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Life is so much easier online... should it be the same when back to F2F?

Having just done my first online directing, I was suprised at how little there is to do compared to Face 2 Face events. I mean I expected no revokes etc., but there is so much more. I decided to list the the things we no longer have to deal with:

  • Insufficient bids
  • Calls out of rotation
  • Inadmissible calls
  • Simultaneous calls
  • Calls after final pass
  • Leads out of turn
  • Plays out of rotation
  • Revokes
  • Incomplete or invalid designation of card from Dummy
  • Exposed cards
  • Penalty cards
  • Premature lead or play
  • Defective tricks
  • Disagreement on tricks won
  • Wrong board played
  • Hand from wrong board
  • Wrong number of cards
  • Checking boards
  • Players waiting for a board to be free
  • Distributing and collecting boards

Of course this is all to the benefit of the players as well.

Which all made me wonder... is this the future of F2F bridge? Will we be sitting around a table with our laptops and tablets in front of us?

Given that COVID-19 is never going to go away (like the flu), and that shared contact with cards and bidding boxes is a transmission vector, maybe that future will come to pass.


  • edited January 2021

    Something not listed above, but which I think is one of the biggest opportunities of online bridge (and one which, sadly, BBO has failed so far to take advantage of), is arrow-switching errors.

    When you want a 1-winner movement, we tend to use somewhat imperfect movements in practice because (unless you have a sufficiently small number of players that you can play a full Howell) the best possible movements are very complex (involving arrow-switching boards for some partnerships but not others on given rounds, etc.), and can't really be used in practice because the risk of a mistake would be too high. When bridge is being played on a computer, though, the movement could theoretically be more or less arbitrarily complicated without the risk of any mistakes being made, because each player will necessarily be shown only the hand the are meant to be playing.

  • Yes - I missed "playing the board the wrong way round".

  • One of the major advantages of online bridge is the ability to run games easily that in real life would require lots of sets of boards.

  • "Entering the wrong score on the Bridgemate" used to be the reason for about half my director calls.

  • I too have been saying this, however, the calls that we do get are often due to technical issues such as someone has lost their connection and whatnot. Usually, there is very little that can be done, other than to await their return or temporarily replace them with a robot.

    One of the big advantages with online play, as a player, is that with the barometer movements we get to the everyone's results for a given board at the end of that board/round. With real-life bridge, the first couple of rounds (sometimes longer with big feed-in boards) we see no (or no meaningful) comparisons until the end.

    There is also the issue with dealing boards - we have a team of volunteers that deal boards twice a week, which take a little time. With online, BBO et al does that for us.

    Obviously there are some major drawbacks to online bridge, particularly where this is the only option for duplicate bridge.

  • The major drawback is going to be in finding new talent and getting people interested in playing bridge - when you are going to need face to face instruction. there is only so much you can do by e-mail and kibitzing.

  • I learned bridge primarily from books and websites, in addition to some practice against robots. So I don't think face-to-face instruction is required for everyone, although probably the majority of players will find that the easiest way to learn.

  • @weejonnie said:
    The major drawback is going to be in finding new talent and getting people interested in playing bridge - when you are going to need face to face instruction. there is only so much you can do by e-mail and kibitzing.

    There was an article in the 10th Jan Sunday Times by Emily Kent Smith entitled "Bridge no longer a game too far for young in lock down". In it the author states there has been a rush of 20- and 30- somethings learning bridge. This is presumeably because there is little else to do and it can be done online.

    Perhaps we are missing a trick, or more accurately an opportunity? Should EBED be getting the message out there to the younger generations?

  • It does worry me a lot that we'll try to bring the 20/30 cohort into the existing bridge world, and then lose them again as they face 9-minute hands and disapproving tuts if anyone mentions hesitation.
    Perhaps as TDs we should take this enforced break as an opportune time to tighten up activities round the physical tables when we return?

  • We've veered a little off the thread but as ever getting back to an important topic. Teaching bridge is undoubtedly harder online, but it takes out travelling time etc. and obviously lockdown means that other face-to-face activities have come to a halt. The trouble has always been that national initiatives are harder to generate interest, especially as it's more difficult to create a lasting community, whereas local initiatives bring friends and family together. I definitely think that EBED has a role to play in advertising local initiatives though, especially as the associated financial and time costs would be next to nothing (certainly a key factor at the moment given the circumstances). There are at least three junior initiatives (Young Chelsea, Oxfordshire and RealBridge) that have either increased in popularity or become possible through lockdown, and the article refers to others (both junior-specific and others) that have been successful at the teaching stage too which is particularly good news.

    Focusing on the 20/30 cohort is rather interesting because it's too often neglected. Junior bridge is doing well and, with the exception of school closures (which is certainly an issue for attracting brand new players to the game), growing online. The problem with initiatives that focus on the younger age group is that they don't always help with integration into main bridge clubs. Juniors have access to a number of perks (free entry, invites to JTIs, junior squad membership, potential qualification to international tournaments) but these disappear at the age of 26, exactly at the same time as these players will be starting out on a career etc. Many stronger players continue to play, but others who played at schools or university for fun may well not be seen until they've retired (I've too often heard people say they wished they'd kept playing!).

    I'm not convinced that directors are often an issue at club level, although slow play (and eerily quiet rooms at times) can be. All clubs are different, which is good and bad - we want clubs to have an identity but this means that there is no one solution to bringing younger players into clubs. County events and particularly congresses can be more popular because the chances of meeting someone of a similar age increase, although it's obviously more daunting with the strength of field. We hypothesise a lot on the forums about "would it be better if...?" but, particularly for this age group, the easiest thing to do is run a poll and get as many players as possible to answer it. The survey questions would probably need some thought, as well as making sure that every young player on the database is encouraged to complete it.

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