Asking the ACBL About Their Future Tablet Game
By Alex J. Coyne, July, 2022, for Great Bridge Links
The American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) is planning something big: future games could be played in separate rooms, but with the help of tablets to keep score and root out potential interference.
This unique way of playing bridge is now known as the Martel Method – named after bridgeur Jan Martel, who is called instrumental in bringing tablets to USBF events.
Great Bridge Links and Alex J. Coyne caught up with Greg Coles, the ACBL’s Director of Operations to dig into their future plans involving tablet bridge.
Great Bridge Links (GBL): Tell us more about the Martel Method and where it comes from.
The term “Martel Method” came to be because Jan Martel was instrumental in starting the use of tablets for USBF events.
The need for this this was mostly due to Covid – they wanted a way to hold the USBF trials while the pandemic was in full swing.
Rather than play in a large ballroom, they put two screen mates into a hotel room where the two of them could maintain social distancing.
Jan herself has said that she never wanted her name to be used for this, but we’re all ignoring her.
GBL: Why this move for the ACBL?
Our high-level players still have concerns about the game remaining clean despite the fact that several high-profile pairs were caught a few years back.
Prior to Covid, there was much resistance to getting rid of the playing cards but now that we’re all much more used to playing in an electronic environment, this concept was readdressed.
While no one is under the illusion that moving to an all-electronic playing environment will completely eliminate any chance of cheating happening, it is obvious that this does remove many chances to cheat.
Also, with partners sequestered from each other, it also eliminates many forms of potential unauthorized information.
This initiative was brought forward by the EOC (Ethical Oversight Committee) which formed a Tablet Sub-Committee to explore the possibility of using tablets. This sub-committee consists of David Grainger, Marty Hirschman, Uday Ivatury, Sabine Auken, Chris Compton, and Greg Coles.
Read an article by David Grainger on Bridge Winners here →
GBL: Where will tablet bridge be put into motion for the ACBL?
We plan on doing some experimenting over the next several months, with a plan to officially roll it out for late rounds of a major team event next year.
GBL: Which tablets (or software) will be used?
A final decision on hardware has not yet been reached, but the question about software is easy. With the ACBL’s partnership with BBO we will be using the BBO interface.
That said, Uday and the developers have been working on some customized features for this that will be ready for testing in the very near future.
These things are mostly about replicating the screen experience. As an example, you won’t see each bid as it’s made, you will see two bids show up at a time as they “pass under the screen”.
Club members play with tablets in Australia using Smart Bridge.
Tablet Talk: How Tablets Will Change Face-to-Face Bridge Tournaments. “I’m sure that face-to-face play using tablets is the future of competitive bridge, whether we get there this year or later,”says Jan Martel.