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All comments by Larry Lang
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Hi Gary –

I originally started this thread, wondering how other players feel when they get “fixed”. I think I got my answer. Most people try to be gracious under such circumstances, because it is part of the game they love, and they understand this.

I'm not suggesting anything, because I don't know what the answer is. But I know about the players that are most important to me.

One group is the older members who are coming down with Alzheimer's or Dementia. For these people, playing Bridge is one of the best things they can do. And many are frustrated, knowing they used to remember the cards better than they do currently.

If there is just one thing I want to accomplish, it is to make Bridge a positive experience for these people, and I don't know how to do it. I desperately want them to come back, enjoy themselves, and not to be frustrated. And by and large, the rest of the club wants to support these people as well. They don't care how badly these people play, they want them to keep coming down. But how do we reward these people without being “demeaning” or “condescending”?

For the rest of us that still feel competitive, we have needs too. I don't know how to resolve the two diametrically opposed goals.
July 12, 2015
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John,

I'm guessing the best overall contest of skill is Board A Match Teams. You get to play with 3 partners of similar skill, and each hand counts equally. A better event might be Board A Match teams of 8, or 16, or whatever it takes to ensure you've got the best players in the room on you side.

But few clubs hold board a match teams. I suspect the “fairness” setting is too high.

If you and I were to compete head to head, perhaps 12 sessions of an individual would be best. But both you and I would be constantly dealing with 3 opponents at the table, and that's not fun either. For a given session, the “fairness” setting is too low.

Perhaps Bridge is a love/hate game. We love and despise the random element, but because we can't make up our mind which is worse, we keep coming back for more.

It's time for you to go to bed.
July 12, 2015
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Adam,
We don't always agree, and I apologize in advance if my prose seem arrogant or pontificating. Just pretend that I know I'm full of sh*t half the time. It's easier for me to write if I don't worry about how I sound.

The ACBL programming team has to be responsible for identifying and addressing ACBLScore bugs that occur out in the field. Nicholas Hammond might have written the perfect application, given ACBL specs. But when push comes to shove, users aren't going to send their complaints to Nicholas Hammond. They're going to send them to ACBL. I think Nicholas agrees with this view, at least partially. He says that ultimately he expected the software he wrote to be turned over to the ACBL.

We can berate the technical capability of the ACBL staff, but in the final analysis, they are the guys who have to work with the users. They have to identify and fix the bugs. They are the only ones in a position to do it, unless ACBLScore comes out with a message, such as, “If there are problems, don't contact us, call Nick Hammond.” If I was a user, I wouldn't like that kind of message. I would see it as a ploy to deny culpability for a buggy application. In my not so humble opinion, ultimately the ACBL must take ownership of all ACBLScore bugs. Hiring outside consultants is not an answer. The ACBL must address user problems with internal staff.

I have gotten the drift that some people feel that publishing bug free software is a matter of expertise. I disagree. It is a matter of attitude. You can take the best programmer in the world. If he's not interested in releasing bug free software, it's not going to happen. On the other hand, you can take mediocre programmers, and if they're determined to release bug free software, it will happen. At least that's my experience.

If you feel that the ACBL staff is not the best choice for developing the core ACBLScore application, I can sympathize. But if outsiders are to help, then the ACBL has to publish a document that specifies what they want. And they haven't done that.

I would like the ACBL to publish a Master Point table (and a formula that can be duplicated) that is easily understood and available to everyone – before it is incorporated into ACBLScore. Everything that ACBLScore is expected to do should be documented, and easy to access by all members, before software is developed. Not after the fact.

One model is to have outsiders develop all the service modules, based on specs which the buyer (ACBL) publishes. The publisher (ACBL) is responsible for shepherding all the modules that are developed or proposed, for tying them together, and for developing the programs that install or make the services available to the user, and for resolving all complaints (bugs, lack of features, hard to use). They can do this by going back to the contractor or by fixing the bugs themselves. I like that model, but it has not been adopted by the ACBL or the Technology Committee.

The technology committee has been “active” for 7 months now. No software project should have a lifetime longer than a year. Still, if the technology committee is dedicated to a 2 year development program for replacing ACBLScore, the typical breakdown is 1/6 requirements, 1/6 design, 1/3 programming, and 1/3 testing and debugging. All requirements and schedules should be released by now. Have you seen these documents? I haven't.

I'm sorry to sound like a broken record. But all I see from the Technology Committee are statements about what kind of technology should be used for the next version of ACBLScore. I haven't seen any requirements, survey results, schedules, or design documents specifying what ACBLScore+ will do.

The Technology Committee could have asked for proposals, and asked how much it would cost. But it's the same old show. They want to design the product themselves, and ask for forgiveness later.

