ben Friesen and Dan Minardi with ABT logistics and communications, and assisting Ed Corey with membership support. Julius has also created a traveling road show to introduce beginners and novices to the basics of backgammon and ABT tournaments.
If you have been to a recent ABT tournament, you have noticed that bracketing for the main events and some of the jackpots has been automated. At the recent Sunny Florida event, the main brackets were on large LCD monitors. Wins and losses were reported on a computer, the brackets were automatically updated, and players received notice of their next match via email, available on their phones. If you weren’t playing at the tournament but were curious to see how players were progressing, you could log in to our website and track the tournament live, as the brackets were being updated in real time.
The automated brackets are a feature of the OTS, or Online Tournament System, created by Rich Munitz. This would not exist without Rich’s vision, help from his son Harrison, and the $10 ABT fee. Rich and Harrison are continuing development of the system. Look for new features in the coming months.
A Board of Directors elections are coming up. Initially six seats were to be open, but the Board voted to reduce its size from fourteen to thirteen Directors. Four Directors are leaving the Board because they are term-limited (a Director may serve three consecutive three-year terms). Those Directors are Karen Davis, Art Benjamin, Rich Munitz, and Neil Kazaross. I cannot thank them enough for their stewardship. Without them, and their leadership, the USBGF would not exist. Two Directors, Ben Friesen and I, are up for reelection.
Rich Munitz is currently Chair of the Rules and Ethics Committee. With his departure from the Board, Frank Talbot will become Chair. Rich will, however, continue to serve on the committee.
COVID policies and restrictions generated controversy in every aspect of our lives. ABT tournaments were not left out of the fray when the USBGF announced its own vaccination requirement. Some people thought that it was inappropriate for the USBGF to create a mandate; others thought that it would have been irresponsible had we not mandated vaccinations for ABT events. It is tempting to say that it was a no-win situation for us, but it really was necessary, given the profiles of so many of our players I sincerely understand your position if you disagree. So it is a relief to announce that the USBGF has lifted the vaccination mandate. However, some tournament directors will continue to ask for proof of vaccination. Please contact the specific tournament director for their policy.
Finally, I would like to let you know that the USBGF has emerged from COVID as a healthy and growing organization. We were concerned for our future when ABT tournaments were indefinitely canceled. But with creative leadership from Ben Friesen we launched ABT Online! and kept our backgammon community engaged.
As of this writing, membership is at an all-time high of 1,415. We launched a new membership category with the new website called Premium Plus. It bundles a Premium membership with a hard copy of PrimeTime Backgammon Magazine. Even without much marketing we have signed up 24 Premium Plus subscribers. The online version of PrimeTime Backgammon is fantastic, but the paper version is an elevated experience. I hope that you will consider upgrading your membership to Premium Plus when your renewal comes up.
Take care and we hope to see you at an upcoming event!