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In Praise of Online Bridge (and BBO)
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Reading through some of the threads on Bridgewinners one can end up with the impression that online bridge is full of cheats exploiting the endless possibilities of online communication to cheat the innocent bridge player right left and centre and that BBO is a Ponzi scheme designed to milk its hapless users out of much cash as possible and provide in exchange a poor and broken service.

Like many of us I have spent much more time playing online bridge over the last few months, and that means much more time on BBO. I have got a lot out of it and although I will surely go back to playing face to face bridge when possible I will continue with the online games as well, here’s why.

A real event involves a long drive, parking (for a fee), a hotel if it is not close to home and entry fees to cover the cost of a hall, organization and probably some officials free holiday at our expense. An online event involves no travel, zero or low entry fees, no dress code (no dress if you want) and the possibility to go and do something useful when partner is butchering dummy. A real event may even involve a plane flight if one is serious and wants to play against good players, online you just have to register for one of Toms events (the standard is high) or if you are a top player make sure you are invited to one of the many alt events currently being organized. There are also excellent bridge federation events with reasonable entry fees as well as the possibilities to arrange your own fixed pairs or team games.


An important part of any bridge event for me is reviewing the hands afterwards. In live bridge one sits with one’s partner and the hand records, maybe several days after the event, and try to remember which boards bidding need to be discussed and why. As for play and defence, unless something went wrong one generally doesn’t remember that much especially in playing with long events typically with a high number of boards over a few days. Online the review process with partner is a pleasure, the hands are preserved including the exact bids and cards played, in fact it has happened to me more than once that in reviewing hands I have discovered issues or mistakes I (and partner) completely missed at the table. Even better you can look at how other pairs in the same tournament played and bid the hands and if there are top players this is a great way to learn. In fact, it doesn’t end there - say you decide to play a casual set game against a few friends; BBO provides a wonderful feature that allows you to replay vugraph hands from past competitions and compare your results to the world-class players that played these hands. This is an incredible learning experience and also great fun as you are scoring your hands against teammates you would never normally have. How much does this service cost,,,.nothing

Another way to learn and improve is by Kibitzing and here too BBO delivers the goods. There are excellent vugraphs during normal times and these are archived and freely accessible, In addition, you can join tables at which top players are playing and view there plays and even read comments if they are chatty. Over the past week I have had a whale of the time watching Zia, Lev and their rubber-bridge friends playing Chicago (I have a soft spot for this type of game) as well as watching Zia and Rosenburg live play in the alt championships. I should mention too you can access the hand results for any player so if you want to try and understand a bit more what is happening in Meckwell Precision - just look at their hand results and examine the bidding and explanations. While on the subject of learning I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the bidding tables (where you can use scripts to control the cards) or the bridge master problems you can access as well, all on BBO and all free,

I could go on but I am off to what has become a weekly game between me and my partner in North Tel-Aviv (it is about an hours drive to him) and our opponents in Turkey and Florida (that would be even longer drives). An impossible weekly game in face to face bridge but nothing special in Internet bridge.

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