Viewing the Vugraph
By Alex J. Coyne © 2018 Great Bridge Links
If you’ve been anywhere near a bridge tournament in the last couple of decades, then you’ll almost certainly have heard of the Vugraph. The system revolutionized the way bridge games are recorded, documented and played back for players who are hoping to pick up a few new tricks or strategy tips along the way – and, of course, it’s added an entirely new dimension to kibitzing and bridge entertainment.
Most vugraphs today are produced through Bridge Base Online. We tracked down the team from BBO to find out more about the Vugraph, where it started – and why it makes all the difference in preparation for upcoming bridge tournaments.
The Start of the Vugraph
First, let’s talk about just where the Vugraph started off – sometimes also spelled alternatively as Vu-Graph or Viewgraph. Apparently, mentions of the Vugraph dates back as far as the New York Times in the 1950’s, but the system that we know today was brought to light by Fred Gitelman, funded by a grant from the estate of bridge player Peter Pender in 1991.
Originally, it was first known as the Pendergraph. It was soon changed to the much catchier term Vugraph, possibly to avoid confusion with anyone who was actually named Pendergraph to start with.
Peter Pender, a champion bridge player and also an excellent figure skater, was inducted into the Bridge Hall of Fame for his lasting contributions to the world of bridge in 1998, eight years after his death. As for Fred, he became one of the founding members of Bridge Base Online and he a lifetime honorary member of the ACBL.
Interviewing Bridge Base Online
We spoke to Rain Lan from Bridge Base Online via e-mail. “Vugraph presentations are one of the most popular features on Bridge Base.” says Lan.
“In a Vugraph presentation, the host of a major bridge championship will hire someone to sit near the players and enter the bids and cards they play, which then gets streamed to BBO vugraph audience.”
Lan says that here, viewers get to see what players are doing in real-time – which is what makes it work so well for players.
“A vugraph presentation, especially those showcasing major events like the World Bridge Series or European/North American finals are usually accompanied by expert commentary in both typed and audio format so it’s always a good opportunity to pick up some great bridge tips as well.” says Lan.
Lan also notes that a few parties, including BBO, are working on different ways to make Vugraph streaming easier, more exiting and more accessible. “ACBL and some of the European Vurgraph presentations now usually come with video feeds – who knew watching a bunch of bridge players sit and shuffle cards could be fun?”
That’s not all Vugraph is about, Lan says. “I want to mention an obscure mini-game: Hands featured in a vugraph presentation are saved in our database and any BBO member can ‘play’ a vugraph hand.” This feature, Lan says, is available for free in the Main Bridge Club section of the BBO website. “Here, you get to open a real ‘vugraph hand’ table and see how you measure up.”
Bridge Base Online is really excited to have the World Bridge Series “back on USA soil” this year, and Lan notes they are looking forward to great Vugraph coverage for this round, too.
“Tune into the BBO channel for tons of great Vugraph, anytime.”
FunBridge Live: Virginie Delattre
We also spoke to Virginie Delattre from FunBridge Live, another provider offering a one-of-a-kind Vugraph.
“Funbridge, the online bridge app with a community of 400, 000 players, offers a broadcasting service for national and international bridge events called ‘Funbridge Live.’” says Virginie.
“This feature is 100% free and gives the app players access to live broadcasts of matches deal by deal and live streaming of tables. Also, expert commentary and live analysis are provided on each deal, helping the audience understand the subtleties of the match they are watching.”
The FunBridge App can be downloaded and installed for free on any smartphones, tablets and computers
You can find the Funbridge Live archive by clicking here or just head to the main Funbridge site.
Before the Vugraph, we had a visual system called the Bridge-O-Rama used during games to display the going-ons in the game – and it was operated with a system of lights and switches instead. It was a little less high-tech than Funbridge Live or BBO’s Vugraph, but it was the start of an entirely new way to display cards during the game.
And like other new technologies at the time, people were a little opposed to it at first. An article was published in the 1964 New York Times asking whether or not use of the Bridge-O-Rama will be distracting players too much from the actual game.
The Bridge-O-Rama was reportedly used for the first time at the 1958 Bermuda Bowl. (Speaking of new technologies of the time, microwaves appeared around 1946 – and was originally called the Radarange.)
Explore More Vugraph Links
Want more great Vugraph links? Check out some more Vugraph viewing at the links below. Watching bridge can also happen through live video feeds and YouTube.
LiveBridge.net (includes YouTube)
World Bridge Federation offical YouTube Channel
Photo: Spectators watch the intercity match on the Bridge O Rama – Source: ACBL Story