Vancouver Bridge Centre Virtual Bridge Club Q&A
|What is it? It's the online version of VBC games, limited mostly to VBC players (others can be added, see #7 below). With excellent support from local players we've made a fine start and we hope you will join us at some point. You will find us at BBO, Virtual Games, ACBL Virtual Games, and look for VACB154971. Registration will be available two hours before game time, game director McBruce (under the BBO name VACB154971) will log on soon after to answer questions (many of which are answered below; read on!).
||Waiting in the Safeway line between sessions on Thursday with my latest acquisition steaming up my glasses....Is this what awaits us when we finally emerge from the online cocoon?
Breaking News: (some of this news has been here awhile, but CNN has redefined the term 'Breaking News' and I'm just following along...)
- Silver Linings Week Is Here! All virtual club games on BBO from May 25-31 will be special games; all masterpoint awards will be tripled and will be SILVER points instead of black points! The normal ACBL sanction fee of US$1/table is raised to US$6/table for these games and we will transfer this small fee increase to players, so the cost for these games will be US$6.50 instead of US$5, just for the one week, then back to $5 once the special silver point week ends. The games will be exactly the same as usual otherwise (but perhaps a bit bigger, considering the rewards!). Our games normally pay 2.25 black points or more to the overall winners, which would be 7.75 silver for a single session, comparable to a sectional!
Included in the Silver Points Week will be a special Saturday Afternoon game at 1:15. This game will be run as a VBC game, with the increased silver masterpoints, but will be rescored into ACBLscore and added into the Monthly Unit Game masterpoints race. (This rescoring into ACBLscore at the normal Unit Game rate is so that this game doesn't have a larger effect on the race than the other games we ran earlier this year before moving online.) We'll continue looking for ACBL promotional weeks (there will probably be more of these...) and run a Unit Game in this Saturday time slot when these events take place.
- BBO expands to two servers, be aware: Many functions of BBO have been moved to a second server, which means that some activities players participate in while waiting for a VVBC tournament to begin may be on that second server, and on server 1 where the tournament is, you will appear to be offline. This means that you need to be aware of the time and move to the area of the site with the tournament a few minutes before the tournament begins. The system will not move you automatically from the second server, which contains all activities in the 'Casual' section, but might expand in future. We will wait a short time for you to arrive if you are trapped there, but cannot delay the tournament for more than a minute or two.
- New limited game on Monday Afternoon began May 18!: 70 tables in the first five weeks of 0-300 games, including the current record of 18 tables on May 14, demanded some expansion for our developing players! We've started a new game on Monday Afternoon (1:45 pm), for 0-750 players. Like the Thursday Morning games, you will need to be an ACBL member with your ACBL number linked to your BBO account to play in these games. (It's easy, scroll down for instructions in point #2 below.)
- Hand records!: You can get them while logged onto BBO in your history folder, but only if you have played in the tournament. Now you can get them in a pdf file (starting May 7) about an hour after the game, when I get a chance to type them in. The hand record link will be beside the results link on the results page. (Not long after I began doing this, BBO ran out of space to store all of the hands all these tournaments are producing and lost them for a few days!)
- Misclick of the Week: A player whose anonymity will be protected had the following adventure:
Dummy: ♠ 2 ♥ T 9 5 ♦ A 8 6 5 4 3 ♣ A Q 4
Declarer: ♠ Q 9 7 ♥ A K Q 8 6 ♦ Q J 2 ♣ 3 2
Vulnerable against not, LHO and partner pass, RHO opens 1♠ and you lose connection to the site and have some trouble getting back on. Eventually you manage to get back on using your cellphone, where everything is pretty, uh, small. But you manage to get to 4♥ except that in the crucial moment you misclick and hit 4♠ instead. So you recover and end up playing in 5♥.
The opening lead is a small spade to RHO's king, and a trump comes back at trick two. You win in hand and ruff a second round of spades, leaving this:
Dummy: ♠ — ♥ T ♦ A 8 6 5 4 3 ♣ A Q 4
Declarer: ♠ Q ♥ K Q 8 6 ♦ Q J 2 ♣ 3 2
Is there a way out of this? You need to get back to hand somehow to ruff the last spade or you will lose a spade and almost certainly two minor suit tricks, since South probably has both minor suit kings for the opening bid. There is no way to endplay South. Every time South wins a trick a spade will come back forcing you to ruff. What's the answer? (Check below for the solution.)
