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Get your bridge fix online

There is only one way to start this week's column and that is by congratulating Bill Pollett — first, for staging the first online tournament after the bridge club closure and, second, for winning it.

Bill has set up the event in Funbridge and had an astonishing entry of 58 players for the first game.

Bill finished ahead of Tracy Nash in second, Jim Leitch in third and Katrina Van Pelt in fourth. I'm impressed by the win, but equally impressed by the next three who were all fighting well above their weight class — congratulations.

To play in the next round you need to load The Funbridge App on to your phone or iPad, or download to your Mac or PC (search “Funbridge download” in google). From the main menu, select the yellow “getting started” option, choose “exclusive tournaments” and search for “Bermuda”. There's also a weekly Bermuda Beginners Tournament and an IMP games.

This is such a great idea to give players an opportunity to play a competitive game, or any game, at a time when we are following the recommended stay-at-home advisories.

Bill is a tireless supporter of the local bridge scene and with people like him and Ed Betteto, who is president of both the Bridge Club and the local ACBL unit, and Peter Donnellan, tournament director, helping administer the local bridge scene, I think we are in great hands.

Given that I know a lot of non-bridge Club members read this column, and will not see the various initiatives being put in place for online bridge, I'm going to continue on this theme and skip the hand this week — I already had a nice hand coming, but it can wait.

I play often on Bridge Base Online, which was set up as a homespun website years ago by the brilliant and talented Fred Gitelman, who we got to know well as part of the Canadian National team who we played against often. It started as a totally free service, and still is depending on what you do, but now also has many tournaments with entry fees starting at 33 cents and going up to a few dollars. It has become a multimillion dollar enterprise. And deservedly so, it is inventive, clever and easy to use. I urge you to give it a try.

With that as a taster, this message just came to all Bridge Club members from Tournament Director, Peter Donnellan:

It is unclear how long the club will have to stay closed but it could be quite a long time. Bill Pollett's helpful Funbridge plan is providing a useful and enjoyable opportunity to compete locally, but as we all know, playing with and against robots is not as good as the real thing.

Bill and I have been looking closely at the Bridgebase Online arrangements and in particular the ACBL ‘Support Your Club' games on BBO.

BBO itself is a website, bridgebase.com, and is considerably more sophisticated than Funbridge. It is, however, quite easy to use, once you have worked through the process of joining (free), and opens the door to a big world of human bridge played online — so you and your regular partner(s) can play in a myriad of different games in real time against real people.

The ACBL is working to see if they can develop online club games — members playing against other members — using the BBO website, so no physical proximity is needed. While that work is under way, they have set up some special games called Support Your Club games, using the BBO website, whereby the bulk of the table fees charged are credited to the clubs of participants, but the games are played across the ACBL — a bit like an online Regional.

It may also be possible in due course to set up some local online club games ourselves, using BBO, but these would not be sanctioned ACBL games and so would not attract points. But in the circumstances, we may still want to do that at some stage.

But key to all these possibilities is using BBO. So I suggest that all members who want to be able to play bridge online with real people in all four seats should join BBO now and start familiarising themselves with the system. It is clear that whatever products emerge, whether local or ACBL wide, they will use that program.

There are quite a lot of “free” options on BBO, while table fees between $1.50 and $5 are charged for ACBL-sponsored games, some of which earn ACBL masterpoints. So joining BBO does not commit you to anything, nor does it cost anything until you decide you want to venture (with your partner) into the more competitive world.

A number of members have been using BBO for some time, but I do know that for many of us it will be a new experience. So I have set out below a guidance note to help you set yourself up on BBO and how to find the games on it that might appeal.”

Bridgebase Online (BBO)

How to join free

Joining BBO is simple. You can follow the video in acbl.org/bbotutorials/ or just follow the instructions below.

On a PC or tablet:

1, Open bridgebase.com

2, At some stage, you may be asked to Accept Cookies — answer yes.

3, In top right-hand corner, click on “Login/Register” Login/Register

4, On the next screen, click on “Become a Member Free”

Become a Member (free)

(If you cannot see that and the screen is dominated by a picture of some bridge players, you may have to shrink the picture on the screen. To do this, press the Ctrl button on the keyboard, and while holding it down, turn the wheel on your mouse — one way should shrink the picture, the other way will enlarge it. When it shrinks, the area with the “Become a Member Free” option should appear.)

5, Fill in application details. Choose a Username — I use BBCPeterD, Bill uses bpollett, it is up to you — this is the name that will appear in games, so your partner(s) will need to know it. Choose a password, only you should know that.

6, Fill in your ACBL number, select your skill level and choose Bermuda from the drop down list of countries.

7, Tick the box for agreeing to the terms of service; the Register button should brighten up — click it.

You are now a member of the BBO community. Watch the video (link above) for more information. NB: on a tablet, the sequence is the same, but the screens may be laid out differently, depending upon your operating system. The result is the same.

Once you have registered, you can log in with your username and password on any convenient internet-linked device. (There are also Bridgebase apps in the App Store and on Google Play for tablets, but these have some important limitations and are not recommended at the moment).

I hope many of you will give it a go, not least because if we can build a big enough community of users here in Bermuda, we will eventually be able to have our own private games online, run locally to our own timetable.

It may be that I am being too pessimistic about the end of the crisis and normal business may resume sooner rather than later — but at least with BBO, you and your partners can keep honing your bridge skills until that happy day. (And you can still relax with Funbridge in your spare time!)

Meanwhile, stay healthy and socially distant. Peter D

So there you have it — while we all hope and pray that this current crisis passes faster than the various predictions, and with the least possible loss of life, we may be in this social-distancing mode for a while, and you should prepare for it by taking the time to join these programs.

I can guarantee that once you start using these sites you will be using them long into the future. by the way, I am Prophet99 on BBO, so say hi if you see me in there.

Best of luck with all this, stay well, and please listen to all the directives and advisories that will keep you, yours and others safe. Now go was your hands.

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Published March 28, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 28, 2020 at 4:43 am)

Get your bridge fix online

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