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 establish a bunch of weekly games, including daily open games, and two limited weekly games — 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!). Online bridge has some key differences from offline bridge that you'll want to brush up on at some point and I have summarized them here in a brand new page.
||Director McBruce watches a Short Club "auction" go off the rails with growing horror...
Breaking News: (some of this news has been here awhile, but CNN has redefined the term 'Breaking News' and I'm just following along...)
- Another Silver Linings Week Coming Up! July 27 thru August 2, which will include eight VVBC games and the Saturday August Monthly Unit Game. These games will award silver points at double the normal club rate. Entries fees will be BB$6.50 (I've goofed and announced $6.25 a few times, but $6.50 is necessary for the club to make the same amount of money per table) instead of BB$5 to cover the increased sanction fee. The previous Silver Linings Week was very popular, with games of over 20 tables quite common.
- August Afternoon Time Changes All afternoon games that formerly began at 1:45pm (Monday 0-750, Tuesday open, Friday open) will begin at 1:15pm, same as the weekend afternoon games.
- Summer IMP League Future Plans Released! Our twenty teams in the VVBC-SIL are about to complete season one and move on to playoffs and signups for season two. Here's what we have planned. Here is the Season Two signup sheet (deadline August 15, 11pm).
- New Games For July Off And Running! Starting in July, the Unit will run its game on the first Saturday of the month as before, while the VBC will run Saturday afternoon games (all with 1:15pm starts) beginning July 11, which means a Saturday Afternoon game every week! The success of our Thursday evening game has prompted us to start a second open game for evening players, on Monday evenings at 7:15pm, starting July 6. This latest expansion gets us up to nine weekly games, with an open game every day!
- 20 Boards for Open Games! Starting Monday, July 20, all of the daily open games (but not the limited point games) will be 20 boards, with an extended round five or six. This will give everyone two more boards for the same entry fee, and increase the total gametime from about 2 hours 10 minutes to 2:15-2:20, now that we have adopted the measures in the next paragraph. We'll extend round five so there will be a break in the middle of about three minutes (more for early finishers) for everyone to get up, walk around, and get a snack. This does NOT mean that round five boards can be played slowly as in club or tournament play by the usual suspects who do not notice the room moving around and eating snacks, play through their break, and an hour later ask when the break was. Once the time runs out after round five, play will end (or be ended with a McBruce claim), and round six will begin about three minutes later.
- The Show Must Go On: Three recent trends in VVBC games that just need to stop happening:
—players not online at gametime
—players looking at the details of their last board when everyone is waiting for them to start the next
—players becoming dummy and leaving their computer for a bathroom break or a snack only to saunter back later to discover that they are the declarer and several minutes have been wasted.
(One way to avoid this last is to turn the sound on: if you don't hear anything happening as you visit the pantry, that is a clue that they are probably waiting for you...) I can't tell for sure that people are looking at the last board's results, but when you finish a deal after everyone else and get immediately moved to the next round and it takes you three full minutes to open a 4-3-3-3 17-count 1NT, what other explanations are there? When we began this adventure I hoped that one day we could try 6 minutes a board, but it is clear that this would be utter chaos because far too many of us are having inexplicable trouble with 7 minutes. In fact, the limited point games are faster than the open games; the 0-300 and 0-750 players have fewer delays. The show must go on! If you aren't getting enough spare time to get up and take a break, you may well be the reason. Stop taking forever to make obvious bids and discards. Stop re-planning the hand after every trick. Stop leading for a finesse not knowing what you are going to do when the next player plays low smoothly — do you really think online you'll be able to smoke out a tell? When you make a takeout double and partner bids the suit you didn't want to hear, pass: bidding your own suit shows a huge hand and will get you into further trouble, not to mention the trouble you'll be in if you wait a minute, make a strength-showing call without the cards for it, and partner somehow knows to pass.