- VBC News Update: There is news on the VBC web page about club finances, a direct link for which you will find here.
- A bit of a McBruce rant: What's the deal with the short club? Before I tear into this convention, let's get one thing straight: it is NOT sufficient to say 'we play short club' at the start of a round and never alert these calls. These 1♣ bids that could show less than three are announceable, so you should be typing 'could be short' in the box before hitting enter and releasing the bid to the table. If you bid 1♣ and then go back and add an announcement, you are flirting with potential damage. The 'we play short club' pre-round announcement can be misinterpreted into believing that you are playing a forcing 1♣ system like Precision. So let's get into the habit of alerting these if we insist on this partnership agreement.
Now for the real rant! Why on earth is it so important to promise four diamonds 100% of the time, rather than 97% of the time as standard bidding provides? And why do so many, once they have made the agreement to open 2-card club suits with 4=4=3=2 distribution, avoiding that oh-so-terrifying three-card diamond suit bid, decide in a pinch that some hand with even fewer clubs can be opened 1♣ to avoid some potential problem? Way too many of us are adopting this convention without spelling out what it actually means: some think the 1♣ opener promises at least two, others hear 'short club' and figure that they can do anything they want. Once you have the implied agreement that there are some problem hands that force you to open 1♣ with a singleton or a void (this "problem" is imaginary, by the way), your 1♣ openers are no longer natural and should be alerted.
It may seem that I don't play a lot of bridge, but I play all the time against strong computer programs, and I play short clubs that promise three. If there is a problem, I haven't seen it come up in thousands of deals. Promise three clubs and four diamonds except with 4=4=3=2 and understand that there's a better chance the 1♣ or 1♦ opener has a seven-card suit than a two-card club suit or a three-card diamond suit. Good rebidding later in the auction will keep you out of trouble. Discovering that your desperation parking spot, when there aren't stoppers for 3NT, involves partner's doubleton opening bid club suit, will cost you many more matchpoints in the long run.
Don't even get me started on 'Montreal Relay.' I'm a curious type, but every one of the more than one dozen very different descriptions of this have left me wondering how anyone can play it without disaster. Natural bidding with logical plans for rebids is always going to get you farther than some system that tries to say everything in one call.
- Summer IMP League signup sheet set up: check it out here
- Need a partner? New tips added below on how to use the BBO partnership desk and substitute list to increase your chances of getting into a game.
- Thursday evening game, 7:15pm — improving nicely, join us!: Here is your chance to support VVBC evening bridge. We've had a nice improvement here, going from 3 tables the first two times, to five and eight and eleven last week! Join us and help keep evening bridge alive!
- BBO adds Howell movements: Actually, I am calling these volleyball movements, because one pair, NS1 is stationary while the others rotate, NS up a table, switch to EW at the highest table, then down a table as EW, then from EW1 to NS2. It creates a one-winner movement which gives about the same number of awards but the winners get considerably more than a two-winner Mitchell game, so we are using them all the time now. (I call them volleyball movements because I first saw it in high school when our class split up into six teams and played a complete round-robin of short games using this method.) There is an urban legend out there that two-winner games give out more masterpoint awards than one-winner games. In fact, most of the anomalies are due to rounding: normally depth of awards is 40% of the number of pairs in a field, and as the number of pairs in the field increases (and this is clearly happening!) the rounding errors diminish. Two winner games exist because a significant number of players do not like to move and request a North-South seat. Clearly this is irrelevant for online bridge, where you can move from North to West to South to East without getting out of your easy chair! Plus, a one-winner game gives the first overall award a 50% increase, and all other masterpoint awards are based on that first overall award. It also avoids the revenge rounds that BBO Mitchells sometimes create for no apparent reason. So it may not be perfect but it's clearly a good move. Once we are clearly past 18 tables before gametime I will switch back to a Mitchell because at that level either movement pays the overall winners bigtime. 18 tables means that when it splits up into two sections there will be no revenge rounds.
