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Competitions Strategy

This is about delivering opportunities for players to enjoy playing the game in a variety of different formats and at all skill levels. A possible vision for this is that

  • Players across the country have access to an abundant variety of bridge games which they enjoy, and these include the best offerings in the online world.

This strategy (component) complements what County BAs and Bridge Clubs do, and includes helping CBAs and BCs to organise themselves and run events. Issues which must be addressed include the decreasing popularity of nationally run events.

Inputs on scope, issues and solutions are welcomed.


  • I think the EBU does an excellent job with competitions. I know there are some concerns around for example fixture congestion. I think the increased engagement with online bridge triggered by the pandemic does mean that online will now have a bigger role in competitions but I am not sure if that is a strategy matter or just common sense.

    There is a long-standing debate about how to make competitions more inclusive of players of a variety of standards. I am sure this should debate should continue but I also think we have to accept that there are increasing numbers of our members for whom competitions are not very important and that will remain true. I wonder if we should widen the scope of what we currently call competitions to include events of other types such as cafe bridge or other more social bridge events that might be devised.

    The other question, which hurts a bit to say, is whether the EBU should consciously trim back its work on competitions to reflect the changing interests of bridge players generally. We have to counter the perception that the EBU is mainly for competitive players; and one way to do that is actually to rebalance our activity.


  • I definitely agree with the thoughts of Tim above, although of course competition revenue is also something that remains important to the EBU. I don't think fixture congestion is so bad as long as different events are targeted at different groups. For example, the Overseas Congresses and the Spring Fours offer very different experiences; In contrast, having Scarborough, Eastbourne Seniors and Summer Meeting within a month of each other, all with similar event types and settings, may not be optimal (although some players may enjoy playing in all three, and different players will have a specific preference for each of them).

    I think having some clarity over how much the EBU wishes to invest in each of these areas, and how much is left to clubs and county organisations, is worth brainstorming:

    • Teaching - Club courses from beginner to expert already exist but they are focused primarily in larger clubs with a paid teacher and high(ish) entry fees; Most small clubs have no teaching facilities and most medium clubs only teach beginners and improvers with no advertised opportunity to progress further. Some of course won't want to, whereas others may just not know where to turn. Teaching cannot be a one size fits all model either - fast-track schemes and annual courses are the main two pathways I'm aware of but just running monthly seminars, having hand analysis etc. may be of interest. I use some/most to hopefully emphasise the points already mentioned on this forum that we should be catering for all levels of player and what each player wants to get out of their bridge.
    • Club competition - I think we're agreed that this should be left to the clubs, with the EBU being available to provide movement guidance, software etc. Each club has its own atmosphere and approach and counties/EBU should not get involved! That said...
    • County competition - There should be an opportunity for players of all abilities to meet like-minded players from outside their club, whether via inter-club events, leagues, ladders or face-to-face county competition. At the moment, most of the emphasis is on the latter. At present, players will primarily play in county events only if they are specifically targeted at them, which generally rules out less experienced players. Qualifying via club events, NGS-stratified events, cafe bridge, links with local golf clubs, even black-tie bridge are all variants that give people a reason to attend beyond just bridge. Perhaps that's a pessimistic approach because that suggests that people don't play for the bridge itself, but then again bridge at this level is more about socialising over a mutual interest than the game and perhaps we should be recognising this more?
    • National competition - The points above again apply, with perhaps more emphasis on being very specific with how events are advertised and targeted. Each congress needs a USP, whether that be location, format, dress code, NGS etc. The success of the Spring Fours and the BAMSA Black Tie evening are great examples, or speedball events at JTIs. More subtle differences in more casual events may also make a big difference (I've made the suggestion before, but e.g. if pairs are tied on VPs then they can be matched up based on clubs, age group, number of times they've played against each other etc. instead of split-ties so that you're more likely to play against someone you know). Online bridge is a new opportunity for regular games and ease of playing but not for congresses you would feel, at least with what the main bridge platforms currently offer.

    If competitions are less popular than in the past, but the venue is unchanged, then there may be some spare capacity for other events which the EBU could optimise on (e.g. Running an U26s event alongside a Seniors event, or a Jack-high event alongside a main congress as already done). Of course the EBU could reduce the venue size but there is always the risk that the new venue is less popular (of course it may be more popular!).

  • I'm very wary that the thoughts above are biased in favour of competitive bridge from my own preferences. Still, I'd like to think that at least the "people like playing with people they know" point is valid for the vast majority of our members, which is why local clubs with an emphasis on community see a regular membership and why club players enjoy county events more if they get to play against friends instead of strangers. The size of the field makes it more possible to play in a different style of event (Swiss in this case) while not losing the social aspect.

    If each member in the EBU came up with a new rule for the game that would make their experience better then their ideas would be far better than mine I'm sure. I would also be very interested in seeing each county, and the EBU, put together a table with a list of the events they run, when/where they take place, the format of each event, prices and average attendance...

    It would also be worth thinking critically about the organisation and director side; I really don't want to be overly unfair (especially not on an EBU forum!), but there are always problems - The announcements during the event, weird interval timings, no directors in the room, scoring issues etc. It's not easy running a national event and I fully understand that, but the same problems are dealt with far better at club and county level when you can shrug them off with a smile; If nothing else, you and your opponents can laugh at the problems and have a more enjoyable time! In national events, those same problems just feel frustrating because you've paid more to play and expect more, rightly or wrongly. We've got surveys at these national events so maybe the feedback, both positive and negative, needs to be publicised more widely with responses from the EBU explaining how the event will be adapted for years to come (or how other events will be changed because of the positive feedback to this one!).

    If national events continue to fall in popularity even if new formats are trialled then that's a different problem (and EBED and the EBU will need to act quickly on the teaching side as well as club communication if that is the case). I currently see it as a problem of bridge not adapting to a changing world (the blitz chess comparison was made in the recent County Chair meeting). I really enjoyed the Championship Pairs style for the Virtual Summer Meeting because there was more to play for - a chance to qualify for one of the finals and a fresh start on the Sunday if you didn't - as opposed to swiss match after swiss match with a final ranking between 1 and 100 at the end (and as well known, the middle rankings can be a little random). It doesn't matter whether you agree or not with the Swiss vs. Championship Pairs argument, the point is that trialling out different things should be seen as a positive and not as an obstacle.

    Sorry this was all a jumble of thoughts on a page, and I welcome any critique (or agreement!), that's ultimately the only way to ensure we retain the best of what we have and revolutionise the game as much we need to ensure it is enjoyable and sustainable.

  • One question which needs to be answered is whether or not running competitions needs to be (a) self financing service, (b) a revenue generating service, or (c) a service subsidised by other activities.

    It might be interesting to note that the UMS charge for a club or county event is 45p per person per session, for a Blue Point event it is 71p and for a County Green Point is £2.05. Is that a fair balance, that the more competitive players do pay more than club players?

  • An important part of the Competitions strategy has to be an approach to Laws & Ethics which is robust and commands the respect of the bridge playing population.

  • I agree about Law and Ethics and I think by and large we do this very well.


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