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Directing in the age of Corona
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After approximately 2 weeks of directing 3 games a day in our BBO online bridge club I offer:


Only certain individuals have the rights to set up games. These permissions are evolving. The restrictions are related to BBO concerns about overloading their servers. As I write this, BBO has been experiencing peak loads of 30,000 to 32,000 users each day at the critical 2pm East Coast 11am West Coast to around 5 and 2 hours.  Before quarantine, typical BBO loads were in the 6,000 to 8,000 user range.  To quote a BBO mod, "I never thought I would see the day that we were kicking people off this site."  For the most part the capacity issues appear to have been solved and service has not been interrupted or even degraded for several days now.

You give your game a "Title" in the "Identification" portion of the Create Tournament window.  We use our IRL (in real life) club name and clearly indicate whether we are running an Open Game or 299 Game. After some experience with people registering for the wrong event. A "Welcome" option is available to have a welcome message be blasted automatically to all tournament participants. And a further description of your event can be entered in the "Description" field.  You also need to set the desired time for your tournament. BBO defaults are not what I usually want on almost any option. The time defaults to 30 minutes from now. Also, the time setting mechanism is not "12:30" but rather 5 hours and 33 minutes (for example) from now.  The program then, mercifully, displays the time your event will start.

You can also add directors in the "Director" field but beware. The director in question must be logged in. Also, as with absolutely everything about your tournament, you must save your work by clicking "Modify Tournament" in the lower left. If you just close the window you are working in, all your work will be discarded/erased/ignored.  Frustrating if you are not used to it. When you add a director, they will have a "Director" tab on their right side menu in their BBO screen. From that point on, they can do anything described here to your tournament.

If your director logs off and logs back in, it appears they lose their director rights/tab.

The "Format" field is permanently set to pairs. 

Using the FORMAT menu.

Format is where you set up the equivalent of your "movement" IRL.

There are some quirks to get used to with BBO. First, BBO will run a straight Mitchell, even if you have only 2 tables. I found this out the hard way when I expected BBO to automatically run 6.5 tables of 2 Boards per Round and 26 boards total as the ordinary 7 table Howell that I would run IRL.

Players don't mind "revenge rounds" . . . except if there's a sit out. But it's easy to avoid both revenge rounds and sitouts (see below regarding sit outs). Just take care to adjust your "Total number of Boards" and your "Boards per Round" so that you get the number of rounds you want. \We likes to replicate our IRL club experience and run 24-28 board games even though online players are used to something shorter. With <4 tables, we cancel (haven't had to yet), with 4 tables, 24 boards and 6 board rounds. 5, 25 and 5. 6, 24 and 4. 7, either 24 or 28 and 4. 8 (very popular), 24 and 3. 9, 10, 11 still 24 and 3, although 27 and 3 is possible also. 12, 24 and 2. 13 and up, still 24 and 2 although 26 and 2 is fine also.

Minutes per board is a source of a fair amount of conflict in our club. After trying to please everyone with predictable results, we have settled on 7 minutes per board. If players finish early, the round advances automatically. If you set the minutes per board too low, then players time out and you end up adjusting a lot of boards. Which is a pain. Occasionally I will monitor "Tournament Status" and add minutes since having boards pulled just results in requests for adjustment anyway. Minutes per board is set on the Format Page also.

We run "Clocked" tournaments, although there are options there that you can see in the drop down menu. Since our players are not used to Survivor movements or Swiss Pairs, we are not using them. Yet.

We use random boards although I am considering using the same hands for both Open and 299er and that would be more work, generating hands (I use Bridge Composer), converting them to .lin and uploading them to BBO. 

We set to Matchpoints since our players are used to Matchpoints. And IMP pairs, sucks anyway.

Using the OPTIONS menu.

The BBO defaults under option are generally OK. However, we prefer to allow kibitzers, silent so we have to change that for each event.

It is best to not allow chat to tournament for either players or kibitzers. I can't think of why it would be necessary, helpful or even appropriate for players or kibs to "chat to tournament." We use chat to tournament for director announcements only.

We do NOT allow undos. Even if you check to allow undos, players at the table still have to approve the undo request. Trust me, you don't want to be mediating this one. Just remind your players (chat to tournament) that no undos are permitted and please take care.

For the most part players have been understanding.

Using the ENTRIES menu.

Entries has a wide variety of options. For the most part, we didn't have time to work out the user (me)/BBO interface issues with entries and just settled on include players followed by host. Our host follows a list of around 150 players (so far) and only these players are allowed in our events. You can get on the list by making a request, but everyone must be preapproved (subs excluded).  

We have also found that the whitelisting process is not instantaneous and there seems to be a lag between host following a player and that player being included in the list of people approved to play in the tournament.