Above all, if I come to your table and tell you that time is running low, you need to do something about it, your fault or not. You cannot ignore the warning and continue to take forever to bid and play: paying your entry fee gives you no such right, and those of you who think otherwise are spoiling it for many, many others. I hear the complaints all the time. And, I can check table histories and see who is causing the biggest delays: everything is logged, bids, plays, all timed to the second — so be careful when you claim it isn't your fault!
In order to solve the slow play problem some of us are causing, I will be trying to speed things up and have as many 14-minute rounds advance to the next before the end as I can. If you are the last table playing with one or two minutes left, and I can see what the result will certainly be, I will assign that score so we can all move on. This may mean that playing out your winners slowly hoping for someone to misclick and discard the winner they should obviously keep, will cease to be a play you can use as time runs out. This may mean that if you reject a reasonable claim, hoping declarer will make some error you might be overruled. This may mean that if you delay a key decision in the hopes that the computer will resolve it for you when time runs out, I will chose the lesser play and adjust to that. These are the strategies that need to stop, and I will be pro-active in squelching them.
If I give your table a warning about time and you ignore it, I may adjust to AVG+/AVG- or some combination so that dozens of players are not left waiting while you decide which spot card to discard from a hand which will take no more tricks. And if you are more interested in the history tab than the next board, resulting in a three minute wait for the next round to begin, you may find yourself disinvited from our games if you don't cure yourself of this behavior. History will remain and you can query me about an adjustment in the 20 minutes after the game ends. But while the system puts cards in your hand, the show must go on!
- New McBruce Rant: The FIFA Squeeze: New types of squeezes are all the rage. Check this one out. I am naming it the FIFA Squeeze.
FIFA, the world governing organization of soccer that runs the World Cup, was the focus of simultaneous arrests of some of its more corrupt officers by Swiss police several years ago, and the joke at the local bridge club was that these elderly executives all reacted the same way, falling to the ground and claiming an injury. Anyone who has watched a soccer match will know what I mean. Only the sport called 'the beautiful game' or 'the world's game' has time-wasting so written into its strategy that solving obvious problems takes decades.
The FIFA squeeze in bridge has its name from the same problem: far too many of our players waste way too much time on plays that cannot possibly ever succeed. An example from the final deal of a recent VVBC game, which I watched at several tables waiting for them to finally finish:
♠ A K Q J 6 5 4 3
♦ T 5 3
Both sides vulnerable, three passes to you, and you open and play in 4♠. The opening lead, lucky for you, is not a diamond, but a trump:
Dummy: ♠ void ♥ A K J 8 5 ♦ J 8 6 4 2 ♣ 8 5 4
You: ♠ A K Q J 6 5 4 3 ♥ Q ♦ T 5 3 ♣ A
By overtaking the queen of hearts you get three hearts, a club, and eight spades. Can you make all the tricks for an even better matchpoint score?
Many players thought so. Over and over again I saw people pull trumps, cash the ace of clubs, pitch two diamonds on the hearts after overtaking, and then when the outstanding seven hearts failed to break 3-3, they ruffed a club back to hand and played out all of the spades one by one, hoping two defenders would find a way to part with three winners. The FIFA Squeeze!
Ask yourself this, genius: what do you think you're gaining here? You overtook the heart to get to dummy and then pitched diamonds on heart winners. Then you ruffed a club back to hand. When you get to the fifth or sixth spade, the opponents don't even need to count the hand out. You either have a diamond to lose or you don't. They already know you have no clubs and no hearts. Even a beginner will recognize this.
But the FIFA squeezers hold out more faith in unbelievable discarding mistakes than the president has in hydroxychloroquine. At straggling table after table I watched them play out the spades as though each spot card were a colourful Picasso to be admired, the usual suspects who play every round to the last second going even further by taking a moment to think after each spade, apparently to give the impression that there was some logical strategy in play here, and that some spectacular discard was required for the defense to prevail. FIFA squeezers have no clue that they've already given the game away. They run these timewasting plays constantly, because once in a thousand times, someone misclicks and they get a good score by accident.