- VVBC site continues to grow! In addition to our VVBC results page, we now have a new records page where you can see all sorts of VVBC statistics and records. Want to know whether you are among the VVBC leaders, or whether your game was one of the best so far? Who has the best success rate at breaking average, or winning masterpoints? Who wins the most points per session played? Who has played the most games? All of these and many more are answered and will be updated about an hour after every game.
We have moved all of the results to a new results page: check it out!
|Virtual VBC Weekly Schedule
||Games So Far
|Sunday Afternoon (open pairs)
|Monday Afternoon (0-750 pairs)
|Tuesday Afternoon (open pairs)
|Wednesday Morning (open pairs)
|Thursday Morning (0-300 pairs)
|Thursday Evening (open pairs)
|Friday Afternoon (open pairs)
For now, these seven games will be our weekly schedule. Watch this space for more news!
ALERT: The BBO site works differently from offline bridge for players who have not linked an ACBL number to their BBO account; it assumes such players are in Flight A with many masterpoints. There is no way around this, sadly, so this means that for the limited games, all players need to be ACBL members and have linked numbers to be eligible.
What are the game details? The games are 18-board matchpointed pairs tournaments, held on Bridge Base Online. 18 boards is a bit longer than most tournaments on BBO, but is the minimum needed to ensure full ACBL masterpoints can be won at the games. The games take a bit longer than two hours, and that time might go lower as players get familiar with online bridge. When the time in a round runs out, the system assigns a likely result based on the cards that were left and the director can adjust this if necessary. If the bidding is not completed on the last board, both sides will get average on the board unless it is clear that one side is headed for trouble. All players play copies of the same boards at almost the same time, and players are automatically moved to the new table when a round ends. Games are stratified into three approximately equal groups, with the top players in strat A, the middle group in B and the rest in C, based on pair average. (UPDATE: BBO stratifies by the top pair, not by average, and assumes all BBO "star" players, and any player without an ACBL# attached to their BBO account, are in strat A. The smaller games are not stratified.)
How much do the games cost? We have set our entry fees at 5 BBO dollars per player, 10 for the pair. BBO dollars are based on the US dollar and can be purchased securely from the BBO site using a credit card. Careful! If you purchase BBO dollars from an iOS or Android app on a phone or tablet, the app may grab some of the money you pay. It is best to purchase BBO dollars from a computer and a web browser version of BBO.
I'd much rather play some other way, can we change it? I'm getting a few messages suggesting changes, but as we get started we're going to stick to the details above. These are the defaults that have been strongly suggested by experienced online directors, and do cater a bit to newer online players, but in order to be a success we will have to include such players. All of the suggestions I receive will be considered once we are running regularly and we can experiment a bit with an occasional session.
UPDATE: We're up to seven games a week now, including a Thursday evening game, a Thursday morning 0-300 game, and a new Monday mid-afternoon 0-750 game started this week (1:45 pm). Some of us are speedier than others, but discovering that a few minutes chatting with people we know at the end of a round as we wait for others to finish the boards is not so bad. 7 minutes per board seems best for the moment, bearing in mind that many rounds will finish early if everyone is done before the clock runs out.
What can I do if I don't have a partner? Log on fairly early, perhaps thirty minutes before the game, and find the next VVBC tournament (VACB154971 will be the director you're looking for, and Vanc. Bridge Centre note the 're' spelling, will be in the title). Each tournament has several tabs; when you click a tournament you are first taken to the Registration tab to sign in. There is also a Details tab you can switch to, with tournament rules and details, and an Entries tab with a list of the people who have signed up so far. And the last tab is the Partnership Desk tab, which is a list of the people looking for partners to play with in this tournament. Add yourself to the list, or invite someone else on the list to play.
