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Improving the ACBL Collegiate Bridge Bowl
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The ACBL Collegiate Bridge Bowl was my introduction to this game and has dramatically improved my college experience because I learned to play bridge. However, there are several flaws in the current structure of the Collegiate Bridge Bowl. In the Reno meetings, the Board of Directors will review a proposal to change the Collegiate Bridge Bowl. First, I will review what the collegiate championship first looked like, what it chagned to last year, and ideas for improvement regarding: 

  • Cheating 
  • Prize Distribution
  • Championship Structure
  • Championship management 

If any other collegiate captains want to add points anonymously, please private message me on BW. 

 

I'm a little unsure of the exact history of the collegiate championship. I believe it was revived at some point in the early 2000s. In the 2013-2014 college year, my first year, the format was as follows:

  • The teams played online on BBO in a one session event in February
  • Teams were divided into two groups and played a 5 board 5 round Swiss (though I'm not sure, it's been two years) 
  • The top three from each group automatically qualified for the nationals
  • The next two "at large" teams by VPs also qualified 

At the nationals, the 8 teams played in a round robin, with the top 4 advancing to the 24 board semi finals and 24 board finals the next day. The winners got a $500 scholarship each, I believe. Though this format did have a director set up the matches for us, it was essentially director-less -- the one time we called a director it took about 15 minutes at least before anything was resolved. In my sophomore year, the entire structure changed. 

 

The new structure of the Collegaite Bridge Bowl is:

  • Starting in Septemeber teams play a three round "Swiss" in which you play two other colleges in 16 board matches
  • Team captains are responsible for coordinating matches
  • Director calls are after the match -- we simply report to the ACBL coordinator what happened
  • After the September to December Swiss, the top 2 teams qualify for the nationals 
  • In January, the three round Swiss starts over, with the qualifying teams playing again 
  • The top two not-already-qualified teams from the second Swiss qualify for the nationals 

At the nationals: 

  • The top team by total VPs over both Swisses is the #1 seed and gets to choose their opponent 
  • There is day of 48 board semifinals and a day of the 48 board final
  • The winning team gets $20,000! in scholarships to divide among themselves 

I have several concerns about this new format after experiencing it for one year, this being the second year it's been used.

Cheating 

The current format is director-less. We could be sitting in each other's dorm rooms for all the ACBL cares. I think this is a travesty--especially because even finding out if a team cheated would be extremely difficult. With one skilled team member, you could play a believable single dummy match of bridge after seeing all four hands. At least one pair has been formally convicted(?) of cheating that I know of, and this was before the $20,000 prize. 

 

Possible Solution 

An ACBL director could drive to the university once or twice a month to monitor the student's play. 

Prize Distribution 

The current distribution is all or nothing. There is a motion to revise the structure to:

$10,000 for the first place team

$5,000 for the second place team

$3,000 for the third place team

$2,000 for the fourth place team 

 

Possible Solution

While having a lot of 0s to advertise is nice, I think this really defeats the main purpose of the collegiate bowl, which is attracting more young people to the game. Getting more students to the nationals is much more important having a large prize pool. Sending 8 teams was much better than sending 4. Yes, the field is a little weaker, but in my personal experience, attending your first NABC is a kick-start to bridge interest. It would be better to send more teams to the NABC than have a bigger prize pool. 

Championship Structure 

Starting the qualification process in September is very hard on teams that lose members. Granted, you can play in the second Swiss without playing in the first Swiss, but you lose a chance to qualify by doing that. According to the Conditions of Contest, you lose any VPs gained in the first Swiss if you alter your team for the second Swiss in any way. 

Scheduling two 2-3 hour 16 board matches is also difficult on a college student's schedule. Between trying to play in the local club, hosting team practices, and trying to teach other students to play, running a college bridge team can seem like a part time job. 

The Swiss format also isn't very fair to the better teams. There isn't great parity among teams and if a decent team lost a few of the better teams, the requirement that they can't play each other again can often lead to a good team playing teams that are obviously inexperienced. Two blitzes of bad teams should not propel you to the NABC just because you lost earlier. 

 

Possible Solution 

There are so many ways to change the structure-- I would love to hear your ideas. Ideally, it would be finished before March Then the collegiate championship can be moved to the Spring nationals. This would be a huge boon to collegiate participation. Students are busy in the summer. They have internships, jobs, and travel. In my freshman year, two teams dropped out because too many of their players were busy with professional development. 

 

Championship Managment 

Currently, the ACBL has one employee managing our competition. The employee sends out our match assignments every month and records our matches. However, there has been several issues with this format. In this first year of new format, I believe a score wasn't recorded for a team which had massive implications on the final standings of a swiss. The ACBL decided that there was to be a playoff match to decide which team goes to the nationals. Additionally, the director system is very opaque. In the last swiss, I "called" the director about an issue and was assured it would be address, but I never heard back about it. It very well could have mattered in the final standings. 

Possible Solution 

The ACBL already has a website for the event http://www.butlr.com/acbl/ perhaps captains could self report scores there. 

Conclusion 

The ACBL Collegiate Championship/Bowl has been a great part of my college experience. Because I learned to play, I have been introduced to so many great people, travelled to great places, and learned a lot. I believe the Collegiate Bridge Bowl can be improved and hope that in Reno, the BoD will listen to the issues of collegiate captains. I'm sure I did not cover all the issues teams may have and I certainly did not provide the optimal solutions. I hope the BW readership can help innovate this great program from the ACBL. 

Oh, and go Tarheels! 

 

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