Here's what I say. There is a simple rule by which you can travel a thousand miles and figure out who the good players are and are not: how many trick thirteens do they actually play as declarer? If you find yourself hoping for a favourable discard more than once or twice a game (not part of a legitimate squeeze, where a truly squeezed player will have to give you a trick through discarding), you are a nuisance. Any real player simply says "well, you get a diamond" and moves on. Yes, even on the last hand of the session.
The true expert will run a different play on the hand above, one that hopes for a fatal discard and plays for the one that might just happen, not the one that will only happen if both defenders are struck with the yips multiple times. Start with eight rounds of spades, right from trick one. You begin with twelve tricks when they lead a trump, so why not? Now the defenders have no clues. Do you have AQ of clubs? What's the diamond situation? How many tricks are you trying for? The key defender on this deal, as it turns out, held these cards:
♠ 9 8 7
♥ T 9 6 4
♦ A Q 9
♣ K T 2
He needs to find five discards once he runs out of spades, with only the cards in dummy as a clue. Even if partner can somehow signal that he has the K♦, allowing three safe diamond discards, there are still two more discards to make. And as soon as he pitches a small heart, you have thirteen tricks. A few declarers actually tried this play but balked at leading out the last trump, terrified of losing control despite that the earliest they could possibly lose the lead was on trick thirteen. Real squeezers do not wimp out in this way. Lead out all your winners. Just don't tell them what to keep first.
- Project Fresh Start: In mid-June, the ACBL restructured the list of people eligible to play in Virtual Club games, changing them from friends of the TD's account to a special "include list" which is everyone who won masterpoints at the VBC between January 2019 and March 2020. Anyone who was previously manually added to the list will need to be added again by request. Please make these requests well before gametime if you can, so the game starts are not delayed.
- BBO expands to two servers, be aware and be ready at gametime: 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.
Really, folks, this is becoming a more and more frequent problem. It's great that some of you sign up well in advance, but please watch the clock and be sure that in the last minute or two before gametime you are 1) online, 2) logged into BBO, 3) at the tournament page waiting to begin. About 50% of the time there is one player missing as the tournament tries to start. I can delay the start a bit, but it's not fair to the others to make them all wait, and some of us are becoming frequent offenders. It's no fun for anyone when I give up and remove you and your partner from the game, so be sure you are there on time.
- VVBC site continues to grow! In addition to our VVBC results page and the even-newer Online vs Offline page of online tips and suggestions, 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.
- Rant Time! Many years ago when I was younger and brasher, I played 3NT grumpily because it was clear that we had missed a minor suit slam. We missed it because partner had opened 1♠ with five spades and seven clubs. At the end of the hand I asked why partner had not simply opened in the longest suit, and the response was "we play five-card majors!" A new hand began as I rolled my eyes and shook my head, and partner opened 1♥. I alerted. An opponent asked and I said, "Could have as many as eight clubs or diamonds."
That pretty much ended that partnership.
In a game this week, BBO dealt this hand to South:
♠ A J 6 5 4
♣ A J T 9 7 5 3 2
Partner was dealer and opened 1♦ with opponents vulnerable and the next player passed...
In eight out of ten tables, the response was ... 1♠! Five spades and eight clubs and most of us just had to get that spade suit in.
When I saw this I had a Big Lebowski Walter Sobchuk moment (serious warning: graphic language). As Walter says (don't worry, I don't even own a gun), has the whole world gone crazy? I would bid a game forcing 2♣ and consider this an obvious response. Then I would rebid 3♣ and only then think about throwing a spade bid in there. By this time, it would be clear that a spade bid at this point must promise a decent five-card suit or more, and therefore the rebiddable clubs must be at least a sparkling six-bagger or probably seven.
