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The future of bridge and technology

I write as the recently retired General Manager of the English Bridge Union. My comments are personal and unrelated to the EBU other than the fact that my views have been formed as a result of my eleven years working for the EBU. I am not an elite player, nor will I ever be, despite my relatively forlorn attempts to improve, as I am way too old. However, as my previous career was in the IT field, I am very aware of how technology works.

The future of competitive bridge as things stand, appears to be poor. In England the number of people playing in major competitive events has dwindled every year for many years now. Major efforts have gone into improving those areas where it is possible to do so, but still the numbers diminish. From what I read and see for myself playing in the USA (I am also an ACBL member) the same scenario is also playing out in the largest bridge market in the world.

I read from time to time about people objecting to various aspects of online play, yet this would appear to be one of the few areas of bridge play where numbers are holding up. BBO has massive numbers playing twenty four hours a day and there are a number of other online clubs that survive and grow by offering what real world bridge clubs and bridge tournaments cannot offer, that is inexpensive ways of providing a game of bridge, without travel costs and effort. It may lack some of the other benefits of playing bridge face to face, such as the social aspects, but it does keep people playing the game, which is not to be ignored.

In my view unless a method is found to incorporate technology within the competitive bridge arena that satisfies all parties the game will die more quickly. At the same time using technology wisely may well encourage young people to include bridge in their own package of life skills, along with other games that they enjoy, but most of us older people would not even know about. I know that there are attempts in the USA and England to include some aspects of technology in day to day bridge activities. This is to be applauded as it is only by trying out different things that we will be able to discover a happy compromise that may be a way forward for both aspects of the game.

Just as technology has completely revolutionised all aspects of communication, so technology, if used wisely, will do the same for bridge. I learned throughout my bridge administration career that overcoming the natural conservatism of the bridge playing public is the only way to change and modernise bridge. So we must do the same for the inclusive use of technology within the competitive bridge market.

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