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All comments by Jan Martel
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Thanks, Tom. Yes, we need Vugraph operators for both the Open and Senior & Women's events. Anyone in the Orlando area who would be interested in helping, please email me (marteljan at gmail dot com).
April 17, 2013
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This is an interesting thread. Thank you for starting it, Henry. I don't want to get into a lot of this, but do want to give you some perspective on the costs, and why they are so high. I have just finished adjusting this year's budget for the actual entry (that affects the entry fees and also the length of the event and how many directors we need when). I expect that the USBF will lose about $9000 on this year's USBC. That is in spite of an event entry fee of $360 per team and per-session fees of $150 per team (there are two sessions a day).

Why is this such an expensive event? Some of it is, as someone said above, a matter of scale. We have two top-level directors for almost all of the event (one of them goes home when we are down to 4 teams). In case no one has hired a national level director recently, it costs about $550 a day, including hotel and per diem. We also have someone to unpack and repack, set up and move all of those wonderful screen tables, duplicate the boards after the first three days, make signs & help the directors. He's a little less expensive than a top-level director, but not much - another $450 a day. We pay for my hotel room & meals - another $175 a day. So each day of play starts out costing $1725. We provide coffee in the playing area. I complain every year at how much that costs, and it varies by day, but the total cost last year was a little over $3000. Hospitality - we provide breakfast and lunch every day. Play starts at 10:00 am, so there isn't a lot of time before play for breakfast (at least for those who don't wake at the crack of dawn), and having a hospitality suite where you can get a quick breakfast is one of the things players appreciate. The break between sessions is only an hour and ten minutes, not really time to get lunch at a restaurant, so we provide lunch. The first few days (how many depends on format and entry - it's 5 this year), there are too many players for us to serve lunch in the hospitality suite, so we make the best deal we can with the hotel to provide lunch. That adds over $1000 a day for those days. For the rest of the tournament we serve lunch in the hospitality suite. We're a lot cheaper than the hotel, but it still isn't free.

The event fees are designed to cover the costs of getting everyone and everything to the tournament. Travel for two directors, one logistics person, one hospitality suite hostess and me. Estimate this year (and Henry is right, Orlando's cheap) is $2500. Shipping for the screens and other supplies, also cheap this year because Orlando is reasonably close to Memphis, about $1000. Pre-duplication of boards for the first 3 days, because with setting up screen tables and lighting and everything else we need, our logistics person can't also do those boards - another $1000. Printing hand records (I suggested just putting them online but the players want pieces of paper) - $500. Rent to ACBL for the screens, bidding boxes, timers, etc - another $500. That's over $5000 before anyone plays a hand. With 16 teams this year, the total event fee is $5760.

Session fees ($300 per team per day) are supposed to cover daily costs. With 12 teams in the Round of 16, the total session fees per day will be $3600. Our cost for staff & hospitality for each of those days will be about $3000, so we will “make” $600. On days with fewer teams, lunch & coffee will be less expensive, but total entry fees will also be less. For instance, for the Finals, total daily session fees are $600. The cost is about $1600. Some of that is for the logistics person, who is actually packing up things to send home those days, so maybe it shouldn't count against those specific days. But overall, the session fees won't cover the marginal costs.

In addition, we provide a lot of Vugraph coverage. Whether Vugraph costs should be part of tournament costs isn't clear, but for what it's worth - I anticipate that we will pay Vugraph operators about $4000 for the event (they get the princely sum of $80 per day). In addition, we are “importing” 4 experienced operators, for whom we'll pay travel and room costs. About another $3500. Go read the thread about the Buffett Cup before you decide whether that's worth it.

This has gotten ridiculously long, for which I apologize. And I really don't want to try to respond to everything else, except to say that any US citizen or permanent resident can enter the USBC. The Credentials Committee review about which someone commented above is for players who are added to a team that has a bye or has won the right to represent the US. I'm about to post a BW announcement for the Senior and Women's Trials this year and will do the same for the Open next year.