I know, we're all worried about losing the spade suit if the opponents come in. But is this really a problem? Suppose the next hand jumps to 4♥. Clearly a 4♠ call at this point promises at least a five-card suit and implies that the clubs are even longer. If you start with spades how on earth are you ever going to convince partner that your clubs are three cards longer?
- BBO June 9 Crash: Latest News (June 12): BBO issued refunds for the game, but ACBL still has the game on the Live for Clubs page. We'll have to see what happens at the end of the month when we report and pay sanction fees for the games. I suspect that if Ken pays the sanction fee for the game, the masterpoints will be awarded and ACBL will not care that only 12 of 18 scheduled boards were completed. However, no revenue from the game will be coming our way.
- Summer IMP League began Tuesday evening, June 2, 7pm: The Summer IMP League page is being continully revamped and now contains standings (which update during match nights as the results come in!), team rosters, results grids, schedules, help on how to set up a team game, and a link to a form to submit your results. If you are a team captain, please check your BBO mail, all captains have been sent messages alerting them to begin arranging their first matches now. If you would like to play as a sub, let me know in private chat on Tuesday evening. (For the IMP League I will be using my own BBO account under the name McBruce).
- 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) minutes after the game, as I now type them in as you play. The hand record link will be beside the results link on the results page.
- 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.
One more thing: short clubbers tend to forget that they are the declarer when partner parks them in clubs with five or six-card support. Minutes can go by as everyone waits for declarer to play from dummy as declarer has taken the opportunity to go to the bathroom or get a snack, thinking partner is declarer. If you must play this, be aware that you may have to play in clubs!
- 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.
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)
|Monday Evening (open pairs)
|Tuesday Afternoon (open pairs)
|Wednesday Morning (open pairs)
|Thursday Morning (0-300 pairs)
|Thursday Evening (open pairs)
|Friday Afternoon (open pairs)
|Saturday Afternoon (open pairs)
Now every week!
MUG first Sat., next: September 5
For now, these nine games, with the Monthly Unit Game replacing our Saturday Afternoon game on the first Saturday of each month, will be our weekly schedule.
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 20-board (18 for limited games) matchpointed pairs tournaments, held on Bridge Base Online. 18-20 boards is longer than most tournaments on BBO, but 18 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. Occasionally, a special game promising extra masterpoints will cause the entry fee to rise slightly, to cover the increase in sanction fees.
I'd much rather play some other way, can we change it? The current situation seems to be best considering the sharp rise in attendance we have seen. For some it is a bit slow and they have time every round to make a gourmet meal. Others seem to use every second on almost every round and when I visit I see all the usual signs of time loss: inattentiveness and confusion about who is on lead, overthinking of basic bids and plays and late hand discards that make no difference, and on and on. From time to time the slower players do not get the result they think they deserve when time runs out, and there is little we can do about this. Fourteen minutes is a long time for two boards. If you are not finishing rounds more than one or two times a session, you are almost certainly part of the problem. Stay alert!
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. If you get an invite, you can check the person's profile to see if there is compatibility and accept or decline.
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. The ones I will not invite are unknown people who send messages asking to sub, especially when we have a nice turnout. These games are primarily for locals. These mysterious messagers are looking for masterpoint opportunities and should be grateful I don't report them.vb
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. (If you do this on game day, you may be able to succeed for that game by logging off and on.) 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 BBO 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!
A new guide to the key differences between online and offline bridge has recently been added here.
- 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.
- 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. (This has changed: many BBO activities in the Casual area are now on a different server, and the tournament area will show you as offline. Be VERY sure that you are back on the tournament page at least a minute or two before the game begins. The BBO clock is notoriously unreliable and 54 minutes to gametime may actually mean 52.)
- 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. Our own results page posts the results a few minutes after the game and links to the ACBL Live for Clubs results when we get them. And about 40-70 minutes after the game, the results will go to the VBC space 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. 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! In one game 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.
Have fun playing! Stay healthy and safe.