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Too many tables?

Recently my bridge club has seen ever increasing numbers of tables (online). Today we had 27 tables and played 11 rounds of 2 boards.

Players have a wide range of abilities, and there is beginning to be an element of "how well you do depends on who you play". Not for everyone but for quite a few.

It feels as though a fair comparison is not being made. I know turning it into a Swiss tournament would be a solution (that's what they're for) but the club doesn't want to do that. Not every time, amyway.

Am I (as usual) worrying about something unimportant, or is this a real issue, and if so, what can be done about it?

As a side issue (and not really for a director's forum), many of the players (who are also members) have no links to the geographical area of the club. As a result, the club is in danger of losing its identity. It's great to be sucessful, but that isn't necessarily what the club is there for.


  • It seems to me that the only way to tell if what you are doing (as a club) is working for your members, is if your members enjoy it. You can tell in part by what they say, but I find it more compelling to listen to what they do - so if they keep coming back, they must be getting some enjoyment out of it and you/the club are doing something right

    Re fairness, I think that it can be a bit of an issue, but less so with the barometer movements, as we all play the same hands at least (occasionally at our 'real club' we would have a movement with some 27 or 30 boards in play, but only 24 played by any given pair).

    Regarding the club identity, I too think that this may be important. For us we started with members only, then a few guests (who used to play at the club occasionally, now we are open to a number of other clubs in the county. The actual members still far out number the guests and some of the guest actually partner our members, so that has helped to keep the club identity.
    The only way I can see you doing it, is to ask the membership what they think about all the guests joining in. Perhaps trial a members only session and see what the take up is? Maybe hold it as a tournament, so members only, maybe even handicap it, then send out an email asking what people thought about it and would they like a members only session regularly?

  • At table numbers that large, I wonder whether it would start making sense to use four-winner movements. Just like it's harder to make a fair one-winner movement at medium table numbers, it can become hard to make a fair two-winner movement when the tables get very large.

    That way, the competition becomes about "how did I compare to the other players I'm being compared with", which is something meaningful that players of all skill levels can understand. In the (online) club games I play in, I have a good idea of who's supposed to be doing well or badly, and who it's worth particular glory to beat, and so on (and of course, the NGS does too).

    Off the top of my head, an example of a perfect four-winner movement is to play two Mitchells simultaneously using two-board rounds, with the number of tables in each section equal to the number of rounds, and arrow-switch the second board of each round in one section but not the other; this needs either an odd number of tables or barometer board order to avoid players playing the same boards twice. If doing this in person, you'd presumably "pre-arrow-switch" the boards for the second section in order to avoid arrow-switching errors.

    Unfortunately, most clubs are playing on BBO at the moment, whose movement selection is very limited. It seems like a feature that might be useful for clubs that play using other sites, though. (It can be implemented on BBO by predealing the boards and entering it as two tournaments rather than one, but this is probably more trouble than it's worth, especially as players will need to join the correct section and the results on BBO won't be the "official" final results).

    On a side note, if table numbers are increasing overall (they've been going up where I play, too, but not by quite as much), that can only be a good thing. The only worrying trend would be if some clubs were somehow stealing custom from others (it wouldn't surprise me if some clubs had managed to work out how to run online events much better than others). If people who otherwise wouldn't be playing bridge are playing bridge, though, that can only be a good thing.

  • Another thought about fairness came to mind this morning... playing a standard Mitchell movement, if you have the less skilled players sat EW and you sat NS, but missed playing them all, then you would be right to feel hard done by.

    However, if you played a Howell and didn't play against them, then it just means that you will have had some of your hands compared with their results so will have gained from that on those occasions.

  • You could pre-deal boards and create two events with selection criteria agreed by club members e.g. one event is for intermediate/ advanced/ expert and world class whilst the other is for beginners and improvers.

    You may not even have to pre-deal - unless you intend to merge both events.

  • I must admit that playing in a large field online and face-to-face feel quite different. Although I might only (in your example) meet 11 pairs out of 53 others in both cases, at least in face-to-face I get to see the other 42 pairs scattered around the room. Online, I could have played in a 6-table howell and seen the same number of people and never spotted the difference.

    I think there is a question of club/community identity which needs to be pondered when you get to large movements online, and segmenting the field (by player choice) by grading is one way to develop a stronger sense of community by meeting the same people more often but there is a danger of creating multiple communities rather than one community.

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