And finally, I'm not playing because I have too many other things to do at the tournament. Not being able to play is, for me, the major downside of running the event. I found it a great event to play in, but the last year I played I was just too distracted by trying to play and also deal with administrative things.
April 17, 2013
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Your method is essentially what we play, although I confess that we haven't discussed some of the higher level bids :)
April 1, 2013
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“The Cavendish Calcutta (now moved to Monaco) involved large sums of money. Appeals were heard by the Chief TD, in conjunction with his fellow TDs, along with input from top players.”

I don't know what is being done now, but I do know that when the Cavendish was held in the United States appeals were decided (usually by telephone) by a panel of expert players who were not playing in the event.
March 27, 2013
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As the Vugraph operator at the table for this segment, I can tell you that Debbie is 100% right about the spot cards played - I could almost never see Roy's card, because he tends to play his cards with his right hand and leave his hand on the table - he was sitting South, so I was looking at his cards from his right. Because I was sometimes struggling to see the cards remaining in his hand in order to figure out what card he had played, I think I was not as good as usual at seeing other players' cards if they got turned over quickly.

As for the specific board, all of the explanations and discussion at the table was very quiet (as it should be) and so was Roy's discussion with the director when he summoned him after the hand was over. It was my impression (but really not a very firm one) that the 3 bid was described as showing 5 hearts and not 4 spades. I know that there was also further discussion about the bidding before the opening lead and I could not hear what was said.
March 22, 2013
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As I understand it, the players on team 58 do not speak English, so they asked to be allowed to have Zhong Fu as their NPC, even though he is playing on another team, in case it became necessary to communicate in English.
March 20, 2013
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WBF Brown Sticker regulations cover only opening bids and overcalls, so you can play any responses you want without having them treated as Brown Sticker.
March 8, 2013
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I didn't mean to say that the WBF policy is confusing, just that it provides no more guidance to what things should be alerted with screens that are not alerted without (for instance, I don't think it answers Sabine's question about whether a 4H control bid should be alerted). None of the screen regulations I have seen provide any real description of what is to be alerted differently with screens than without (except for the WBF's statements about doubles and bids above 3NT, and ACBL's statement that bids that are normally delayed alerts should be alerted when they are made).
What I think is missing from all of these screen regulations is a discussion of to what extent bids that aren't “conventions” but might have a meaning that wouldn't be obvious to the opponents should be alerted or explained.
Dec. 10, 2012
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This has been a great thread, thank you , Sabine. As a somewhat impartial observer, I have a couple of comments. First, in response to Sabine, who said:

“Maybe the fact that all conventional bids are alertable behind screens warrants more than just a little footnote on the Alert Chart and deserves its own paragraph in the Alert Rules.”

The ACBL screen procedures are set forth in a separate Conditions of Contest document called “Special Conditions Pertaining to the Use of Bidding Boxes and Screens” which you can find at:
http://www.acbl.org/assets/documents/play/Conditions-of-Contest/Appendix-G.pdf

The footnote in the Alert Chart is presumably designed to alert players (and directors) to the fact that one of the provisions in those Special Conditions is that things that are delayed alerts in regular play are to be alerted normally behind screens.

Those Special Conditions don’t address whether bids that are not alerted at all without screens should be alerted behind screens, and there is a lot of variation in whether that is done. Incidentally, the WBF alerting policy (which took me a while to find – it’s at http://www.ecatsbridge.com/Documents/files/WBFInformation/policies-regulations/WBFAlertingPolicy.pdf also doesn’t say anything about this. Nor do the WBF General Conditions of Contest or the USBF General Conditions of Contest. So if there’s a difference about what is and isn’t alerted behind screens, it’s custom, not rules.

