History of Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference

The name of our organization is the Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference, Inc. (MABC). It is a voluntary, cooperative endeavor between District 6 and District 7 of the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL). District Seven includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and eastern Tennessee while District Six consists of Virginia, Washington DC, and most of Maryland. It is responsible for conducting all regional tournaments in these areas and helps to promote all tournaments in both Districts. Its objectives include cooperating with and assisting the ACBL in the promotion and conduct of all bridge tournaments within
both District 6 and District 7; helping coordinate tournament schedules within Districts 6 and 7 and adjacent districts; and seeking concerted action on all matters affecting Districts 6 and 7, by consultation with and recommendations to the District Representatives on the ACBL Board of Directors.

The first tournament to be designated a Mid-Atlantic Regional was held over Memorial Day weekend in 1948, at the Dunes Club in Virginia Beach, VA. This was one of the very first Regionals following the ACBL’s decision to make the coveted red points (gold points did not exist at that time) a bit easier to acquire. Chief director Al Sobel, on behalf of New York headquarters, ran this tournament. The tournament included seven sessions of red-point championships, many of which were not even required to be two sessions. Events included an afternoon women’s pairs and had a nineteen table men’s pairs.

Now that this new type of tournament had proven itself, Jerry Machlin of Silver Spring, MD, and Rudy  Ashton of Richmond, VA, together conceived the idea of forming an organization to schedule and operate future regionals. The Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference was formed during a Richmond sectional in March 1949. Nine charter Units which included every Unit in Virginia, the Washington Bridge League, the Maryland Bridge Association, as well as Wilmington, New Bern and Raleigh were joined under Jerry Machlin’s leadership and elected the first Mid-Atlantic officers. The units that existed then have evolved into the units that are in existence today. Units such as Northern Virginia did not exist.

Over Memorial Day 1949, the second annual Mid-Atlantic Regional was held in Virginia Beach at the old Cavalier Hotel and Cabana Club. For the next 7 years, the yearly regional was switched to Labor Day weekend. From 1950 until 1959, the site changed chronologically from Washington to Asheville, Baltimore, Richmond, Raleigh, Washington, Charlotte, and Baltimore. In 1956, the ACBL allowed a second regional. It was first held in March in Hampton, VA; then in Charleston, SC in 1957; Winston-Salem, NC in 1958; and Durham, NC in 1959. These regionals were 5 days long.

During the 1960s and 1970s the MABC tournaments multiplied. The length of a tournament increased to 6 1/2 days and the 4 that are currently held in each District each year. In 1965, ACBL redistricting added Georgia, South Carolina, and Eastern Tennessee to District Seven and to the MABC. Throughout the 1970s the southern sites were alternated but in 1980, Atlanta began hosting the Labor Day Regional yearly while Washington had the 4th of July. The only exception since has been when the site hosted a National.

ACBL allowed the MABC to host another regional as a special “resort ex-quota” in Gatlinburg, TN sometime in the 1950s. At that time, the tournament was held in the fall, generally October. In 1972, it moved to the favorite spring date that is enjoyed now but was not held every year. A Savannah, GA regional was held in the off years. It was not until 1980 that Gatlinburg was allowed a tournament every year. A Swiss team that determined the qualifiers for the Gold Point Knockout event was held on Wednesday, the first day. ACBL had a rule that resort regionals were allowed only 4 days of gold point play.  In 1986, this “grandfather clause” was lifted and the regional was finally allowed to run 6 1/2 days. The regional has grown rapidly since and is now one of the two largest in the ACBL (with Las Vegas) each year. More than 8,000 tables have attended Gatlinburg for a six and 1/2 day tournament.

Attendance figures for the first two MABC tournaments are largely unknown to us, but Washington’s Shoreham Hotel welcomed approximately 370 tables over Labor Day weekend in 1950. That was easily the largest of any ACBL weekend tournament held in the Mid-Atlantic area to that point. (During  that period ACBL’s membership had risen above 20,000; it continued to rise throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, eventually reaching 10 times that total.)

Attendance at current Mid-Atlantic Regionals continue to lead all other Regionals in the country.

The Machlin era of Mid-Atlantic Bridge grew and prospered throughout the 1960s, ‘70s, and into the ‘80s. The Mid-Atlantic officers who served during this period had few duties to perform since Jerry took care of most of the tournament-to-tournament running of the MABC.

In 1983, the MABC began to change dramatically. At the Virginia Beach meeting, Jerry retired as the MABC’s chief director and resigned his position as treasurer. From 1983 until 1994, Brian Moran served as MABC Chief Director. Millard Nachtwey of Silver Spring, MD was appointed by the MABC Board in 1994 and is currently serving in this capacity.

From 1983 until 1994, a major change took place in MABC politics. Volunteers took an active role in what was happening at Regionals, and an elected board of directors determined policies. Bylaws were expanded and changed as needed to accommodate the changes that were occurring in the Mid-Atlantic.

