The Tournaments They Are A-Changing

By Alex J Coyne © 2016 Great Bridge Links

Bidding boxes, table screens, bidding trays and crowd sourced video surveillance – it’s not your grandma’s bridge game anymore!

We’ve taken a previous look at cheating but just what strategies are being used and developed to ensure bridge tournaments are honest? Take a look at these – you might even consider getting some for your home game:

The Bidding Box

What we call the Bidding Box was invented in Sweden by Gösta Nordensonand in 1962, and the year 1970 saw its first use in tournament play. Now, bidding boxes have become a standard in most games – and not just the tournaments

The main advantages for its use is reducing noise during games – imagine a chess tournament where everyone calls out their moves at once! – and to make sure that unauthorized information doesn’t pass verbally between players. It also makes things easier for players who have trouble hearing, or for those who don’t speak the same language around the table.

A huge variety of bidding boxes are available for order online: Some manufacturers offer bidding boxes crafted with left-handed players in mind. There’s even a Virtual Bidding Box for your smartphone which you can download from the Google Play Store.

The Table Screen and Bidding Tray

Rules for he European Bridge League (EBL) states that screens will be used whenever possible. The table screen fits over the table and impairs the view from partner to partner. Again, this stops partners from passing any unauthorized information – willingly or unwillingly – between themselves.

Wikipedia notes: Screens are normally used on high-level competitions, such as World Bridge Olympiads, national teams championships and similar. They are always accompanied with bidding boxes and a tray for moving the bids across. Screens were first introduced in Bermuda Bowl competition in 1975, at the home venue in Bermuda; however, they didn’t prevent the infamous foot-tapping scandal involving two Italian players. Following that event, screens used in high-level events extend under the table to the floor forming a barrier running diagonally between two table legs.

Bridgemate

Bridgemate calls itself the number one scoring system in bridge, and the system has been used in several tournaments to keep score: It goes without saying that an electronic scoring system cuts down on any mistakes slipping in during play. In fact, it’s become so popular that it’s the official system of both the European Bridge League and the World Bridge Federation. Again, you can download the app for your Smartphone directly from Bridgemate‘s website.

You’re on Camera?

Many Bridge tournaments are broadcast live on league websites or YouTube, and it’s a great way to pick up the game. But getting games on camera serves another purpose, and it’s not always broadcast: Camera surveillance has been a long-time security feature of casinos and rencently Robert Hartman, CEO of the American Contract Bridge League announced that to fulfill ACBL’s promise that tournament bridge will be an honest game, the League is eager to harness the eyes and minds of players around the world. To this end they will be videotaping every table in major NABC team contests (starting Spring 2016) from the quarterfinals through the final and posting these recordings on YouTube.

People are statistically less likely to cheat when they know they’re being watched. Additionally, camera footage provides concrete proof of discrepancies and you can go back and review, play it back slowly or zoom in if you need it.

Speaking of camera’s, StudioDiip (Designing Intelligent Imaging Products) has been testing out what they call the Bridge Card Reader (or BCR): A camera-based contraption capable of reading the cards and feeding it into the system automatically. It has already seen the World Mind Sports Games in France and Beijing, and the 12th European Champions Cup in Croatia. Watch its development on their website.

Camera’s are also downright useful: In June 2016, two robbers were caught thanks to security cameras that had been installed to watch the Columbia Bridge Club’s parking lot (read article here)!

About the author: Alex J Coyne is a freelance journalist, author and language practitioner. Sometimes, he’s got an ace up his sleeve and a Joker in his hat. He can be found at his blog. alexcoyneofficial.wordpress.com