Second, as I’m sure most of you know, I strongly agree with Michael about pens instead of pencils. In addition to the fact that pens are quieter, notes written in pen are easier for Vugraph operators to read ?. I also understand why ACBL doesn’t give pens – they disappear amazingly faster than pencils. In Philadelphia this summer, BBO generously gave us nice pens to put out on the Spingold Vugraph tables. By the end of the tournament, despite the fact that BBO had given us more a couple of times, there were exactly two pens left. Even when we distribute less nice pens at USBF events (I collect them from hotels all the time; we’ve ordered boxes of cheap ones), there are far fewer on the tables at the end of a session than at the beginning. So pens, like those little golf pencils and convention/score cards, are disposable supplies. And they’re not as cheap as you might think. I know, it’s not much money compared to the cost of the screens and cards and bidding boxes and Bridgemates and directors and playing space and … but all of the costs come out of our entry fees, and we do tend to complain when entry fees go up.
Dec. 10, 2012
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Of course my experience with transfer responses to 1 is in a Weak NT system, so 1 is more likely to be bid with a long club suit, since the balanced hands are 15-19, not 12-14 and 17-19, but yes, we bid 1 of a red suit very light (and we announce that: “1 shows 4 hearts and can be very weak” etc, distinguishing 1 which shows a normal response). But my other point - that at least one of the opponents has already passed - is no different for people using transfer responses in a Strong NT system, is it? The later you are in the auction, the less likely it is that a side that hasn't yet bid will want to.
Oct. 2, 2012
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In fact it was I and not Chip who wanted to play transfer responses to 1. When we first experimented with them, artificial responses were allowed to forcing, artificial 1 opening bids, but not to natural 1 openings. So we redefined 1 as forcing and either natural or game forcing with 8 solid spades (at least I think that was it). We didn't make any secret of it. Of course the result of this was that the lawmakers changed the rules and we gave up on transfer responses for a long time. We've now adopted them again and it's still more because I like them than because Chip does.

I'd also like to point out that there is a relevant difference between an opening transfer and a transfer response - the transfer response happens after our side has shown an opening bid and at least one player from the other side has passed, so it is really quite likely that the hand belongs to us. In general, rules should be more flexible the less likely it is that the other side will care. I'm not arguing that that means transfer opening bids should not be allowed, just that it isn't as obvious as you think that transfer responses and transfer openings are the same.

As for ACBL restrictions being designed to favor experts, I think you're wrong about that. I have a good defense to multi, and I understand it. I've spent a lot of time on that :). So I'm happy when my opponents are playing multi - I'll usually gain from it. But I also play multi in one partnership and I know the problems it can cause the unprepared. Similarly with Moscito. Several years ago Chip's team played an Australian team with at least one pair, maybe both, playing Moscito. The Australian team had been winning its matches by substantial margins. We have defenses to Moscito bids and so did Chip's teammates. Chip's team won easily. It isn't the experts who have a problem with unusual methods, it's the average players.
Oct. 1, 2012
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ACBL C&C Committee web page (it always takes me forever to find this, I don't know why): http://www.acbl.org/about/competitionConvention.html
Minutes are posted through Summer 2011.
Oct. 1, 2012
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A brief explanation of the flags. If I remember correctly, the USA team was called “USA” and the Europe team was called “Europe.” If that is correct, the BBO Vugraph software automatically put US flags next to each USA player. The operators could have put flags next to the European players by entering the country in the player's profile, but the software wouldn't automatically do it (I've been trying to get someone to develop a player database that could be linked to player profiles in Vugraph broadcasts that would fill in the player's real name, country and biographical information, maybe including a picture, but no one has volunteered so far :)).

The operators may or may not have known they could enter a country for a player and that would cause a flag to display; if they knew, probably they didn't have time. The operators couldn't remove the US flag that is displayed for all players on a team called USA. For instance, in the Spingold, a team called “Denmark” had players from the US and Germany - as the operator, I edited their profiles to show their correct countries, but the Danish flag was still displayed on screen.
Sept. 19, 2012
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We haven't used webcams for several years and maybe the technology has improved, but when we did try to use them, they used a lot of bandwidth, which meant that they made the internet connection for the operators less responsive. They were also difficult to set up and control, but that was probably because we were learning.

The best-ever camera part of Vugraph for me was in Geneva, where professional TV camera people were in the rooms - they moved around and focused on everything (I still remember a player's foot swinging back and forth). But of course that meant having professional equipment and people involved and I'm sure it was very expensive as well as difficult to arrange. And they needed VERY hot lights, which I heard made the playing rooms quite uncomfortable.
Sept. 16, 2012
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I very strongly agree with Fred & Uday that Vugraph should be free for the spectators. On the other hand, perhaps this would be a good time (although maybe not the right place) for me to renew my periodic request for voluntary contributions to improve the quality of Vugraph from USBF events (although I organize Vugraph at ACBL NABCs, I'm not involved in budgeting for those events).