One final method: when the time gets down to two minutes before gametime and you are not matched up, add your name to the substitutes list. This list is for all BBO tournaments, but you can decline invites from other tournaments in order to wait for a chance to get into the VVBC game. Just before the game begins I will check the partnership desk for names. If we have a half-table at gametime, my first job will be to fill that spot, and before I send out a general invite to all subs on the list, I will first check the substitutes list to see if there are any names I saw on the partnership desk, or other local names, and I will invite those people first. We don't have many on the partnership desk at present, but maybe this paragraph will increase that number!
Now Accepting Entries: VBC Summer IMP League We'd like to start a Tuesday Evening Summer IMP League, although it may take a few weeks to get things organized. You'd need to have six people on a team, so that four would be available each Tuesday night. (At some point we will have something else to do...) Team games on BBO are set up by the players. We'll set up a schedule and try to get everyone playing matches at approximately the same time on Tuesday nights, and keep standings online. We can use the new fractional VP scales (here) to award VPs even if the matches are of different lengths, allowing each match to determine how many boards they want to play (above some minimum number). Depending on how many teams we get, we'll divide them into divisions based on masterpoints. UPDATE: more details, including a sign-up form and a list of people signed up so far, here!
What do I need to do to play in the pairs games? A number of things, many of which you may have already done if you play online (but check!):
- Get a free membership to BBO at this link — pick a screen name to go by, and create a password.
- Link your ACBL number to your BBO account. I did this so long ago I forgot how, but finally figured it out. Go to Featured Areas | ACBL World. This will give you a list of tournaments for ACBL masterpoints, but below it there is a button that allows you to enter your ACBL#. Three good reasons to do this: a) if you don't you cannot win masterpoints: we cannot enter them in later, b) you and your partner will be in strat A, no matter how many points you or partner have, and c) entering your ACBL number puts you on the list of pre-approved VBC players, assuming you have played and won masterpoints at the VBC at least once in the past year.
We really cannot accentuate how important it is to do this, especially for the 0-300 games, and NOT on the day of the tournament, but before. We get an updated list of BBO names to include only once daily. We can add people to this list, but if their ACBL#s are not linked, the system assumes they have 10000 points, making them ineligible for the 0-300 games. So it really is important to get this done, and it only takes a few minutes at most.
- Set up a BBO dollar account to pay for the games. (For those who feel strongly that the Internet charging for anything will set the destruction of the world in motion, there is the option to have your partner pay your entry fee...). A BB$ button at the upper right of the main screen gives you several options for this.
- Familiarize yourself with online bridge. There are lots of places to play for free, and even a few free tournaments to play every day, but there are also tournaments which charge only a small amount for an entry. BBO also has lots of help files to show you how to make bids, play cards, make a convention card, sign up for a tournament, get on a substitute list or a partnership desk for a tournament, send chat to table, to opponents only, to a single person, etc. Remember that in a tournament you must be careful about the chat you send to the table and that there are options you should learn for sending chat messages only to both opponents. We alert/announce our own bids in online bridge, not partner's: when you make a call there is a text box you can enter text in to alert or explain your call which will show up in the auction without being viewable by partner. If you forget and alert partner's call, the opponents will be confused, or very amused. For example: 1NT (Pass) 2♥; (Pass) 2♠. The 2♥ bidder should alert 2♥ and write 'transfer' in the text box. Partner will be blocked from seeing this until the end. If you alert 2♠ and announce 'transfer' intending to explain partner's 2♥ call, the opponents will think that 2♠ is another transfer!
- Watch for the next Virtual VBC game. This can be confusing. There are ACBL games open to all, but our games are at the Virtual Club section, recently set up so we can all play with other familiar players as we shelter in place. McBruce's directing account name on BBO is VACB154971. If you see this in the list of tournaments, that will be a VBC game. As I write this, we do not have a set schedule yet, but we probably will set one up after a week or two to get started and try to have them indicated on the VBC website.
- Click on the game. This will give you many options. You can log on and specify a partner (who will also need to be logged on to BBO). You can join a partnership desk and send chat to others who may be interested to see if you are compatible. You can read details for the tournament. Games are added about two hours before they take place, but you need not sign up early. Waiting until the last minute may keep you out though.
