What you need to know to play in the Berwick Virtual Club tournaments

What you need to know I

The Berwick events will be played from 7pm on Tuesday evenings.

It costs money. Almost all pair events cost BB$2 per person to enter. 

  • You pay the entry fee when you register for the tournament on BBO and you may offer to pay for your partner too.

Information on buying BB$ - https://www.bridgebase.com/purchase/pay.php

BB$ are not refundable, not withdrawable. Do not buy too many!

Personally I only purchase BB$10 at a time

There are no other costs involved in playing in these tournaments if you are a club member. There is no need to purchase any other software.

What you need to know II

The Berwick Virtual Club BBO username is SBU_E_BER. This username is running and directing all the tournaments, so is the name to search for in the list of tournaments.

  • Register for each tournament using your personal BBO username, with your partner, in the two hours before the event starts (click to see video).
  • You should be online at tournament start time. If you have registered and arrive late, we will hold the tournament for a minute or so. If you are more than two minutes late, we shall start the tournament and you will be unable to play.
  • You will not be charged if you register to play but do not show up. Substitutes are not charged.

If you wish to play with a guest, you must let the director know beforehand otherwise you will not be able to register. All guests must be SBU members, this is a condition of the SBU’s agreement with BBO.

In the same vein, if you have yet to renew your club subscription, this must be done before play as you will not be an SBU member yourself.​

There are many short, useful, videos on this page.

What you need to know III

The Committee is keen to see different partnerships across the competitions as has happened in the past. Not every regular partnership is available online and so there is scope for people to play with new partners.

There are a number of ways to find partners:

  • Telephone, email them, try to accost them in the street at an approved social distance.

  • Pianola Partnership Desk.

  • Christine, our long standing Partnership Secretary, is always willing to help.

  • BBO Tournament Partnership Desk for ad hoc and last minute partners, opens at the same time as tournament registration.

We maintain a list of BBO usernames of club members on this page. If you wish to add your name, then just let Paul know. GDPR requires that express permission is required before Paul can publish your BBO username.

What do you need to know ... about playing

  • Alert all artificial calls at every level (click to see video).
  • Alert all natural bids that your opponents may not understand.

  • UNDOs are only permitted in the auction for misclicks, NOT the play. Please do not ask for an UNDO during the play and please refuse all UNDOs in the play. The club is following SBU guidance.

    • I recommend using the ‘Confirm bids’ and ‘confirm plays’ option settings (click to see video).

  • Call the TD if you run out of time and you think the adjustment is unfair.

  • You can appeal a TD ruling or adjustment up to seven days after the tournament. Contact the Director, Louis or Paul to do this.

There are many short, useful, videos at https://berwickbridgeclub.co.uk/bbo.

Peter Bistram has made the following calendar available presenting the club tournaments in a different format - you are welcome to download or print it.

What you need to know V

  • BBO results are preliminary (not least because averages are handled incorrectly).

  • Pianola results are more correct than the BBO results (although the difference may not be spotted, but if there is a small difference this is why)

  • The Director may make adjustments after the tournament, which can result in the Pianola results being changed: you’ll receive an email with updated results in these circumstances.

Enjoy your bridge!

Playing on BBO

The coronavirus pandemic caused problems for many bridge clubs and, for those wanting their weekly fix, it became a time to venture into the world of online bridge.

There are alternatives to BBO such as FunBridge (now owned by BBO) and Bridge Club Live. I have an account on the former but my experience with BBO is more extensive.

There is also RealBridge which provides a similar experience to BBO but integrates video, so you can see your opponents.

The club has run events on Bridge Base Online (BBO) in the past, when snow closed the club. The look and feel of BBO has changed a couple of times since then and it also offers many different types of bridge.

It is worth reading New to Bridge Base Online? if you have not played on BBO before.

BBO's home page is https://www.bridgebase.com/.

On the home page you are able to log in or register using the red button on the top right of the screen. A BBO username allows you to chat with friends, play with other players, compete in tournaments, and participate in team games and see how you did. It means you are not anonymous.

BBO has recently added an email confirmation step to the registration process.

Here is my four minute video showing the registration & login process and navigating the home page: https://youtu.be/KrY6ZqVGvX8.

