Last Sunday (May 27, 2012) Roland Wald was a guest of the Bridge Live Show, broadcast on BTTC (BridgeTopics.com Channel), the new web TV produced by Neapolitan Club and BridgeTopics.com. For a period of more then ten years Mr Wald, a successfull bridgeteacher, is co-ordinating Vugraph matches on BBO: In 2011 Mr Wald was elected IBPA bridge personality-of-the-year. The interview was hosted by Jan van Cleeff and Laura Cecilia Porro. We publish here the full text.
Jan van Cleeff: We start with five dilemmas. All our guests will have to pick a word out of two, to his liking. He only has to pick one word. First question to warm you up, cricket or bridge: what is your pick?
Roland Wald: Cricket.
JVC: I thought so, we come back to that. Next one, what do you prefer: the BBO old version or the BBO new interface?
RW: The old version, the downloadable version.
JVC: Interesting, we come back to that. Third dilemma, what do you prefer: teaching or play?
JVC: Strange answer, hopefully we come back to that one as well. Fourth dilemma, what do you prefer on BBO: the BBO robot world or the ACBL world.
RW: ACBL world.
JVC: Roland you speak so many languages, are you also able to speak Italian?
RW: No, not a word.
JVC: The final dilemma, what do you prefer in bridge: beginners or experts.
JVC: Thanks so much for being loud and clear about your answers. Your love for cricket is the main reason why you emigrated to England partly. Is that correct?
RW: That is the reason, yes. Well a couple of reasons, but cricket is one of them. The other one is English language spoken by British people. I really wanted to live there and practice my English. You are right cricket was the main reason I always wanted to move to London some day, ever since I was a young boy and after I sold my Bridge Centre outside Copenhagen I got the opportunity to move and then I did it, and I am watching much cricket as we speak. I have been watching cricket all day actually.
JVC: Were you there on the historic moment when Netherlands beat England?
RW: I was not there but I watched it on TV and it was a fantastic performance by the Dutch. One of the sensations in the history of the game.
JVC: Did you realize emigrating to England also implied that you had to absorb English food? How is the food in England nowadays?
RW: English food is non-existent but they have 17-20 other things you can choose from, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, all sorts of things and you are just getting along.
JVC: We go to the serious stuff. The level of commentary on BBO is very diverse, you have excellent commentaries or sometimes a little childish, what do you think of this and who is your favorite commentator?
RW: Well I think that commentary should be made by experts who are able to analyse and be educational and entertaining at the same time. That’s really how I prefer a commentator to be. When you ask me about my favorite commentator it’s really difficult for me to answer that question. Remember that we have around 300 commentators and it would not be fair of me to single people out, but obviously if I actually had to mention the commentators I really like to work with, doing the voice commentary: Larry Cohen, Peter Lund, David Bird, and Henry Berthe.
JVC: Now a delicate question, did it ever occur that BBO had to ban commentators and for what reason?
RW: Yes it did happen, it happened on three occasions, three times in ten years isn’t a lot is it, that we had to suspend or bar some commentators, because they were rude towards the players or the sponsors. We cannot accept that, we cannot tolerate rudeness, we have a zero tolerance policy in that regard. We will not bar people forever, unless it’s really serious. I can tell you that all three are back.
JVC: I am happy to hear that, more or less a matter of being overly rude rather than analysis.
RW: Yes, nothing to do with skills.
JVC: My last question: what exactly should tournament organizers do when they want to have their event broadcast on BBO?
RW: You mean how to get in touch and have their tournaments broadcast?
RW: We have a vugraph schedule webpage, you can reach through www.bridgebase.com. If you go to the schedule page you will see how people get in touch with us. They actually write an email to me and let me know that they are interested in broadcasting an event and when they are I will send them our standard vugraph guidelines and our technical manual and when they have been through that they’ll come back to me with answer to the 8 questions we have in our guidelines. We have a very liberal policy on BBO, we allow every body to broadcast if they want and that’s perhaps why we have so many broadcasts as we have now. It’s absolutely amazing we have broadcast around 300 days a year and as you all know on many weekend we have broadcast from up to 7-8 nations simultaneously.