Just like IRL, 3 minutes before game time is not the best time to be asking the director to address your problem, caused by your inattention to some required element.

We like to control access to our events so that entries are people we know and that we know will finish the tournament and will in general be friendly and polite while functioning in a highly competitive event.

We tried using BBO's "include" list but didn't like it.  

We are hoping that next generation product will address the inclusion issue for us.


At the start time, you may think your tournament has "disappeared." Not to worry, it has just relocated to the Running Tournaments page of the BBO display. If you go to running tournaments and click on your tournament you will get a new set of commands/options in your drop down menu. The most important and useful are: Show Tables; View Player's Results (or maybe just Player's Results); Tournament Status; and Chat----> Tournament. 

The SHOW TABLES menu does just what is sounds like: shows all the tables and players assigned to those tables in your event.

If you have a half table it will show your sit outs in red.  You can right click on any player name, but most commonly a name in red, and substitute for them. Again you have a choice "sub any" or "sub select." Sub select just as it sounds, gives you more control over the player entering. We try sub select, but often end up frustrated by refused invitations and cave in to sub any.

If a player freezes or becomes disconnected you can do the same sub process. If the player comes back on, you have the option to "Reseat Player" which automates the process of reseating the player that originally entered your tournament.

Filling sit outs and replacing players with connection problems is one of the most common duties of the online director. You should practice it until it is thoroughly familiar to you.

Occasionally to often a table will fail to complete a round on time. BBO automatically assigns Average Average to incomplete board. The fairness of this result ranges from barely acceptable to totally unjust. Players will often call the director with "the board just disappeared" or "what happened to the rest of board 15"?

Best practice is for the director to review the hand and if an inevitable (or even nearly inevitable) result is indicated, cause that result to be entered as the result of the board. This is a time consuming process and one reason why generous time allowances should be considered.  Also, we almost always add multiple extra minutes per board to the final round of the event as no one should have a complaint about that round.

The best way to adjust a result (although there are others) is to go to the Players Result menu and enter the name of one of the players at the table that didn't finish. A popup showing all the boards of that player pops up and you generally see the Av Av result near the bottom of the list right away. When you double click that board it brings up a popup of the hand and auction (if the popup doesn't show everything, just close it and try again). 

From the popup of the hand, you can follow the auction and the play and determine how you will deal with the board. If you want to adjust it to, for example, 4H making 5, there is a menu in the upper right (three bars) and one option is Adjust Board (or maybe Adjust Hand).  There are options for all the variations of A, A+ and A- in both directions. Or you can select Contract.  There is no, "No Play" option.

If you select Contract, you must go down to the second row and select the Contract, whether is was undoubled, doubled or redoubled, enter the declarer direction and enter the number of tricks that the declaring side took (total tricks, not odd tricks or over/under tricks). Then close out all your popups. Go back to Players Result and enter the player's name and check to see that your adjusment has been properly entered the way you wanted.

This is the most time consuming and challenging duty of the online director.

Finally, you may be called regarding a failure to alert or some other irregularity or even dispute.  Just as IRL, the director's most important and initial role is de-escalation. Generally it helps for us to remind everyone that "we are all getting used to online play here" and "there will be unintentional mistakes or oversights." Even directors.

I also find it helpful to remind players that "we all are, or at least were, all friends here." It helps.  Finally, "statements can appear more harsh than they were intended when delivered in chat."

One thing that is less helpful than IRL is that in the BBO format there is no way to encourage a player (or players) to just "finish the round and get away from the table." (This is one of my IRL staples of directing.)

You should understand the self-alert process thoroughly and be ready to instruct players in their obligations of full and complete disclosure. Also, disclosure is to be made by clicking on the bids, or in private messages with the OPPs, not in the table chat box. Disclosure online can be much more thorough than live since their is no chance of disclosing unauthorized information to partner -- the players should only be communicating with OPPs.

Adjustments are handled just as IRL. There must be a failure of disclosure, the non-offending side must be actually damaged by the failure (that is, they cannot be damaged if they themselves recognize 3D as Bergen even though it was not alerted and beyond that there must be some action that they could have taken that would lead to a better result). That is, these matters are handled and adjustments awarded (or denied) just as IRL.

At the completion of the tournament, I generally chat congratulations to the top 2 or 3 finishing pairs.  But then I do this IRL also.

Develop your o wn style. I believe however, that the players enjoy "hearing" (reading actually) from their directors approximately once a round, but not more than twice in one round.  Make an effort to time your announcements toward the end of a round (especially) when many pairs are just waiting around anyway or if required toward the start of a round when pairs are often engaged in introductions and pleasantries.

BBO has additional and helpful materials which can be tracked down via Google or other search or can be retrieved for you by requesting them from

Please add your own suggestions.

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