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Greetings

By Ray Yuenger
D21 Vice-President

As the newly elected Vice-President of District 21 (“D21”), I’ve been asked to introduce myself to the members of D21 through this column. I’m Ray. I’ll describe my bridge history along with some personal history relevant to my current official positions, which I’ll list at the end of this introduction.
I learned bridge the summer after graduating from high school in 1970. After a classmate taught a group of us, we alternated that summer between bridge and ping-pong.
Bridge became more of a social focus my sophomore and junior years at Pomona College when I lived in the Russian-language section of the college’s foreign languages dormitory. The section leader played bridge and we often played from after dinner till well past midnight in a lounge just doors away from our rooms. (I wish I’d kept up with Russian like I have with bridge.)
Bridge was subordinated while I attended law school in Berkeley and started my career as a legal research attorney in Monterey County. However, my first wife, another Boalt Hall graduate, played and we found some couples for occasional bridge evenings. That wife and marriage were both short. My second wife did not play bridge, but some of her friends did, so I still had some social bridge evenings.
Bridge became a more central focus of my days after I went to work for a new state appellate court in San Jose in 1984. One day a senior attorney at the court asked others about our hobbies, and he unearthed several bridge players, so we started up a lunchtime game. One of the justices also played, and because he liked to play for 90 minutes, our lunchtime game often lasted 90 minutes whether or not he was playing and even after he retired. The lunch game had a rotating cast of research attorneys and lasted about four years.
I was commuting from Monterey to San Jose on a daily basis when, in 1990, a friend from high school and college suggested we meet once a week for dinner, after which we could play duplicate bridge in a club and I could stay at his place to shorten my commute. I was fascinated by the game, having considered myself quite adept after years of lunchtime bridge, but soon felt fleeced when formidable little old ladies knew what suits to lead and when to shift suits on defense. I remember anxiety about bidding in tempo, more concerned about putting a bidding card on the table than making the right bid. Once I discovered the skill involved in duplicate, I gave up on the lunch game in which the winner almost always had been dealt the best cards.
Duplicate for most of my ‘90s was a good outlet for my competitive streak, but it was also still mostly a way to spend time with a good friend. However, near the end of that decade he got busy raising a young family, while my second marriage ended, giving me more free time after work and a need for distraction. That was when I threw myself into the game, finding new partners and teammates and planning my weekends around local sectionals and regionals.
Bridge has proved very rewarding, giving me a competitive outlet, a series of fascinating intellectual puzzles, and over time a whole array of friends and acquaintances I likely wouldn’t have met without bridge.

In 1999 I accepted a request to write the Unitscope report column in this paper for Unit 507 (“U507”) and successfully ran for the unit board. By coincidence my two predecessor columnists were also employees of the same court and occasional duplicate partners of mine. Around the same time two friends and I became directors and owners of the Tuesday night game at the San Jose Bridge Center, the game in which we had each started in a decade earlier. Later each of those partners, with young children at home, dropped out of weekly directing, but one came back, and after about six years of directing, I was ready to turn our weekly game over to Lynn Yokel, who has since risen to become an acclaimed national TD while still running four weekday games at the San Jose Bridge Center. During this time
I also became the default webmaster for sjbridge.org after the computer-savvy player who set up the website left bridge to raise a young family.
I served as U507 Vice President for about nine years and also became the unit’s conduct and ethics chair, presiding over several disciplinary cases at a time when unit chairs had more authority. In 2008 I was appointed the conduct and ethics chair of D21 primarily in order to handle a complaint sent back by a national committee. I’ve been reappointed to that position by the different D21 Presidents ever since. Fortunately disciplinary complaints haven’t risen to the level of a formal hearing since that time. I’ve managed to resolve some complaints informally and provided advice to D21 units and clubs about potential disciplinary issues. The position is sort of a natural fit for me, as it involves interpreting the ACBL’s Code of Disciplinary Regulations, and my job involved interpreting statutes and drafting legal opinions intended to decide criminal and civil appeals from California state trial courts.
In 2008 I was also elected president of U507 and I’ve been reelected to that position by the rest of the board every two years since then. The unit’s function is primarily organizing sectionals and unit games and looking for opportunities to benefit U507 members. Unlike some units, U507 had a separate association of club directors who rented facilities to hold club games.
In 2010, I drafted a new set of bylaws for the directors’ association at their request, and later that year I drafted a partnership agreement between U507 and the directors’ association that has since defined their respective roles in operating the San Jose Bridge Center.

In the past few years, my interest has grown in the operation of the ACBL at the higher district and national levels. I’ve attended a number of D21 board meetings either as a substitute for one of U507’s two regular representatives or as an interested third party. In the past three years, discussions on the BridgeWinners website have prompted me to turn my research skills to understanding bridge laws and regulations better than I did as a director.
In 2017, having spent over half my life working as a research attorney for the same appellate court, I decided it was time for the next phase of my life. I retired the month I turned 65. I had declined earlier requests by some long-time D21 board members to run for vice-president, saying I was too busy with my job and with being U507 President, but after I retired, I heeded renewed requests and threw my hat into the ring. Since my election, new D21 President Tom Pajak has appointed me to serve as the Youth Grant Chair, the Conduct and Ethics Chair, the D21 parliamentarian, and ombudsman.
So I now know what I’ll be doing with at least some of my spare retirement time. I love the game and would like to see its institutions and organizations serve the average ACBL member and not just tournament mavens, professionals, and bridge politicians. I intend to learn a lot more about D21 operations, which have been very successful compared to those of some other districts.

My email door (rayyuenger@gmail.com) is open if you have any advice or have questions for me.