Back in April this year we reported on the establishment of a new Islandsbc online bridge tournament click here that had been set up in March to provide regular bridge for those enthusiasts who normally play at the 3 local Bridge Clubs in Kyrenia. After six months the tournaments are still going strong with three per week held at 13:00 on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays.
The Organiser Colin Pearson reports that the online membership has reached 50 players (out of approx. 80 members in total) who are based in the TRNC, UK, Spain, Norway and India. It was planned to discontinue the Friday session in early September as the Karsiyaka club was due to reopen but the late upswing in COVID-19 cases put a stop to that and Colin expects the online club to continue probably into the next year until all the “swallows” are able to return.
Each Tournament depends on a Director (plus usually a helper who can substitute in times of difficulty) and Colin explained that the requirements for being a competent Director in online bridge differ markedly from those expected for normal bridge clubs. Where Directors are required to have attended special training for normal bridge many of these decisions are made by the Bridge Base Online (BBO) computer. As it’s a lot harder to be rude to another bridge player online the Director doesn’t have to intervene in these circumstances. Somethings don’t however change and managing slow play is often the main challenge. Being a Director online requires good computing skills and we have been especially fortunate that the following members have undertaken this role to allow me to play from time to time. I am especially grateful to Phil Conkie, Simon Harding supported by Derek Matter, Jenny Armstrong supported by Tony and Rupert and Sharon Harding.
Rupert Harding describes his experiences below after being thrust into the role in April.
“It’s not rocket science”, wrote Colin breezily (I’m paraphrasing a bit), “all you need is a good wifi connection and plenty of common sense mixed with some computing skills.” As for the first, Virgin Media ought to be up to the job and as for the second and third well, we’d just have to wing it. The request to Sharon and me came in the days of lockdown; Government restrictions meant that you were only allowed out of the house for one hour a day to exercise and our diary was otherwise a gaping void, as we’d planned to be in Cyprus from 30 March, an aim thwarted when the TRNC government closed the country’s borders weeks earlier, on the 13th.
So there wasn’t any obvious excuse for not taking on the burden. You don’t need any technical bridge knowledge, said Colin, and this is thankfully true; you can’t revoke (i.e. where someone doesn’t follow suit) or bid out of turn or do any of the things that happen in real life bridge, as BBO won’t let you. That was a great relief, as neither I nor Sharon had ever picked up a copy of the Yellow Book (the famed English Bridge Union bible for Directors), still less opened the covers to read it.
So we took up the challenge in April. On Friday 24 April we sat in as observers, with Colin and Stephen from the Philippines directing. Unfortunately it turned out to be a far from smooth competition, and 2 players were thrown off almost immediately, proving impossible to reseat, and the initial tournament was cancelled. We ended up actually having to play in a new but truncated tournament as a result. Unknown to the directors at the time, cancelling the tournament on BBO isn’t a good idea as it turns out that you can’t restart another one till 30 minutes have elapsed. It was all rather traumatic but Colin kindly agreed that we could sit in again on the following Friday as our initial directing experience had been so unusual, to put it mildly.
Eventually Friday 8 May dawned and we sat nervously at our screens as the minutes ticked down to the start, wondering what was going to go wrong. Happily the answer was not very much. When things are going well, the tournament pretty much runs itself. All you have to do is flit between the tables having the occasional laugh at the bidding. It’s amazing how helpful it is to be able to see all four hands and then pronounce sagely “Well, that was never going to make!”
Of course, things did eventually start to go wrong, at which point smug calmness went out of the window pretty quickly. During one session several players started flashing red showing that they had fallen off BBO. My pc stopped working and I tried directing from my tablet, but I couldn’t make head or tail of anything on there as it all looked completely different from BBO on a pc. Panic ensued, and the language which followed was less than refined. “Stop running round like a headless chicken you fool” hissed Sharon as she calmly tried to substitute herself for one of the missing players, successfully in the end. It subsequently transpired that my pc problems seemed to stem from using Microsoft Edge browser; for some reason BBO and Edge don’t seem to work well together. Once I had switched to Google Chrome all went fine. I would say that directing on BBO is a lot easier than real life directing and would agree that all you need is good Wifi and some basic pc skills, together with a bit of common sense…..
Finally each month there is a prize for the highest placed partnership as well as a prize for the pair that have improved the most.
The Hall of Fame to date is as follows:
Next month we will be reporting on Colin’s plans to start an international online-dating-matching service following his experiences of the last six months running the club and also the experiences of one of our members returning to the TRNC after being locked out for 4 months.