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Handicap method for club teams

At the last AGM our club decided to scrap the monthly (random teaming) teams competition and hold a single annual competition where people could form their own teams. The club is not large (80 or so members) and has a wide range of strengths (several NGS Aces and Kings, and the lowest rank is a 2). In order to make the competition fairer, so that less experienced pairs don't feel it's not worth entering if the strongest players all form into a two or three teams, we would like to apply a handicap system. This is easy enough for pairs events, simply using the NGS percentage or club-specific equivalent, but it's not obvious how best to do it at IMPs or VPs. Does anyone have any experience of doing anything similar, or any constructive suggestions to make, please?


  • There is a method given in the NGS Full Guide on page 39. Although I don't have any information about clubs actually having done this, I've provided this link so many times in response to enquiries that I feel sure some must have done!

  • edited September 2018

    Hi Goujeers

    This takes a bit of working out before the "match" but worth it.
    For each team find the NGS percentage for each member and then calculate the average to get "B"
    Nest calculate the average for all members playing to get "A". If any team member has their NGS hidden then ask them to release it of get them a really high estimate (say ace of clubs upper limit).

    N equals the number of boards each team will play.

    You can now calculate the "handicap" using the formula

    [A - B] x N x 0.3086 - the .3086 equates to the 0.1543 shown in the NGS calculations. I think the calculation is in the NGS guidance.

    I attach a PDF of one of our calculations (original result based on IMPS. Whilst the team with the largest average NGS still came first, the team with the next lowest average NGS came second. Obviously the original result has to be sent to the EBU for NGS and Masterpoint purposes but the club can issue an appropriate "prize".

    Give it a go or maybe even go back to the last teams event and do a check.


  • Blasted emoji!!!

    It should be the capital "B" with a closing bracket after it so that "A-B" is worked out first


  • @CMOT_Dibbler said:
    Blasted emoji!!!

    It should be the capital "B" with a closing bracket after it so that "A-B" is worked out first


    Fixed it with square brackets.

  • Thanks Gordon.

    Too old to handle "emojis"!!

    CMOT Dibbler

    P.S. also note other "drunken" finger errors but I haven't touched a drop for two days.

  • Another option would be to set a limit in the quality of the teams... say average of a 10...
    Or rank the grades as 1 (a 2) up to 16 (AS) and say each team can have a maximum of 36 points...
    In this way 4 players ranked a 10 could play as a team, but a pair of Kings would need to team up with a pair of 7s or less.
    Obviously, the exact levels could be varied, but you geg the idea
  • I've been using the method in FR7 on Page 39 of the Full NGS Guide even before it was published! But nowadays I have become a bit lazier and only do the calculations for the event that is actually mentioned at the end of that piece. It's actually a Teams of Eight event that is scored as if each team is two teams of four. We don't give prizes for the winners at all as the eight teams are the teams Sheffield BC has in the Yorkshire League and it's a "fun" event at the end of the season and our A team are expected to win pre-handicap and nearly always do!

    But at Sheffield, we do handicap prizes for all our Multiple Teams, Swiss Pairs and Swiss Teams events and if the players can wait till the next day for me to publish our handicapped winners on our web site, I can adopt the lazier method of going the next morning to this web site and "My EBU" and log on as a club administrator.

    On the Sessions screen, click the event for which you want a handicapped prize.

    If it is Swiss Pairs, look for the pair whose NG has risen the most. That's the biggest plus figure in green in the right hand column.

    If it is Multiple Teams or Swiss Teams, you need to click further where it says "Show Cross-IMPs" near the top left of the window, and you then have to work out which team's two pairs had the highest combined plus figures. It's usually a very quick process.

    For Swiss events, this is the only possible way to find a handicap winner and for ordinary Multiple Teams, it's just easier to let the NGS calculations be done for you after the event gets uploaded to Aylesbury!

    Barrie Partridge - CTD for Bridge Club Live

  • Many thanks to all, especially Gordon for the link and CMOT for the sample worked-out calculations. It makes it much easier to follow. The one down-side appears to be that teams won't know their own handicap before the final scoring, as it depends on the ratings of all the other players taking part.

  • agree Goujeers

    However, if you get team entries in before the event (nightmare if teams are set up on the night!!) then you can do all the calculations up to the Handicap adjustment before the match starts. Each team can be given a copy of every teams adjustment, I would suggest just the columns headed "Total"; "team Average" and "Handicap" and they can then have a chance to work out who they have to be careful against and which team they need to "push". You will probably find some are against it to begin with (the ones you would not expect) but most will like the idea after a few attempts.

