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Improving the Seeding Process

I first became interested in seeding issues in the early 90s. John Diamond and I were on the team which won the World Junior Championships in 1991. A few years later, Fred Gitelman, a member of the Canadian team we beat in the finals, placed 2nd in the Bermuda Bowl. Shortly after his impressive Bermuda Bowl performance, Fred took part in a NABC. I had very few seeding points and surprisingly, Fred didn’t have many either. When I looked at the long list of teams seeded ahead of me, I saw some familiar names. Recent foreign juniors that Fred and I beat in the 1991 event had started attending our NABCs and were given a huge number of seeding points by the Director in Change (DIC) and/or seeding committee. When I asked why Player X had 20 seeding points when he had never played in an NABC before, the answer I received was something like, “he was on the Grand Fenwick junior team a few years ago and just represented them in the Bermuda Bowl.” My response that Fred Gitelman played in both events, outperformed Player X in both, yet had under 10 SPs, fell on deaf ears. It bothered me that one group of competitors was seeded based on an objective formula and a second group on reputation.

Since then, the seeding committee has done a great job to remedy this problem. The use of WBF Placing Points (PPs) and WBF Masterpoints has made seeding foreign players more objective. About 18 months ago, I noticed a few other problems. The biggest was that the seeding formula for foreign players (1.75 x PPs + WBF Masterpoints / 100) used PPs, which never decay. Rather than just rant on Bridge Winners about the problem, I volunteered to be on the seeding committee to try to fix this. Volunteers are still welcome and appreciated.

My first suggestion was to cap the number of seeding points available from PPs. Since 10 PPs are needed to be a World Grand Master, that seemed like a logical cutoff. Most affected by this cap were some of the great American and Italian players from the 1970s who would no longer automatically receive the maximum of 50 SPs. This cap was used in Kansas City, subject to some additional points for performance in recent open world-championship events.

In addition, after several pairs were found guilty of collusive cheating, the seeding committee was given latitude to adjust the seeding of teams to account for SPs that were won with cheating pairs. We then developed a system with the goals of eliminating almost all of the subjectivity out of the seeding process while remaining fair to all competitors. We did it by eliminating all SPs that were won with cheating pairs, which led to some complaints on here and other social media platforms. We recognize it is not perfect and we will incorporate some more tweaks, but our ultimate goal is to have a refined, objective, and fair system in place before the system is approved for permanent use by the ACBL Board.

It is difficult to remove all of the subjectivity. When foreign players come to a NABC for the first time and have little or no WBF record, it seems illogical to give them zero SPs. One way in which this is handled is to give players Virtual Master Points. The Seeding Committee and the DIC assign a number of master points to the player based on our subjective guess on how many master points that player would have if she had been an ACBL member her entire bridge career. This is also important for events like regional KOs to make sure foreign experts are not in a ridiculously low bracket.

I suggested to the BW team that it might be useful for someone from the seeding committee to answer questions here to help everyone better understand our seeding methods and the rationale behind them. I will now take questions from the community in an effort to make the process more open and understandable. Hopefully other members of the seeding committee will have time to jump in and help.

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