You can retain your anonymity by playing one of games on the home page: Just Play Bridge, Just Declare, Matchpoints, IMPs are free games for individuals where your partner, and opponents, are robots who play a strong no trump and 2/1. You will not get significant comparisons on how you do in these games, but your partner and opponents are very quiet and do not mind if you take a long time to make a bid or play a card, and will not object if you stop in the middle of a hand to make a coffee.

The Bridge Master game shown on the home page is not really a game. It is a very good teaching program on declarer play. You can choose your level (I suggest starting at intermediate) and see if you can make the contract. There are dozens of hands for each level which get progressively more difficult: Level 5 is particularly impossible.

Playing with real people on BBO is a little like the Wild West. The key is to find and make friends and gradually expand your network so that you can always find a game when you log in. 

For example, many Berwick players participate in the Acol Club, which is a free club where behaviour is monitored and unpleasant players asked to leave. The advantage of this club is that almost everyone plays Acol, whereas on most of the site the expected system is 5-card majors and a strong no trump.


The Acol Players Club at BBO

The Berwick Bridge Club is very unlikely to establish its own online bridge club. Although it sounds attractive to play in an environment with club members, and not have to endure the antics of the more boisterous BBO member, in reality most of the time the club would be empty or have tables partially filled. We do not have critical mass.

If a few people want to play a game at a set time, just log onto BBO and start a table in the Relaxed Club, reserve their places, and just play there.

My recommendation is to use the Acol Players Club at BBO if you want to play for a few hands or a few hours. This is a friendly public club on BBO that is for people playing the Acol bidding system. It is already frequently used by many Berwick members and you will quickly make friends with everyone there.

The Acol Players Club is large enough that there are always tables in play and you do not have to wait long to find opponents, and partners, if you start your own table. It is moderated and complaints taken seriously, especially bad behaviour.

The Acol Players Club is free and you do not need to be a member to play in the club or start a table. You do have to be a member to participate in their tournaments: Thursday (pairs) 8pm, Friday (individual) 8pm, Saturday (pairs) 9.15am, Sunday (pairs) 9.15am.

Information on the club, including registering for tournaments, is available on its website - http://www.acolatbbo.org.uk/index.php.

I have created an 8-minute YouTube video showing what you need to know to enjoy playing in the Acol Players Club at BBO. The video assumes that you have a BBO username.

General advice on playing on BBO

  1. Play with friends and friends of friends, as they will tend to remain at the table and play. The average BBO player has the attention span of a mayfly and can easily just leave a table at any time.
  2. Most people speak some degree of English on BBO and it is not impolite to request that they chat in a language that you can understand, especially when explaining their bids.
  3. Tell your mentor that you will be playing: they may be able to watch and give advice.
  4. When you host a table, choose the Relaxed Club rather than the Competitive Club.
  5. When you host a table, check the Permission required to play option. Then, if a player gets disconnected you can wait for them to return without lots of people ‘jumping’ in.
  6. When you host a table, allow all kibitzers and permit them to chat at the table. This will allow friends to comment and chat to you. 
  7. If you arrange to play with friends, then use a Vugraph table (or use the Deal Source menu at the table to select vugraph boards). These provide just two comparisons but more realistic results.
  8. In general, always have a look at how many comparisons were used in calculating your score. The more comparisons, the more realistic your result is. You can refresh these during play to get more accurate results as well.
  9. If you go to Competitive->Tournaments, you can find a number of tournaments, many of which are free to play. You can play 3 of the Daily Free tournaments per week and the Weekly Free Instant Tournament (under “Solitaire”->”Weekly Free Instant Tournament”) completely free of charge. These are popular and so you can get many comparisons, although you can only play them alone, that iis with a robot partner and against robots.
  10. There are also pairs tournaments here, where you will need to register with your partner to play or find someone from the partnership desk.
  11. Challenges are a great way to compare your play with others. More experienced juniors and ex-juniors (that is everyone who is not a junior ;) ) are usually happy to play and even if you don’t have a chance to discuss the results, you can have a look at the comparisons on your own.
  12. Kibitzing is a great feature on BBO. You can watch some of the best players in the world or watch some players you know. It is good to vary between kibitzing seeing all four hands and just watching one player and comparing what they do to what you would do.
  13. You can organise bidding practice with your partner against robots. This option also includes a lot of useful features: you can set your opponents’ bids to “pass” only or specify how many points you and your partner will have, etc ( Paul is an expert on this). While somewhat unrealistic, this is a good way to hammer in your agreements.