    It does require some "transparency" in how it is done, particulary if the same teams continue to win.

    Go on give it a go as you have nothing to lose and you might end up doing it once a month again, by popular demand.


  • Completely with CMOT.

    If you are a club administrator, it is easier to get all your members' NGs via My EBU.

    For my event, I know the line-ups in advance subject to last minute substitutions (which means a late adjustment).
    I do as CMOT does if anyone has a Private grade.

    I also adjust all the IMP handicaps so that our A team has 0 IMPs handicap and everyone else has a positive number of IMPs handicap to add to their score. It just means that no one has to deduct IMPs to get their handicapped IMPs score!

    Barrie Partridge - CTD for Bridge Club Live

  • We (Petersfield BC) have just run our first session of handicapped teams using the 0.3086 formula. It was multiple teams(9) over 24 boards, IMP scoring, and I knew the teams in advance. I calculated a handicap for each team using 60% as a datum. There was one team there with a handicap of -8, one of +2; the rest ranged up to +102 for a team from our Improvers group.
    Beforehand I thought this would be far to big a range to work, but work it did!
    The 'experts' had a pretty faultless card and finished on +106, the Improvers, also played well and finished with -3. So handicapped that was 98 & 99!
    I scored using EBUScore and pre-loaded the handicaps as 'Adjustments' on the 'Properties' tab. So the handicapped result was immediately available.

    We decided to try handicapping as a means of stimulating entries to our monthly teams evening.
    We certainly had more teams than usual, but there was a novelty element.
    The next event is on Oct 4th.
    I will provide an update!

  • Indeed, the 110 IMP handicap seems huge but it isn't. The Teams of Eight event to which I referred sees our "H" team have similar advantage over our "A" team as there is about 15% difference in NG between the teams.

    Barrie Partridge - CTD for Bridge Club Live

  • We have just run our annual handicap teams events according to the recommended method (except that our committee decided to use the percentages at our club only rather than the EBU grade precentages) and it seems to have work exceedingly well, so thanks again averyone who commented.

    The questions have been raised, would the same method work if scoring was by VPs rather than IMPs?, and what about converting the handicapped IMPs to VPs?

    Any thoughts?

  • The NGS works for the primary method of scoring (MPs or IMPs) and not the final method of scoring if different (VPs).

    As for converting handicapped IMPs to VPs, that's do-able as you just use the normal IMP>VP scales but using the handicapped IMPs. On Bridge Club Live, we have had handicapped Swiss Pairs events (six matches of 18 boards each, played one match per fortnight) and it's the MPs that get handicapped as per a scheme very similar to the NGS, and the handicapped MPs get converted to VPs.

    Barrie Partridge - CTD for Bridge Club Live

  • edited December 2018

    What an interesting and useful discussion - I play in three different handicapped teams events in Leeds and Harrogate, all of which use different handicapping methods and all result in lower handicaps (sometimes much lower) than the NGS guide recommendation.

    Perhaps this recommendation is not that widely known. A couple of suggestions spring to mind:

    1. The handicapped teams events I play in are usually scored by hand, especially head-to-head matches. The 0.3086 factor looks quite intimidating and is difficult to remember. For a 24 board match this comes out at just over 7 IMPs for each NGS percentage. 7 IMPs is a simple approximation that people can easily work out. For example a 50% team playing 24 boards against a 55% team would have 5 x 7 = 35 IMPs.
      It would be useful to add an approximate handicapping scale in the NGS guide for, say, 12 ,16, 24, 32 and 48 boards. The IMPs per team percentage would probably be 3, 5, 7, 10 and 15 respectively - I've rounded down if it's not close.

    2. Is there a place where this could become more official guidance rather than tucked away in the FAQ of the NGS document? How about a handicapping section in the White Book?

