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Delayed Viewing - Best of Both Worlds

As we navigate the “new normal”, we are encountering never-ending changes in the way we do things. Bridge is no different.

We are seeing a proliferation of multi-day team events on BBO - the Alt, the Reynolds, the OCBL, now the US Trials Exhibition...the Canadian Bridge Federation championships start in a couple of weeks, all online. Looking forward, these will continue (players want competition, and let’s call a spade a spade, the professionals want a paycheck). We may see more organizations run events, even ACBL national events, online. There is little choice for the foreseeable future.

Collusive cheating online has been covered elsewhere. If you want to communicate illegally with a partner, teammate, or other accomplice, there is little that can stop you until we introduce comprehensive monitoring. However, this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that it is a big risk to propose to collude with someone else. Even if the other person doesn't immediately report the proposal to the authorities, there is always someone who knows and can testify later.

“Solo” cheating, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with an individual accessing knowledge of the hands. Stuff like consulting your bidding notes are not preventable; you already can view your convention card while playing; the US Trial Exhibition is “open book”. Much more serious is kibitzing your own match. You don’t even need a second BBO account; you can “watch anonymously” on another device. Taking a peek to make sure you’re on the same page in an auction, helping with a lead or to guess a Queen, etc. All horrible acts that are currently simple to accomplish undetected and can't be proven later. Do these occur? Who knows; only the perpetrators do. My guess is we are surely not at 100% honesty.

The way to virtually eliminate the serious solo cheating is to not allow kibitzers (and no VuGraph). Only the four players at each table can see what’s going on.

But we all want to watch. Banning kibitzing of big events does nothing for the promotion of our game and our players.

How do we allow matches to be watched, while alleviating fears that a player is taking advantage of the broadcast?

My proposed solution is simple in concept but probably difficult in implementation. It is similar to what poker was forced to do by regulators when networks tried “live” broadcasts of WSOP final tables.

Kibitzing/Vugraph broadcasts will be shown on a time delay, as determined by the match creator (perhaps 30 or 60 minutes).

The creator of a team match / Vugraph broadcast selects the usual parameters (random deals, barometer scoring, allowing kibitzers, etc.). But there is also an option, if allowing kibitzers, to show the match on a delayed basis. This would apply to any team match, not just the “big” events.

The players are invited and start playing, but the match does not appear on BBO until the delay is complete. At that point, the match starts for kibitzers and commentators at board 1, just as if it were starting at this later time. So a match might start at 2:00pm and end at 3:30pm for the players; those who want to watch it can see it on BBO from 2:30pm to 4:00pm.

The major advantage is that the players cannot illegally access the hands, unless they have an accomplice. This significantly reduces the danger in broadcasting any online match. You can even broadcast pair games. A very minor disadvantage is the result of a match won’t be known by the public immediately upon its completion, but rather 30 (or 60) minutes later.

BBO has a lot of other things they are working on just to maintain service, but I feel strongly this is something BBO and more importantly, bridge organizations, need to think about for the future. We cannot eliminate cheating in online bridge in one fell swoop, but a feature like this would take us a step in the right direction.

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