John Carruthers: How the new VP Scale worked in Bali

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ibpa logoThe WBF continues to improve its tournament conditions of contest. One such laudable change, implemented in Bali, was to allow the fourth-placed team among eight qualifiers for knockout play to declare itself available to be picked by the first-, second- or thirdplaced teams. Subsequently, the third- and second-placed teams could declare themselves available to the teams finishing ahead of them. This corrects the often-unfair plight of the fourth-placed team, previously guaranteed to face the best of the fifth-througheighth group. It had often been thought advantageous to finish fifth rather than fourth.

Another improvement is a relaxing of the requirements for financially-strapped NBOs to compete in the Bermuda Bowl and Venice Cup. Now they will need to either have a team in the World Bridge Games or send a pair in the new National Open Pairs.

In contrast with these improvements is the change from the 0-25 VP scale to a 0.00-20.00 scale. The rationale behind the change was the credo, “Every IMP counts.” That assertion, however catchy it sounds, has no intrinsic merit whatsoever. In bridge, not every point counts as a fraction of an IMP, so why should every IMP count as a fraction of a VP. It is inherent in the game that not all tricks are of equal value and that each IMP covers a range of points. Why should VPs be different?

The new scale will discourage newcomers with its apparent complexity and will convince editors to truncate or round off scores, or worse, ignore them altogether. Are we no longer trying to get young people into the game? Do we no longer care to report bridge scores in the press? Opposition to the new scale has come in an official statement from the IBPA Executive to the WBF and informally from a host of scribblers such as Ron Klinger, Brian Senior, Tim Bourke, Paul Marston and yours truly.

Since I’m a curious guy, I compared the official rankings of the Bermuda Bowl in Bali with the rankings as they would have resulted under six other scoring methods (see below). All these methods reveal that (at least for the Bermuda Bowl in Bali) it doesn’t matter which scoring method we use, the results are the same (there were a couple of minor differences). In that case, what we should be doing is simplifying the Victory Point scoring, not complicating it. It seems Victory Points are an illusion.

How about a simple 8-VP scale with 16 IMPs (in a 16-board match) for an 8-0 win and 5-IMP spreads for the other VP totals, i.e., an 11-15 IMP win = 7 VP, 6-10 IMPs = 6 VP, and 1-5 IMPs = 5 VP. An IMP draw would be a VP draw. The ranges and maximum for 8 VP could be modified if it were desired. Other than win/loss, what could be simpler? Another possibility is IMP differential, perhaps with a maximum. No VP conversion would be needed, simplifying things even further. Either method would be better than the current one and both with give the same result. The new scale may be mathematically sound, but it could be improved upon socially.




1. Actual rankings of the top 12 teams (those above average) from Bali.

2. Scores and rankings according to the old WBF VP scale, in use from the late 1960s until this year.

3. The original VP scale used, for example, in the 1964 Olympiad Teams (18-board matches): 18+ IMPs = 7-0 VP; 10-17 IMPs = 6-1 VP; 4-9 IMPs = 5-2 VP; 0-3 IMPs = 4-3 VP. IMP ties were broken by (i.) most boards on which IMPs were won, then (ii.) total points.

4. IMP VPs are calculated on a 1-to-1 basis (IMPs to VPs) to a maximum of 100 VPs per match,i.e., 50 IMPs is a blitz (100-0). For this type of scale approximately 3 IMPs per board could be the standard for a blitz.

5. Most professional sports use a win/loss system to create their ranking table – here are the results if bridge did the same.

6. Ameliorating win/loss is the 1 = win by 5 or more IMPs; ¾ = win by 1-4 IMPs; ½ = tie; ¼ = lose by 1-4 IMPs; 0=lose by 5 or more IMPs. Fractions from the basic 1- ¾ – ½ – ¼ – 0 schema are made into whole numbers by multiplying by 4. The range for a fractional win or loss (¾ or ¼) is calculated at approximately ¼ IMP times the number of boards in the match.

7. If one were to consider the Round Robin as one long continuous match, it could be scored at raw IMPs without resorting to Victory Points at all. This may be visually a little hard on the teams at the bottom of the table (places 13-22) which are all net minus in IMPs. This method is the same as IMP VPs without results beyond +50 or -50 being negated.


John Carruthers

IBPA Bulletin No. 586 November 5, 2013

More article about the new VP Scale: click here >>

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One Reply to “John Carruthers: How the new VP Scale worked in Bali”

  1. JC makes some very valid points, particularly about the new VP scale. It’s so complicated as to be off-putting.
    Not having been at Bali, I can’t comment on the arrangements, though everyone says they were sensational. That’s also good.
    Unfortunately JC left out what I feel was the most important thing about Bali — the question of representation. Forget the whys about the Israelis, who didn’t get to Bali though they qualified. The problem is much bigger: The lack of a requirement that all WBF member NBO who qualify for the championships be guaranteed a place in them. A country that won’t go out of its way to accept teams from all those eligible should not be allowed to host the BB, VC and D’Orsi. Period. Anything less makes a joke of the WBF slogan about bridge and peace. And people like John Carruthers, who by virtue of his position has infleunce on WBF policy decisions. Should stand in support of open-to-all championships.

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