Join Bridge Winners
3 Games, divided by a common name

While I have only been playing two years, it seems clear to me that "playing bridge" means a lot of things to a lot of people. In some ways my journey has directly exposed me to that variety in ways that many don't see; for example a little over a year ago in my final tournament before trying the Blue Ribbon Pairs the directors moved me and my partner from the open game to the 299er to eliminate two half tables (we grudgingly agreed).

A recent letter in the Bridge Bulletin complaining about a psyche against a self described flight C player in a stratified open pairs game at a regional got me thinking more about the diversity of bridge.   

It seems to me that there are three different games going on, and acknowledgement of this would benefit all participants. I would characterize the games as:

  - Expert

  - Tournament

  - Casual  

Expert bridge is the game most readers here want to play. Anyone who signs up for an event advertised as being an expert competition should expect no protection from strong players. All the rules apply but there is no such thing as an unsportsmanlike psyche here; any newbies who signed up did so wanting to face the best and face them playing their best. Of course all the rules apply including full disclosure; experienced opponents are not an excuse for non-explanations. In fact, directors should generally feel more free to impose PPs here as the players should know better. These should be played behind screens whenever logistics permit. A few far-from-experts would join, but we would be a minority.  

Tournament bridge is the mass in the middle. It is what many players who are forced into open regional games because they have too many masterpoints for gold rush games want to play. Same for the players in bracket N knockouts, or those disappointed to see they were in bracket 1. Today we complain about laxity, but if there were separate expert events maybe that laxity would be just right.    

Casual bridge is just for fun and for very new players. The rules need to be simpler; for example my proposed casual bridge alert procedure is that every artificial bid is an alert and no natural bid is an alert.   

Of course the conventions allowed would be different in the 3 different event types; within an event type different conventions might be allowed in long matches vs pairs events. This wouldn't solve all issues around what conventions would be allowed, but it would at least provide a clearer basis for debate.  

There should never be an Expert game when there is not an unlimited masterpoint Tournament game available in parallel; thus nobody is thrown into the deep end involuntarily. There might be a separate Expert knockout at regionals; if there was a team of Juniors could sign up and not worry about being relegated to bracket 5 (nice for the other bracket 5 teams too!).  

With the exception of GNT/NAP qualifiers, only NABCs could offer Expert games with masterpoint limits (GNT/NAP, Red Ribbon Pairs, 10k events, mini-Blues, mini-LMs, Mini-Spingold).

 Masterpoints 

Casual games are very easy to handle; their awards could be capped at a very low level (0.25 for a win?)

Tournament games would award masterpoints as they do today

Expert games would award masterpoints that are flagged as "expert"

In addition to the existing masterpoint races, there would be expert masterpoint races in all the same categories.   

A  pair of players with 1000 masterpoints, 700 of them expert, would have a hope of getting decent teammates at a partnership desk.   Tournament events would flighted and stratified as they are today.  

Casual events would always be open to any participant; if Meckwell really want that 0.25 masterpoints so what. More realistically if I want to play with my wife in an event where she is comfortable, fine.  

Ribbons

Blue Ribbon Qs could only be earned in Expert events. Not so for Red Ribbon Qs which could be earned in any Tournament event.  

Size

Personally I would rather play a 2 table event against three strong pairs, three 9 board rounds each session, than a bigger game against a more mixed field. Not everyone will agree, and events might choose not to offer separate Expert or Casual games if they felt either those games would be too small or it would shrink the Tournament events too much. That would be fine, nothing would be lost, but I think both the Expert and Casual events would prove popular and I hope that total attendance would increase by providing a better/more targeted experience for each audience.

Thoughts?

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