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BBO Team matches - recommended set up options for undo, barometer and kibitz
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BBO is the dominant online platform and offers the ability to play team games. With Corona having shut down club play and tournaments many of us are playing competitive team matches on BBO, either in tournaments that Tom Reynolds is organizing (God bless him!) or in other frameworks.

Online bridge is different from live bridge, in some ways it is better - you can not revoke for example. In other ways it is worse, its more difficult to pick up on hesitations owing to network traffic and of course it lacks the social aspects of a real game. Some aspects of teams on BBO are defined by the players when they set up a team game and these are the ones we will look at.

  • Undo
  • Barometer
  • Kibitzers

Undo is the ability to take back a bid or play. If you make a bid or play by mechanical error and undos are not allowed you can not do anything and it stands. If undos are allowed you can ask your LHO for an “undo” and if he grants it you can change your action. Of course by the time you ask him he may have bid or played himself so if he wants to grant your undo he has to ask your partner for an undo, then he asks you for an undo, and then you can undo your bid. If partner has bid he has to ask his LHO…..

Yes its cumbersome and the UI (Unauthorized information)  can be quite serious, in a recent match, Meckwell asked for an undo of a lead. The opponents refused because dummy was already visible, much ink was spilt in bridge winner forums debating the ins and outs.

I think we can all agree that in serious bridge undo should only be requested for mechanical errors (misclicks), not regrets when you suddenly realize that it would have been better to do something else. Question is, when is it appropriate to ask for an undo?

Let's go back to face to face bridge for a moment. Maybe an expert can help me here but reading 2017 Laws is seems that Law 25 allows a player to change a call made by mechanical error if his partner has not bid yet, otherwise no changes are allowed. Law 45 seems to allow declarer to change a card played by dummy if it is a “slip of the tongue”. Law 47 deals with “Retraction of card played” and although there are some cases in which a defender can change a card (after a misexplanation for example) in general he can’t and if he does we get into the world of penalty cards which online platforms don't support.

Based on the laws it seems that what we should allow in online bridge is undo only in the bidding, and only if partner has not bid yet. In play we should allow undo only by declarer if he clicks wrong card in dummy - I guess that this the digital equivalent to “slip of the tongue”. Some other undos may occur if a defender was misinformed but that is already an esoteric use case.

However when playing online team games there is often no TD which complicates things as there is some nuance in the laws, also who can decide what is mechanical and what is a "change of mind"? Who is going to rule on the UI aspects, and what if owing to server latency different players see different screens. I am inclined to think it is better for a smooth game if we just say no undos and that’s it, however this is not what happens in face to face bridge. On the other hand, there are many other “mechanical errors” in real life that don’t happen on BBO because the software prevents you from them; leads out of turn, revokes, insufficient bids spring to mind. Maybe that makes it easier to accept the occasional injustice.

Barometer is the ability to see the running score as you play so you know exactly where you are in the match. In real life you have to guess, and guessing well is part of the game, if you are 10 IMPS down and judge you have pulled it back you won’t build a wild slam on the last board, if you see you are 10 imps down on the last you may do. In other words, to keep it real I think it is best if there is no barometer.

For Kibitzers it seems a no brainer to me, allow them but don’t let them talk to the players. When playing online you have no idea how many kibitzers there are really so I don’t see how they bother even the reticent and it is nice to let other people have fun (even if it is at your expense). I want to prevent them from chatting to players so that they don’t distract them or even inadvertently transmit UI. The BBO parameters fully support this

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