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So you want to be a Vugraph operator
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The 2018 USBF trials were held just four miles from my home. So I decided this would be a great opportunity to attend. And I screwed up my courage and volunteered for Vugraph.

I attended a training session of about an hour with eight or so other aspirants (there were two separate sessions). Jan Martel demonstrated how to enter bids and plays into Vugraph, and discussed the common errors. The really good news was that we wouldn't have to do any of the initialization ourselves, except to enter the players' names, which could be gotten from a spreadsheet. There is a five-page "instruction manual" available on-line, and I printed it out before my first venture. She also reminded us not to talk to the players, except that we should always confirm the result of the contract. 

My first assignment was Mahaffey vs Meltzer in the Round of 12 (or 16, if you prefer). My "guinea pigs" were Schermer-Chambers against Dwyer-Huang for the first segment. I couldn't find the spreadsheet, but I knew how to spell everybody's name. No, at the start of play Jan dashed into my room. I had spelt "Schermer" as "schermer". Of course, my computer background made me wonder why the BBO software didn't just do a case-insensitive match. 

Three times in the first segment I lost my connection. The instructions to find the other table and join that worked correctly, but of course, I lost some results. And I didn't realize that Dwyer-Huang played Precision until an opening bid of 1 elicited an Alert. After that, I was pretty good about either putting in Alerts.

For the second segment, Schermer-Chambers were replaced by Cohler-Cohen, and the set seemed to go smoothly. About halfway through, the players complained about the room being too hot, and one of them tried to adjust the thermostat. I said "Jan said I wasn't supposed to talk to you, but I agree that it's too hot in here". Play continued, and I totally forgot to explain to the audience that we had taken a break.

The same hotel hosts a regional and three sectionals, but those are played in the public areas on the first floor. And the bridge players have always complained that those areas are too cold.

I finished the segment, left the room, and went to turn on my cell phone. Oops - it had been on for all 30 boards. Presumably I should have checked it in somewhere. I asked Jan what would have happened if I had received a call. "Well, the players wouldn't receive a penalty, but ... [severe frown here]".

I must not have embarrassed myself too much, because two days later I was assigned to Juster-Rosenthal in the quarterfinals. For both segments, the players were Juster-Merblum against Berkowitz-Hamman. And I turned off my phone before starting, and all the players' names were capitalized.

The first segment went smoothly, and the second segment was going along pretty well. Of course, all four players were playing Standardish, so I didn't have to deal with very many pesky Alerts. I was beginning to think that I knew what I was doing.

Then Hamman played 1NT, and claimed for down one, agreed to by everyone. I clicked on Claim and instructed it to reduce the number of tricks taken by two (that is, Hamman was conceding two tricks). Only I just conceded one trick, which meant 1NT making instead of down one. No problem - surely there was an Undo button. No, there wasn't.

I dug into my purse, found the five pages of notes that I'd printed out, and found the instructions for modifying the "movie". On the second try, I got the format right. I looked back at the table, and the players had just finished the next hand. Somewhat embarrassed, I had to ask the result, which I then entered into the Vugraph. And by that time, they'd finished bidding the next hand, and I could only enter the final contract.

At the end of the session, I again spoke to the players, and told them that the Vugraph had been corrected, in case they had a discrepancy.

I enjoyed the work I did, and it wasn't quite as terrifying as I had thought. But you have to have very good concentration. I'm fairly sure that there were some hands where I got the spot cards wrong - perhaps declarer had made a false card that worked, but the audience would never know that had been done.

Then I escaped to the peace and quiet of the hospitality committee. There the most taxing job I did was refilling the ice bucket. Oh, and I told Jan that I would be willing to do this again.

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