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Barometric Pressure

Should Barometer scoring, where players play the same boards simultaneously and participants know where they stand during the play, be used in team events?

This came up during a recent vugraph session of the Yeh Bros event. A many-time internationalist tried to get me to broach the subject during commentary. Bridge Winners, with its open forum and input from around the globe, is surely a more apropos venue.

The topic has popped up from time to time in the literature, but now that we have computers, automated dealing machines and at-the-table electronic score entry (such as Bridgemates) it seems an appropriate time for re-opening the discussion. But let’s open it up all the way.

 

Variables

Level of competition [sub-national, national, trial, invitational, world champ]

Type of competition [mp, imp-pair, bam, swiss, round robin, qualifying, ko]

What’s at stake  [bragging rights, trophy, right to play again, right to represent(club/country/zone), world championship, cash (e.g. the Yeh Brosand the Cavendish)

Online vugraph

 

For each variable, when feasible, should results be available via barometer:

Never

In specific event(s)

Always

 

Both sides of the argument will make good cases, so the most likely conclusion should be “in specific event(s)”.

 

I know the following is just the tip of the iceberg, but hope it is enough to get the discourse flowing.

 

Pros & Cons

 

Pro

  1. The first argument FOR barometer scoring is “what other sport doesn’t let the participants know how they stand?”  [I can think of a number of ways to dispute this, but in its simplest form this is an obvious/reasonable question]
  2. Might be truer test of how a pair handles individual hands [assuming this is a goal] rather than their ability to guesstimate the state of their game.
  3. More opportunities for psychological ploys [the double head fake in bridge??]
  4. We’d see an increase in variations of play/defense chosen to create swing.
  5. This could increase the depth of the field and expand broaden the list of potential winners [good for those who perceive winning and rating points as a birthright]
  6. Sponsors might see this as a more marketable type of competition as this format will probably attract more spectators.

 

Con

  1. Our game is unlike most sporting events where scoring does not occur simultaneously [let’s leave out boxing – bridge is bloody enough], so let’s not try to selectively seek parity. Someone always has more information at the end and only that competitor knows exactly what is needed. The first to play must guess, the last to play has the advantage of certainty. For example, one year Sam Snead would have won the US Open if he’d been in the last group and knew he only needed par rather than guessing he needed birdie.
  2. Barometer minimizes/eliminates the potentially important skill of correctly assess standing in the event [see story that follows].
  3. Barometer invites more shooting, which skews results that can punish innocent pairs/teams.
  4. This mechanism exaggerates flaws in conditions of contest where a team has a better chance to win the event by doing less than their best, thus helping a weaker team qualify ahead of a more dangerous opponent  [a topic addressed many times in The Bridge World].
    1. Perhaps the upcoming Cavendish Pairs suggests an entirely different temptation to “dump” when the actual positions of pairs are known during the play.
  5. It could bring an entirely new [insidious] meaning to the “slow play coup” [i.e. unless something is implemented to prevent the problem, slower players would have the distinct advantage of knowing results not available to faster players. For example would the slower table in a team match know the score before each board, where as the faster table only finds out after the slower table has played the board. This might cause the faster table to stall, waiting for results to come in to know where they stand. ]

 

Implementation Issues

  1. Timing. When are newest scores posted?
    1. Realtime
    2. Delayed [by how many boards/rounds?]
    3. During or between round [mp/pair/bam]
    4. Only after a certain percentage of boards are complete
  2. How are scores communicated to players/vugraph/web?
  3. Is it ever right to use barometer in some but not all phases of a competition?  [ex: during KO but not Qualifying Rounds]
  4. How is negative fallout from an incorrectly entered score avoided/minimized?

 

Conclusion?

Just as Matchpoints and long KO are tests of different skills, so too are non-barometer vs barometer displays of scores. This suggests that there should be some events with barometer scoring rather than none or all.

Right now, the only premier team event that uses Barometer scoring is the final day of the Reisinger Board a Match. What other events (if any) should adopt a Baromerter scoring format?

Story

Summer 1974: I sit down to kibitz Barry Crane in the final [4th] session of Bridge Week’s big pair event. The field looks like it could be the final session of the Reisinger. Just before the hands come out, his partner Peter Rank sits down and asks how they’re doing. Nonchalantly Crane says “we need a 450 [on 325 avg]”. I hope they didn’t hear me choking – isn’t that somewhere around 70%. During the session, Crane estimates the matchpoint score for each board {choke, gasp, is he serious?}.  At the end of the session Rank asks “how did we do”?  Nonchalantly [again], “460”.  He was wrong – it was 463 [that’s 71.2%].  On no single board was his estimate off by more than 3 [on 25 top].  Surely brain surgery takes less talent than that feat.

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