I am sticking with my original forecast. One year from now, the ACBL will release an “upgrade” to ACBLScore. Most of us will shake our head and wonder how the ACBL could have paid so much for so little.
July 12, 2015
Larry Lang edited this comment July 12, 2015
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I agree about the can of worms. I didn't say I wanted to open Pandora's box.

But we are outliers? I disagree. I guess I suffer in that a hobby of mine is to develop a program that can simulate how good human players play bridge, based on heuristic rules rather than on running a simulation of 100 to 1000 randomly dealt hands and then making a decision.

Double dummy analysis already allows us to learn how to bid better and perhaps play better.

I believe, but do not know for sure, that within the next 5 years we'll have programs that can simulate an average bridge player.

I guess I'm asking, “What then?” What happens when software programs can out play 95% of ACBL players?

“Let's not open Pandora's box.” seems like a very reasonable reply to me. And maybe that's what you're saying, and I agree.

But, “Can't happen”. I disagree.
July 12, 2015
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You asked me not to tell you this. But I think sometime within the next 10 years, computers will be able to make Bridge “more fair”, if the hands are pre-dealt and the auctions and leads recorded. Certainly Bridge Base On Line has this capability. I'm not saying I want this to happen. But that's the way things are going.

I see randomness as a factor that eventually we can dial in.
I prefer Bridge to Chess because Bridge is more random.
For the games I run, I would like to see more randomness but that's because my club has a wide range of expertise, and I hate to see the less capable players get slaughtered.

I hear all these complaints about “Strength of Field” calculations from people who want less randomness. Is that what they really want? Maybe we should discuss just what we want out of Duplicate Bridge. Maybe it depends on the event.

I don't think that current methods are a “slam dunk”, although almost every person who responded on this thread agrees with you.
July 12, 2015
Larry Lang edited this comment July 12, 2015
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I would like that. We could keep younger Bridge Players in the deep freeze, and only let them out when it's time to play Bridge.
It's very difficult being a “Young Turk” for 45 years of your life. It gets old.
July 11, 2015
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“ Larry, are you saying it would be OK if the same result were achieved by “Old F*rts” rather than “Young Turks”? (I'm 58; in the wider world” —

Apparently an unfortunate choice of words by me. I was only being allegorical.

A decade ago, I would have considered a 58 year old to be an old fart.

At this point in my life, I am a Young Turk because I am between the age of 63 and 65.

You are a statistical anomaly. You don't even exist. There are only 20 Bridge Players left in the United States that are younger than I am, and they all belong in a zoo.

Perhaps I am being insular.
July 11, 2015
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One other comment.
We tried Home Style Pairs, Cut for Partner, Individuals, Swiss, Swiss Pairs, Rubber Bridge and everything else under the sun. We keep coming back to match point pairs. That's what they seem to like.

I keep trying to dream up ways to mix up partners, and/or flight the field. Haven't been successful yet. Most like the idea, but there is always 25% who are terrified or just plain unwilling to play with someone else besides their regular partner
July 11, 2015
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I have very strong opinions on this, and you're exactly correct.

When we started EasyBridge!, there was no attempt to educate the players as to the rules of Etiquette. They could go to the “other” clubs to learn how to behave if that's what they wanted. They could talk, complain, take back their cards, and so on. At first they thought it was a God Given Right to take back a bid or card, and anyone who objected was a meany. I neither encouraged or discouraged these sentiments.

After about a year, they decided for themselves that they thought this was too loose, and they liked the idea of less table talk and liked the idea of calling the Director more an more. I encouraged this, saying the Director was there to help explain the rules and return the situation to parity – not as “The Great Punish-er”.

When we first started, they were allowed to call over the Director to ask what they should bid. The first few months, you say, “What would you like to do?” Then they say what they'd like to do, and you nod your head yes – no matter how ridiculous. You don't try to correct. You just let them have fun.

Later, you don't tell them what to do, but they can call you over to have you explain what certain bids might mean.

Pretty soon, they know what all the bids mean, and you seldom get consulted. When they do, you either explain what the bids mean, or say “I don't know what to do, that's a tough one.”

These were all ACBL sanctioned games, and it may sound incredible that I chose to run the club this way. But no one objected in the Unit, and we have 4 different Club Managers. They knew that eventually these people would be showing up in their clubs as well, and this is a good thing.

The ACBL has taken the stance that each club manager is king of his club. I suspect that as long as they feel I am running my club in the interest of Bridge, they will not say anything, and will continue to award points. We are an open club, and now these people have been with me for 7 years. About half are playing up on a regular basis, and probably I've lost half of the original members because they moved up to the other games.

I never held special games, and our rates were very cheap, but now everyone in my club is ready to entertain the idea of becoming a Life Master. So that's the next step. I have quadrupled the rates since we first started, but that's to cover the rising cost of rent, treats, and the cost of games that pay more master points.