  • Long long time ago, I posted a comment about running handicapped teams at Petersfield Bridge Club.
    I promised an update. Well, better late than never!
    Firstly, the handicapping does seems to have stimulated a sustained higher level of attendance.
    Again last night we had nine teams, including a new team from our 'Improvers' Group.
    They started with 132 IMPs in the bank, and clung on, just, to win from a team with hcap of 9.
    Secondly the handicapping itself does seem to work pretty well.
    I was unsure whether a predominantly pairs based system (NGS) would be both appropriate and 'fair'
    The final handicapped scores (in IMPs) are generally in a fairly small range.
    There have been exceptions of course: (one month a mid-ranking team won outright, so had an enormous handicapped win!)
    So if anyone is wanting to stimulate teams evenings I would recommend this.
    Also I think Teams is potentially easier for Improvers to cope with.
    They don't have to worry about overtricks, and the part-score battles are less important.

  • Thanks Mike - interesting indeed.
  • We are about to run this year's handicap teams, using the NGS percentages for all players who have one recorded, and the Club percentages for those who have not played enough sessions to get an NGS score. We have one new member participating who has been out of the game for "decades" but "used to be a decent club player", and has neither an NGS score nor a club percentage.
    Should I assign her 50%, or the same score as her partner (who keeps her score private, but that's another problem)? Any ideas appreciated

  • You should err on the high side of any doubt, especially if a player has chosen to keep their grade private.

    Barrie Partridge - CTD for Bridge Club Live

  • Barrie: She doesn't have a grade, having played only 3 sessions after over 20 years away from the game.

  • @Goujeers said:
    "used to be a decent club player"

    With this the only evidence of previous form, it would suggest around 50% to 58%, but the player might still be a bit rusty from not playing for so long.

    I would suggest assigning 55% as erring on the high side of doubt. That also just happens to be the initial grade that we arbitrarily assign to those whose first event in EBU-land is a Green Pointed event.

    Barrie Partridge - CTD for Bridge Club Live

  • edited November 2021

    We run a handicap teams event, one session per month over a few month. Each month we look at the aggregated handicapped IMPs total for each team and award 10 points for the highest, then 8,6,5,4,3,2,1. These monthly scores are then added up over the season for which there are small cash prizes. Works well and very popular with members.

    Two questions have been raised:-

    • Should be recalculate handicaps each month? My suspicion us probably yes, but in the interest of simplicity why bother? Do NGS grades really change that fast (for most players)?
    • Unhandicapped results are submitted to EBU for NGS and MP purposes as required for p2p. Does this introduce a conflict of objectives for players? Some might be playing their NGS, whereas others might be taking higher risks in later rounds to try and get the cash prize? Is this an issue? Is it any different from say a Swiss Pairs where pairs might 'push' in later rounds to get into the prizes.

    Got a hunch they are not issues, provided we are clear and transparent with players what the situation is in the CoC.

  • edited November 2021

    On your first point, the key is that the CoC is clear either way, in which case you're not going to have many issues. The 'fairest' (and most accepted) way would be to recalculate handicaps each month (assuming that, as you say, no-one tries to game the system). NGS grades are typically expected to deviate around 2% from a person's mean which is relatively small, but on the other hand this could make all the difference when awarding prizes!

    The problem with handicap events is always that there's a conflict of interest. This is a similar problem with NGS-categorised prizes in all kinds of events, which is why the EBU (for example) has exemptions based on masterpoints and 'EBU discretion' as well. Unfortunately there's no easy way to avoid it, other than trusting players not to game the system (on the other hand, one would hope that we can all trust each other!). Swiss pairs isn't the same issue - it's true that earlier rounds appear to carry less weight due to the draw system, but aiming to win every match is still just about optimal (especially if there are only prizes for a couple of pairs/teams); After all, there's no guarantee that you'll get 'easier' opponents or that there will be enough time to make up VPs, whereas in a handicap event there's no downside.

    As you're doing a teams event, the impact of which method you choose will be reduced which is handy.

    UsuallyDummy's post above also provides an interesting variant where the handicapping is a bit more rough and ready so that everything equates to the nearest IMP. This means that any small 'gaming' or simply anomalous differences are mitigated.

    Finally, it's worth remembering that My EBU, during its NGS grading, will automatically give each pair's score relative to their respective par when it calculates it overnight. Adding those together would then give that team's performance relative to par for that day and takes away anyone's concerns over the appropriateness of a formula. It doesn't help with your second concern but might be a suggestion for the 1st (if people are happy to wait (in suspense!) overnight for the results). [Edit: This wouldn't work because adding X-IMPs together obviously doesn't give teams IMPs, but thought I'd keep it in the post anyway if anyone runs handicap pairs...]

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