BBO self-ratings in your profile

From the BBO Help

It's tempting at times to overstate one's skill level. Sometimes players also understate their level because they're timid or just don't realize how good they really are. It's very helpful to be as accurate as possible in advertising how well we play bridge. Following these guidelines when stating your level of expertise will make for a more pleasant bridge playing experience:

This indicates you do not wish a skill level to be displayed when people view your profile information.

Someone who recently learned to play bridge.

Someone who has played bridge for less than one year.

Someone who is comparable in skill to most other members of BBO.

Someone who has been consistently successful in clubs or minor tournaments.

Someone who has enjoyed success in major national tournaments.

World Class
Someone who has represented their country in World Championships.

Of course, you may at times find that you disagree with another's assessment of their expertise. If this is the case, it is not appropriate to mention this to them via private or public chat. You may be correct, but it may also be that they are just having an off day.

Playing with robots on BBO

  1. The robots only play their own system (system card) based on five-card majors and a strong no trump. They expect their opponents to play the same system too, so if you play something different they will misunderstand your bidding. Hovering over the bid, you can see the explanation for GIB’s bids (even if it is your robot partner’s bid). Furthermore, if you partner a robot, you can see what your bids would mean before you bid them.

  2. Paul assumes no responsibility or liability for the robot's bidding, play and defence. Most of the robot bidding disasters are due to you not understanding what the robot thinks your bid means! Swearing at it can help.

  3. The robots can be used at a normal table where you are the host. A particular advantage of using the robots as opponents is that they do not mind how fast or slow you are, they do not mind you chatting to your partner, and they are more polite than many random opponents.

    The robots are always free on the first day of the month and in certain tournaments but otherwise they need to be rented ($1 per week). Details on how to do this at http://www.bridgebase.com/help/v2help/robots_how_to_rent.html.

  1. The robots sometimes make some very basic mistakes in bidding, but their play and defence is better than the majority of players on BBO.

  2. The disadvantage of the robots is that they play very fast. DO NOT play at their pace - take your time and think, they will not complain.

  3. GIB also provides analysis of how many tricks were possible to make and which defence would have been the most successful. This is useful to look at and it will improve your play if you include this in your discussion, especially if you practise regularly with your partner. However, do this with some caution as GIB’s analysis is double-dummy and sometimes the successful lines of play are unrealistic to find or flat-out wrong (as in: anti-percentage).

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Berwick club members on BBO

The following is a list of club members’ BBO nicknames that should be friendly if you see them online and be able to assist you.

Paul Gipson - paulg
Helen Gipson - todheugh
Sandy Duncan - ahduncan
Diana Drysdale - bordergirl
Reg Drysdale - reg2
Ros French - rosa7
Penny Davidson - dunslass
Trish Frew - kirkbanny
Julian Bales - yportne
Ian McCreath - paxtoian
Jean Mole - moleey1
Marion Mead - emgee31
Tony Reed-Jones - TRJ1
Jo Rowley - jorowley
Len Hutton - madlenpopp
Jane Smithson - rhua
John Smithson - 57squire
Nicola Corbyn - nickj7
Peter Calder - farmerped
Ken Forrest - kenfo
Margaret McMurchie - mag1952
Sarah Davidson - davidson30
Kelvin Butler - mecohu
Eric Price - red wine4
Sue Price - soup44
David King - kingkinald
Nigel Marlow - wotanic
Linda Warcup - Linds4
Christopher Smith - maudpetre
Morven Stone - minke44

Let Paul know if you wish to be added to this list.



Advanced topics on BBO

These videos cover topics for more experienced users.

Uploading hands - for bidding practice, teaching, and other purposes

Team matches - creating team matches with example of random or preset hands

Team matches - creating team matches with random players, substitutions and cancelling the match

Partnership bidding - using the partnership bidding rooms to improve your understandings (robots are free and can be used as a partner or opponents)

Using advanced options at the partnership bidding table (advanced users only)

Three common mistakes when creating team matches


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