Who says you can't buy your way to Life Master?

The bottom line. This is an excellent approach, we've gotten excellent results, and as long as you behave, the ACBL will turn their head the other way.

However, although we may have added 40% to the Unit Roster, young people are still elusive. They come, they look around at all the old people, and they leave, even if they're having fun.

We still have to go into the schools if we are to survive.


July 11, 2015
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If you put enough money at risk, I'll be totally engaged at BINGO.
July 11, 2015
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I hope I'm not repeating what has already been said.

The most successful program we had for recruiting retirees was EasyBridge! I feel we went to the well on that one and it's drying out. But a lot of the lessons of EasyBridge! can be applied to the schools. (I prefer 5th grade).

We don't necessarily want to teach kids to play Bridge. We want to change their culture. We want them to like playing cards. And if the kids are like the rest of us, eventually some will move up to Bridge. Bridge can compete with Poker. Poker gets old after a while.

Getting into 5th grade is difficult on a local level. In my area you have to have a teaching degree.

I think the ACBL could help in the following ways:

1. Educate schools, on a Nation Wide Basis, that Bridge, or any kind of card game, is good for 5th graders and beyond, and will improve their academic performance.

2. Get the same message out to their parents. Sponsor studies or whatever we need, to prove the point.

3. Break down barriers at schools, so locals can go in and present to the kids.

For us volunteers:

4. Locals have to remember that it is all about changing culture, not teaching Bridge. We want the kids to have fun. Even better would be to convince them that cards are cool. A sure winner is to get some good looking girls to play. If you can do that, the boys will follow like drones.

5. Unfortunately, it's a long slog. If you want to change culture, you have to keep at it, and keep them playing all year long, even during the summer. So, teaching has to be supplemented with social events to keep attracting them until it becomes a habit.


Yikes. Lot of work.


July 11, 2015
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Thanks Gary,
I thought maybe it was a guest star on the Kardashians. But I don't think they play Bridge.
July 11, 2015
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The suits always split 3-3 when I'm declarer. And I never thank the opponents for it. I expect it.
July 11, 2015
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Steve,

The post was written because in another thread they were complaining about a recent letter to the Editor, and how they felt it was inane. I just repeated the gist of the letter.

I don't agree with the complaint, necessarily, and I don't know what anyone could do about it anyway, but I do have sympathy.

Supposedly we play Duplicate because it is “more fair”. Regular Bridge is “boring” because too much is determined by the cards – or so some people say.

My question was intended as. If you had the opportunity to make the game less prone to random events – would you?

The unanimous verdict seems to be no. Duplicate Bridge is great the way it is.

Some of the replies in this post strike me as knee-jerk attacks. Still, if I purposely chuck out a spear for discussion in a controversial way, I guess that's what I should expect.
July 11, 2015
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LOL – You too can be a young Turk. Always speak metaphorically. Never look in the mirror. And wear a bag over your head when they take pictures.
July 11, 2015
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I like it – “Fix of the month”.

I could take photos and digitally enhance the fixer, adding horns, a tail, a swastika on the forehead, and black out some of his front teeth using photo shop.

Maybe I should draw a noose around the fixer, showing him hanging him from the ceiling.

What is a Karapet? Is it anything like Big Bird?
July 11, 2015
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Hey Zachary,

Thanks for the ideas.
We've tried 1 – They pay more attention to the percentages than their points, so it doesn't seem to work as well as I would like.
2 Seems a little bit drastic
3. I like IMP pairs, because as you say, it is more random. Unfortunately, beginners don't like it because they somehow believe that outcome is all a function of how good their hands are. And even though they don't understand match points, they understand IMPs even less.

4. Sounds promising. I'll try that and see how it works.
July 10, 2015
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All men are above average at driving a car. How does your wife drive?
July 10, 2015
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Steve,
You bring up a lot of good points.
I'd like to make a couple of comments.

In a previous life I worked for a small company. We had a Sales Department, Marketing Guy, and an Engineering Department.


The Sales Guys would always tell us we could sell at least 4 more instruments if we just painted them pink.

The Marketing Guy would tell management we could sell more if we had a better logo and gave away frequent buyer points. Luckily, the Marketing Guy mostly left us alone. The Sales Manager was life threatening and the companies worst enemy.

Only the Engineers wanted to make leaps in technology that would either ensure our future – or cause us to fall on our face and possibly bankrupt the company.

Hartman (ACBL CEO) is a Marketing Guy. He'll keep the organization alive, on life support, beyond it's natural life. But I suspect that only a Celebrity can save us in the long term.



July 10, 2015
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Did I say the opponents bid the slam?
I think it would be presumptuous to ask the opponents to note how we bid the slam against them. I think they're entitled to bid how they want.
July 10, 2015
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