- If you are 'blocked,' send a chat or BBO mail message to me, VACB154971. If you are not on the pre-approved list of VBC players, I can add you, but I need to know your BBO name and your real name. You should be at least an occasional or potential player at the VBC (anyone in Unit 430 meets that rule easily). I may not be able to add people in the last five minutes or so before the game, and I won't be there from the moment the game appears on the list two hours before, but I will check messages when I log on and get as many in as I can. Remember though, you and your partner need to be online at the same time to register, both must have enough BBO$ to play, and to be on the list of VBC players you both need to have registered your ACBL#. I can't investigate all of these for you and tell you what's missing. It's up to you to do what is needed.
- Once you are signed up, you can do other things on BBO as you wait (joining another tournament is not reccommended unless you are sure it will end before ours starts). The system will pluck you from wherever you are to the tournament when we begin.
- At the end of the game, there are several ways you can see the results: BBO will place a message in your box with a link to the results and hand records. BBO also has a history page where you can look up results and hand records for every hand you have completed on BBO. And the results will go to the VBC spot on ACBL Live For Clubs (so far, alas, without hand records). If your BBO name rather than your real name appears at ACBL Live For Clubs, it means you had not linked your ACBL number with BBO (see #2 above) when the game began.
- Be careful, but time aware! There are no undos in a tournament setting, and if you make a mistake you should say nothing to the table in chat until the end of the hand, to avoid giving unfair hints to partner. But it is important to avoid delays and finish the round on time, so learn how to claim when the last several tricks are irrelevant and the result is clear. Recently I have seen several players who reject all claims as a sort of policy. This wastes a lot of time and it is NOT your right to delay the game in hopes of a misclick. If you encounter this, call the Director and I will deal with the players involved.
Still can't seem to get in! I'm sorry to hear that several are having difficulty getting in, and I wish I had more answers. Most of these problems are random glitches that result when the tournament traffic is suddenly 10-50x larger than BBO has ever experienced. It's not easy for me to resolve these situations close to game time and almost impossible to figure out why afterwards. I see only BBO names and I often do not know who they represent, because for whatever reason, very few of you put your full names in your profiles. This means messages that say 'Bobby and I can't get in' require me to first find out what BBO name Bobby has, whether you're registered, and if not whether you are both online. I do understand that BBO does not actually charge for a tournament until you complete your first board, so glitches that keep you out at gametime do not cost you money. One remedy that might work if you find an event has started without you, is to sign up as a substitute and let me know you have done so in chat to VACB154971. If an opening becomes available, you'll be my first choice.
The ten original points below worked to help a lot of people get online and started quickly. Here is some extra advice added more recently to help you out:
- BBO basic skills are covered on a help page here. Some of the things that everyone should know:
- Sending chat to a specific person rather than to everyone at the table
- Getting rid of an alert/explanation box that covers your bid-box (click it or touch it!)
- Sending mail to someone who is offline to arrange a future game
- Changing options so that you need to confirm bids and plays (reducing misclicks)
- Switching from pictures of cards (which may move unexpectedly to put trumps on the left!) to a bridge diagram look (where the suits stay where they are)
- Creating a convention card or modifying a stock convention card and saving it for play with your favorite partners.
- Signing up for a tournament's partnership desk or as a potential substitute
It is important to note that some features of BBO have been removed to reduce the bandwidth during the current rush of people sheltered in place, most notably photos of players. Also, these help pages focus on the current computer/browser version of BBO, not the previous Flash version (which someone who does not upgrade their browser may still have), or the tablet app versions, where touching replaces clicking. But there is a lot of help here and many of us could use it.
- Another few words on disclosure are needed based on a few recent incidents. It is important to understand that we alert and explain our own bids, not partner's, in online play (just like the best players do when playing high-level events behind screens). Even more important is to use private, not "to table" chat, to request more information from opponents. Doing so prevents the passing of unauthorized information to partner about bids you are interested in and the specific questions you are asking. This also applies to misclicks: alerting partner that you have misclicked in a live auction is a sure way to get any good score you achieve adjusted.
