John Carruthers: Bridge in the 21th century

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ACBL tournaments are noted for their ability to handle walk-up entries, even in elite events with hundreds of tables. Only events which require seeding of teams require some sort of pre-tournament entry. For all other events, entries are accepted up until game time. Nevertheless, there are some areas that can be improved upon and these were evident in Seattle at the Fall NABC.

The first was in broadcasting the events over BBO. The main events at the Fall Nationals are the Reisinger, the Blue Ribbon Pairs (each three days in length), the Open Teams (Board-a-Match) and the Open Pairs (each two days long).

There are also big events for seniors, juniors and women, the biggest of which is the Senior Knockout Teams. So we had ten days of top-flight competition – unfortunately, only three days’ worth was broadcast on BBO (semifinals, one match only, and finals of the Senior KO and the third day of the Reisinger). Why is this?

The argument goes that pair events and team events with pair movements (such as BAM), to be broadcast, require the boards to be played simultaneously at all tables, as they are done, for example, at the Cavendish. One cannot have the results of Board 1 known after Round 1 if it’s to be played at another table in Round 10. The effect of this is that extra sets of boards must be prepared and care must be taken that the results from any table are not known elesewhere. These days though, the boards can be dealt by machine, so that is not quite the issue it was years ago.

Regarding machine dealing, some ACBL events still employ “shuffle and play” boards, even top events like the Spingold and the NABC Swiss Teams. In the latter stages of important Swiss Team events, the top tables do play duplicated boards, but this practice should be adopted throughout so that all teams have the same opportunities.

Another ACBL practice that needs to be improved is that of scoring pair games. These are, even the qualifying and semifinal rounds of the Life Master Pairs and the Blue Ribbon Pairs, scored over pairs of sections and not across the field. There is simply no excuse, with today’s technology, for this to happen. To some extent, this practice puts you at the mercy of the other players in your section and can easily make a difference of 5% or more in your score from section to section.

There is no question that more work is required to implement these improvements, but the logistics are not really that daunting. What’s required is to ask the question, “What result do we wish to achieve?”, then to figure out what needs to be done to make it happen. For example, to broadcast all ten days on BBO, we need all events to be Barometer-style. That may be impractical, one might think, for big pair games, but the last day of the important pair events could certainly be broadcast, and all days of team events can be broadcast, even if they don’t play the same boards. Then, you need to arrange a computer and an operator for each table broadcast. Scoring across the field is such a trivial matter these days that one can only shake one’s head in bewilderment that it doesn’t happen.

So, here’s what we want: (i) BBO broadcasts every day throughout NABCs; (ii) duplicated boards at all stages of NABC events, and (iii) all pair events scored across the field. If it did all that, the ACBL would have a chance to join the 21st century.

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John Carruthers

(IBPA Bulletin n. 563)

December 18, 2011

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