In 1995, at the Charlotte Regional, the current structure of the Mid-Atlantic Board was ratified. Unit Presidents no longer automatically are included as voting members on the board . An elected body of Directors from District 6 and District 7 now determines what happens at Mid-Atlantic Regionals. In addition, the Vice-President is the President-Elect, and the term of office for the Presidency was reduced from two years to one.

A monthly supplement to the ACBL Bridge Bulletin has been published since 1966. This supplement presently is approximately 16 pages for each District. It is subsidized by the MABC and essentially gives all of the Districts’ sectionals free advertising.

The MABC non-profit organization is a substantial force in bridge – from the club level to national to international competition. It generates close to $1 million annually. Expenses consume most of this. The remainder of the money is turned immediately back into bridge with the major focus to provide hospitality and special programs for the players. A revenue sharing agreement between Districts 6 & 7 also substantially benefits the players The volunteers and staff who have so unselfishly given of their time and talents have made the Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. This golden anniversary celebration is a small token of appreciation for all those who have helped the MABC to succeed. The rich heritage of what has been accomplished the last fifty years will continue to provide a basis for the MABC’s bright future.

ACBL Nationals have played a role in the MABC’s history. In the past, funds have been provided to the Districts for extra players’ hospitality at each National.

1937 Winter Washington   1941 Winter Richmond VA
1951 Summer Washington   1954 Summer Washington
1954 Fall Atlanta GA   1961 Summer Washington
1971 Spring Atlanta GA   1973 Summer Washington
1977 Fall Atlanta GA   1979 Spring Norfolk VA
1984 Summer Washington   1986 Fall Atlanta GA
1987 Summer Baltimore MD   1993 Summer Washington
1995 Fall Atlanta GA   2002 Summer Washington
2005 Summer Atlanta GA      

The next scheduled National will be held in Atlanta during the summer of 2005.

It would not be appropriate to have a commemorative booklet for the MABC without paying tribute to the man who made it all possible. His vision of an alliance between District 6 and what was then District 7  was our beginning. Even though Jerry passed away on July 2, 1997, he will always be remembered and loved for his contributions.  Along with Rudy Ashton, Jerry founded the organization and became treasurer in 1955. He held that position for nearly 30 years. He not only was the MABC chief director and tournament coordinator for both District 6 and 7 for those years, he also negotiated with the hotels and organizations for tournament space and services. His assistance to all ensured that each tournament ran smoothly and successfully.

Jerry contributed to bridge at all levels. He ran several weekly club games, wrote “The Poor Man’s 60 Days” for the WBL Bulletin, planned and conducted the U.S. State Department’s annual world-wide  pair game, and directed special matches between the U.S. Congress and British Parliament. He even directed matches in China.

In the September 1997 ACBL bulletin supplement, a two-page appreciation of Jerry’s life and his long service to the MABC, entitled “The MABC’s Shepherd Is Gone” was included.  In addition, the August issue of the ACBL Bridge Bulletin , page 107, wrote a special tribute to Jerry’s memory. Jerry’s legacy  lives on as volunteers and employees work together to continue his proud tradition of great MABC regionals.

 MABC Presidents

1949-52 Lt. Col. R.H.Skinner  – Arlington, VA (mid 1940’s a President of ACBL)
1952-53 Herbert Gerst – Norfolk, VA
1953-54 Louis M. Rosenfeld – Baltimore, MD
1955-56 R.L. “Skinny” Miles – Virginia Beach VA
1957-58 Dr. Arthur Dye – Charlotte, NC
1959-60 Dr. LeRoy Robins –  Washington DC
1961-62 Boyd R. Hughes – Columbia SC
1963-4 R.L. “Skinny” Miles – Virginia Beach VA
1965-66 William Woodson – Rock Hill SC
1967-68 Rudy Ashton – Richmond, VA
1969-70 John Norwood – Greenville, SC
1971-72 Walter O’Loughlin – Towson, MD
1973-74 Irv Richek – Charlotte NC
1975-76 Charles Stenger – Bethesda MD
1977-78 Tom Rutledge – Charleston SC
1979-80 Mike Cappelletti Sr. – Alexandria VA
1981-82 Morrill Hall – Athens GA
1983-84 Bette Dudka – Arlington VA
1985-86 Jack Feagin – Atlanta GA
1987-88 Michael Carroad – Cheverly MD
1989-90 Jack Feagin – Atlanta GA
1991-92 Nadine Wood – Silver Spring MD
1993-94 Barbara Heller – Decatur GA
1995-96 Bette Dudka  – Arlington VA
1997 Bob White – Raleigh NC
1998 Darwin Afdahl – Virginia Beach VA
1999 Bob Heller – Decatur GA
2000 Darwin Afdahl – Virginia Beach VA
2001 Mike Kovacich – Stone Mountain GA
2002 André L’Heureux – Arlington VA
2003 Mike Kovacich – Stone Mountain GA
2004 André L’Heureux – Arlington VA
2005-06 Eldon Clayman – Valdese NC
2007-08 Nancy Witschey – Blue Grass VA

Goodwill and Charity Committee Members

The MABC has had a history of members of the ACBL Goodwill Committee and outstanding ACBL Charity Committee members.  Click the name of the Committee for a list of members from each district.