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Masterpoints, Gold Points, the NGS and clubs...

One of the themes in some of the recent discussion has been the role of masterpoints and the NGS in the future of English bridge and the EBU. To avoid clogging up the existing threads, I thought it probably makes sense to post this as a thread in its own right.

At the moment we have two schemes, familiar to all:

  • Masterpoints - A traditional part of the bridge community, both nationally and globally. With the exception of Gold Points, these reward long-term performance cumulatively and the points on offer go up significantly with the number of tables and the organisation involved. An EBU GP event could present a player with as many masterpoints as 6 months of weekly club sessions. The problems are well known - it's not a great indicator of current ability and they provide little incentive for participation, especially at higher ranks.
  • NGS - Generally a reliable indicator of a player's ability over the last year. It can be quite volatile which some players love and some don't (depending on whether they're on a winning or losing streak!). The problem for the EBU is that it does very little to encourage participation, it's mainly just for fun.

Improving your masterpoint tally (and to a lesser extent your NGS position) are actually detrimental if you're interested in winning stratified prizes. In general that won't put people off collecting either but it does seem a little counter-intuitive.

The Gold Point and Player of the Year schemes are reserved for the very best players in the country but offer a 5-year (with decay) and 1-year overview of a player's ability and are therefore arguably a much better way of creating a longer-term competition.

All club, county and national results are submitted to the EBU so there is no shortage in the amount of data that could be used for a reform of these ability indicators. I'm not suggesting that any of these should be replaced because they all have value for different parts of the membership. However, I was envisaging some way of combining the best aspects of all of these with the increasing preference of players to be involved in intra- and inter-club competition. This might be an annual competition where a player's top 3 national performances, a player's top 3 county performances and a player's club results are combined in some way, and could be a national competition or perhaps just a club ladder. It might also be possible for groups of friends to set up a ladder on the system so that they can directly compare their performance, or just have filters for certain counties/NGS levels/masterpoint levels/juniors etc. Alternatives might include some sort of decay so that it the current leader can simply change day-to-day or perhaps an option for clubs to set up their own specific rules. The universal idea here is for players to compare with others they know while also being incentivised to play in events at all levels of the game. There are undoubtedly all sorts of ways to implement such a scheme and it would be very subjective, but if done well then it might encourage players to play in congresses when they might not have done so otherwise. Clubs could be offered a financial reward for the participation of players, or there could be a handicap system in place, the options are wide-ranging.

Regardless of how you put this together, it combines the positives of masterpoints (a reward for doing well in multiple events), NGS (an up-to-date measure of ability) and Gold Points (decay or annual). Only your best results are included so one bad event doesn't overly damage your chances, while the EBU may well benefit from higher turnouts if the incentive structure is right (i.e. playing in more sessions, or at least attending at least 1 congress, gives you a better chance of winning without completely losing the ability indicator element like masterpoints do).

I know it's a far-fetched idea and would be more work than perhaps the benefit at the other end but I would certainly be interested to hear if this could help with promoting more county and national level events while at the same time emphasising the clear growth in communities within clubs. Even if this idea in itself isn't of interest, then hopefully this thread can perhaps think of other ways for the EBU to benefit from the emphasis currently highlighted by intra- and inter-club events on BBO (I offered a rigged swiss draw as a suggestion in the Strategy thread; I'm sure there are many other possibilities too, big or small).


  • @295670 Interesting points and I would certainly endorse discussions around this.

    From what I have seen running a local club, attending county events and competing in a very small number of congresses/green point events, there are a few issues here.

    1) Competitive bridge is of falling interest. It does not seem to me that competition per se is frowned upon, but that many people are just not that interesting in paying more money to play than at their club plus travel and accommodation expenses, to just play in a strong field where they have no chance of winning and slim chance of getting 50% or better. So they just do not go.
    At the club, our open pairs and mens/ladies events are not well attended, county events appear to be dwindling as do congress numbers.
    However, when we run social events that include competitive bridge, we have to limit the numbers due to the size of our venue.

    So, from what I have and from my own experience, competitive bridge has limited draw but when combined with a social event they can be successful.

    My suggestion, therefore, would not be to introduce further incentivisation for success in competition. I would suggest a lower emphasis on competitive bridge. Perhaps combine it with a tea dance, or a lovely 3-course meal, a murder mystery weekend etc... Perhaps there will be a lowering of the overall standard in the congress or competition, but do we want to have 12 tables in a country ran green point event with a strength of field of 56%, or would we rather have a field of 30 tables with a strength of 50%?

    2) Some form of masterpoints system is not negative, but I think has limited appeal at various points in a players career.

    3) In a separate post, I off handedly made a suggestion about letters going out to members at various milestones in their career (1st win in a club, county event, congress etc). 1st year anniversary , 5th year etc... The rewards that go out to players all recognise success... I know a couple that have never won and likely never will (45% would be a VERY good result to them) - should they not get something out of playing in an affiliated club too? Those that do well get their natural rewards from doing well etc. Something that recognises longevity could be good.

    4) I love NGS and check this after every time I play. This is not so much an incentive to play, but rather a way of monitoring ones progress. I find it fascinating and useful - one of the best things I have known the EBU to do in the last 8 years of me playing bridge.

    5) I really think that there is a gap between the various levels of bridge - learners to get playing in clubs, club players to play in congresses or country events. Some of this is down to a lack of knowledge, some is a fear factor, some is just down to a lack of interest in those experienced players (they are no longer interested in a congress, so they dont encourage the newer ones to go etc).
    Some way of addressing this would be good... perhaps as part of my point 3 - a letter goes out saying "congratulations on playing bridge for the last year at x club. Did you know that there is a whole world of fun, interesting and social bridge out there waiting for you? Here are the events coming up in the next 6 months that may be of interest, for your first congress, quote your ebu number: xxxxxxx, for a 50% discount off your first event booked before x date." It just might make a difference.

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