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Vugraphing in Wroclaw

I had a lot of unexpected free time in Wroclaw, and I acted as a Vugraph operator for one segment, mainly to compare vugraphing in a WBF with vugraphing for ACBL/USBF (I'll just say "USBF" hereafter, since I've done most of my operating in USBF as opposed to ACBL events). As expected, most of it was the same, but there were a few differences:


Importing Deals

In the USBF, deals for each segment are loaded onto the Vugraph computer from a USB drive prior to the start of play. This opens up a slight security risk, because an operator (or someone else using the computer), could access a later board and see an upcoming deal. The only way to do that, though, is to open up the deal on Vugraph, so it's visible on BBO. It would be very easy for kibitzers to realize something was amiss—Board 5 is next, but suddenly Board 8 appears, quickly to be replaced by Board 5.

Having experienced operators who know proper protocol mitigates this problem entirely, or very nearly. The operator doesn't move on to the next board until the players take their cards out or leave the room while any kibitzers—or members of just one team—remain in the room.

A bigger issue is that loading the deals onto each computer is logistically difficult. Someone—the virtually superhuman Jan Martel—has to go around to each room before play starts, often at a run.

WBF, by contrast, uses a system where the Vugraph computer only receives one deal at a time. The others are stored in a secure database of some sort (I don't know and likely wouldn't understand the technical details), and you can only deal a board when a score has been entered for the previous board. In practice, this method works very well.

A potential snag is that if you try to redeal too quickly, the system might reject the request. You can easily work around that problem by going back to the previous board, entering the final contract, making an opening lead, and claiming, but that will lose the bidding and play record. "Too quickly" in this context probably means a few seconds—I had no problem redealing 15 or so seconds after entering the previous result.


Video Feed

A recent development for Vugraph is having live video alongside the BBO feed. This is a great feature, since it not only allows spectators to watch the players in real time without losing the hand diagrams but also is a great aid for directors—you can see exactly how long a break in tempo was, for example—and it enables players to review the play. To see the results from this sort of review, one need only recall last year's cheating scandals.

USBF uses the Vugraph computer's BBO window as an overlay. This gets the job done, but it has a drawback: if the operator mouses over various parts of the screen, a menu pops up and covers part of the overlay. You might see a list of kibitzers covering up the West cards, for example. The WBF method is to use the spectator's Vugraph display, which is unaffected by anything the operator does. WBF uses side-by-side screens, which means a smaller video window, relative to the USBF. A combination of the USBF and WBF methods is probably optimal.


Video Computer

WBF, at least in Wroclaw, uses two computers at each table, one for the video and one for Vugraph. That's much bulkier than the USBF, which runs both processes on one computer. Less is more.


The top Vugraph man in WBF is Traian Chira, and he runs a tight ship. Anyone who can hold own when compared with Jan Martel is doing a great job.

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