- The correction period for BBO tournaments expires 20 minutes after the game and there is absolutely no way to correct, or even to check, a mistake after that time period runs out. At the end of the game I stay online for that 20 minute period and as I post the provisional results I will hear if someone sends me a chat message in BBO. I also check my BBO mail and my e-mail during this period. But that is as far as I will go. This will surprise many, but having started surprisingly late, I have no aptitude and not a lot of love for cellphones, and I usually keep mine squelched. I don't often check the messages that are there: if you choose that route, you will be sending your complaints into a deep hole that will only be checked long after the correction period expires. When a board is adjusted after time runs out, you get a message at that point and you can check it in your history when you have a spare moment, even in the 20 minutes after the game. If you resort to a cellphone message because you haven't learned how to send a private chat or a BBO e-mail, or check board adjustments when you get the message that they were made, I can't help you.
- Seeing a lot of players logging in a few seconds before gametime. This is dangerous, because while the system waits for missing players before starting, we cannot wait for you forever, and many games begin at times when BBO is busy. Try to log on at least a few minutes before the scheduled start. Nobody wants to arrange a game and then have to play with a random sub.
- Misclicks are part of the online game and we have been very strongly advised that allowing 'undo' when you misclick can lead to many many problems with unauthorized information. This runs afoul of the Laws of Duplicate Bridge, which sometimes provide some relief when an unintended action happens, but online it is much more difficult to determine a player's intent and make the right ruling, as well as being difficult-to-impossible to adjust later if needed. In the vast majority of cases, a bid made as the result of a misclick will have to stand, but this creates problems of its own. It is OK, but not required, to let the opponents know, either in private chat, or publicly once partner becomes dummy and cannot be affected by the disclosure, what went wrong. Partner, however, has to remain in the dark, and if the mistake creates a strange auction, he cannot be allowed to make an unusual but successful decision if the mistake-maker has let it slip that something is up. If you are careful to say nothing publicly, partner may decide that the most likely reason for the strange auction is a misclick and get it right. As an opponent of a player who has, or may have, misclicked, you may call the Director if the misclick is likely to cause an unusual result. In rare cases, the Director may be able to get creative and find an interesting solution. But most of the time, you'll just have to roll with the weird bid and accept the result if the opponents land on their feet without help.
- The results that BBO produces have percentage scores, but the ACBL Live scores have the BBO percentages and total matchpoints. We have discovered an anomaly here, when artificial averages are given on a board, ACBL does not compute the matchpoints properly. Sometimes two pairs with 111 matchpoints have different percentages! Today the 2nd place pair in C was listed below the 3rd place pair in C. The BBO percentages appear to be more correct. By the way, the ACBL Live results list players by real name, not by BBO name. If your BBO name appears, it is a sure sign that you have NOT successfully linked your ACBL# to your BBO account, as described above. This means you are ineligible for masterpoint awards and have to play in strat A, so please go to ACBL World and link your ACBL number.
Wed May 20
♠ 5 4 3
♥ 7 3 2
♣ J T 8 7 6 5
|5♥ by West
Opening Lead: 4♠
|South opened 1♠ in third seat and E-W got to 4♥ but misclicking 4♠ instead got them to 5♥! North led a spade to South's king and South returned a trump. After ruffing a spade, West could only get back to hand by playing a trump, which led to down one with the K♦ and another spade to lose. Is there a better way?
There is! At trick four, lead a low diamond from dummy. South just might go wrong and grab the K♦. If so, you play the queen smoothly from hand. Now South cannot cash a spade, since there is still a trump in dummy to take care of it. If South leads a trump or a club, West wins, pull trumps, and runs diamonds for the rest of the tricks.
South can get it right by leading another diamond when in with the K♦ and giving partner a ruff, but this is a dangerous play, which looks even more dangerous when West falsecards the Q♦ under the king.
South can also get it right by ducking the K♦ but this is a play few defenders would risk!
♠ Q 9 7
♥ A K Q 8 6
♦ Q J 2
♣ 3 2
♥ T 9 5
♦ A 8 6 5 4 3
♣ A Q 4
♠ A K J T 8 6
♥ J 4
♦ K T 7
♣ K 9
Have fun playing! Stay healthy and safe.