JVC: That’s fantastic. Is it expensive to have your tournament broadcast on BBO?
RW: I don’t know, what actually happens at their end, we tell them: you can borrow and have our software free of charge, we will not charge anything for you to use our software, we are not going to charge the spectators to watch, but you will have to be responsible for the cost at your end, such as getting computers, and getting operators and staff overall, that is not a BBO problem and I really don’t know how much that will cost, it depends how expensive operators are. But we do not charge anything we do not make any money.
Laura Cecilia Porro: The vugraph doesn’t make money out of the broadcast, but Norberto Bocchi in his last editorial recently raised this issue. In all other sports spectators pay to watch, maybe there should be a bridge pay per view. What do you think of this?
RW: Well, you have to remember that all of us working with vugraph are volunteers, we are not getting paid. So BBO management, Fred Gitelman and others, do not need to actually raise money for that purpose, because they don’t have expenses: they don’t have to actually pay us. I discussed this issue with Fred Gitelman on a number of occasions and he is determined -he was ten years ago and he is still determined- that vugraph should be free for everyone and as long as they can afford it it will remain free. I think that’s a very sympathetic thought, although I am sure that people would not mind paying just a little bit. I am not saying this because I want to get paid, I do this because I love it otherwise I could not be in this job for ten years without getting paid obviously. But perhaps they could charge just a little bit, and maybe if they don’t want to spend the money on BBO itself because they don’t need it -what do I know- then perhaps give it to charity or something like that.
LCP: What do you think about cheating in tournaments?
RW: You mean how people can cheat while being on vugraph? I am not the right person to ask about cheating in tournaments on BBO, I am the wrong person to ask.
JVC: I have a clear vision to that: it’s maybe a bit controversial. But due to the fact that I am a journalist I like when things are going on. To my humble opinion a little cheating wouldn’t harm anybody, it would be good for bridge, not everybody shares this opinion. The only times when bridge is getting the headlines is in cheating scandals, such as Schapiro, Buratti-Lanzarotti, the Bermuda incident, but maybe you don’t agree with me Roland.
RW: No, not really. Ideally we wouldn’t have any cheating at all, but we know that we do not live in an ideal world, and we know that cheating is going on and is also going on in our game sadly and we can’t get rid of it completely. But we can do something, even on vugraph we do something. Like in America for instance when they broadcast there, I mean they are what I would call a little paranoid about security, they will not start a new match until everyone is finished, they don’t like the Barometer thing, they don’t want to give players any opportunity to get data. I don’t think it’s a major problem in bridge, it’s a major problem in other sports. We can’t get rid of it, I think it’s sad that it’s there, I think it should be avoided at almost all costs. We know that on BBO in general we have cheating, people being online on two computers at the same time, on two different users ID actually watching each other, one ID is playing and the other one is a spectator and that’s how you can cheat. We try to stop this -it’s not my desk really- we have an abuse department, we really try to get rid of that, if we have evidence, they are investigating a lot before they suspend players for cheating.
LCP: Roland you have a lot of experience of bridge clubs. What kind of advice would you give to the many clubs that struggle to keep up the number of tables?
RW: That is a difficult question. I’ve been the manager and the teacher of a Bridge Centre since 1989 when I opened my Bridge Centre north of Copenhagen. I just wanted to make my hobby my job. I started with just a few members, about 300 the first year and it escalated in no time and at some point we were 1400 members at the Centre. There is a problem and that is somewhat related to internet bridge. Now that people can play online, and they play online a lot, we will miss some players at the clubs, so if you are a manager or member of the board you have to struggle to keep your members. You have to make it attractive for them to be there, if you can avoid it, do not charge too much, I mean table money and some such, and you need to have a good teacher or two so that you can offer lessons to beginners and intermediates. That’s a very good supplement to the normal duplicate game, that’s what I really recommend that they do in clubs, if at all possible, that they get teachers, they can charge people for having lessons.
May 30, 2012
Laura Cecilia Porro & Jan van Cleeff for BTCC