To give you some idea of the expense of Vugraph for a tournament organizer, the budget for the 2013 USBC includes approximately $6500 for Vugraph and website. That covers the fee we pay to operators ($20 per quarter), half of my expenses (I figure that half of my time is Vugraph, the other half is general tournament organization) and programming costs for the USBF website. I'm not paid for either tournament and Vugraph organization or website maintenance and content, but I'm not competent to do all that's needed for the website.

The budget shows a $3000 loss for the tournament; total expenses are about $45,000. In the past, no matter how careful I am not to be too optimistic at budgeting time, the Trials tend to show a slightly higher loss than was budgeted. The USBF goal is to run the Trials at break-even, but that's difficult.

I'd very much like to spend an additional $12,000 or so on Vugraph for the USBC. That would pay the travel, hotel & meal expenses of 5 people in addition to me for the rounds of 16 and 8, 3 people for the Semi-Finals and 2 people for the Finals. With those people, we'd have experienced operators at half of the Vugraph tables in the early rounds, when I can't be an operator because I'm needed to supervise and trouble-shoot (I'd much rather be an operator :-)). In the Semi's and Finals, we'd have all experienced operators, since I can be an operator unless Chip is playing. Usually there are enough local volunteers (I consider people who are being paid the munificent sum of $80 a day to be volunteers) for half of the tables.

Then there are the Senior & Women's Trials, which are shorter than the Open, so involve fewer days. Still, the Vugraph budget is about $5000, for the same things as the Open. And I'd need another $10,000 or so to pay expenses for enough experienced operators.

So if 1000 people contribute $25 each, or 100 people contribute $250 each or 10 people … we could go a long way to providing the sort of Vugraph coverage we'd all like to see. To contribute, go to the USBF website and click on the red “Online Donation Form” button and then on “Make a gift for Vugraph and Website Development.” I'll be doing some more solicitation soon!
Sept. 15, 2012
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@ Roland: I'm sure that it is possible for the operator to wear a headset to listen to the voice commentary without having it audible to the players, but I for one would not want to do so. Voice commentary is great when you're watching at home, but for all of the reasons that make it great, it would be very distracting to me as an operator. Written commentary scrolls across my screen and I can read it or not; voice would be there in my head while I'm trying to concentrate on the spot cards, alerts, explanations, etc etc.

@ Kit: Kibitzer comments for operators work just as they do for commentators - as an operator, I can put +++ in my profile and all kibitzers can message me or I can leave it out and only commentators and Yellows can. I usually put it in, but hope that kibitzers will understand when I'm not able to respond to their messages.

@Paul: I definitely second that. And no matter how hard we try, internet connections will sometimes get bad. I've had the exact same connection be great one day (or at one time) and terrible another - it depends on how many people are online and probably on lots of other things I don't understand.
Sept. 15, 2012
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Helgemo was Levin's screenmate. During the auction, he told Levin that XX was takeout. Helness first told Weinstein that XX was strong and then retracted that and said he didn't know. After the opening lead, Weinstein asked if he was entitled to know what Helgemo intended by the XX and Helgemo told him it was 100% takeout.
July 27, 2012
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The first half of today's GNT Semifinal match between Spector & Bramley will be on BBO Vugraph. If both matches are close at the half, we will try to show both of them the second half, otherwise we will show the match that is closer.
July 14, 2012
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There isn't any question but that the players, organizers & directors were of the opinion that ACBL options applied. That's what is stated in the USBF General Conditions of Contest. The question is whether that is the correct thing to be doing, since some people (Ron is not the only one) believe that this is a WBF event to which WBF “Laws” should apply.
June 30, 2012
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But ACBL does sanction them. Just as they sanction (and don't run) Sectionals & Regionals.
WBF doesn't run them either. They aren't WBF events, although they are selection events for the WBF events.
If WBF requires that USBF events use 12C(1)c and ACBL requires that they don't, how is USBF supposed to know what to do?
June 29, 2012
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