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RIP local bridge clubs

ACBL virtual club games on BBO are a reasonable substitute now that in person games are not available, and more and more people are playing in these games as their local club remains closed.

I think we are seeing the future of bridge with these online games. In person club games are not likely to return any time soon and it could be that physical bridge clubs are a thing are the past. Two significant factors may drive this:

1) The virus will permanently change the way we live. People will not be quick to embrace a scenario where everyone is in close physical proximity and everyone touches the same cards. This will be especially true of the older demographic which makes up the majority of bridge players. For these folks in particular the social aspect of going to a bridge club is sometimes just as important as the game itself. But will they go if they perceive that there is a health risk? Evening club games are already suffering because these people don't want to drive at night. Many players will opt for the comfort and safety of their own homes and elect to play in virtual games.

2) Why would any club owner consider reverting to in person games? They get paid for running virtual games which are much easier - no setup or tear down, no board duplication, no snacks or lunch to provide, no room to rent, no driving to and from the game, etc. Club directors typically arrive at their club an hour before game time in order to set up, and leave half an hour after the game has finished. They also have to spend time driving to and from the club, duplicating boards, and shopping for food. They can run the same game virtually in less than half the time without ever leaving home. And directing is also much easier - no bid or leads out of turn, no revokes, and no break in tempo situations to handle (because any delay may be network rather than player induced). If a club owner did try to restart physical games at sometime in the future they may find that attendance is not what it was because of the first point. There is not a lot of money to be made running local bridge clubs, and reduced attendance would make many, particularly the smaller once or twice a week clubs, financially unsustainable.

Perhaps in person club games are a thing of the past. Cry

One downside of virtual games, of course, is that they are vulnerable to cheating. The partners can be on the phone with each other during the game, or even in the same room. While I believe the vast majority of players would never consider compromising the integrity of the game it only takes a few to spoil it for everyone else. This could be solved with a partnership between BBO and an online meeting platform like Zoom. My vision for the future of the virtual game would include audio and visual of all four players at the table. This will also bring back an element of social interaction that we all miss.

The ACBL gets table fees from its sanctioned club games whether those games are physical or virtual so this aspect of its business should not be impacted by this transition. More problematic is what is the future of ACBL tournaments?

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