MASTER POINTS & STRATA | PICK-UP SLIPS | BIDDING BOXES | A FINAL NOTE

In tournaments, or even in club games, there are sometimes more than 16 tables. If this were the case, then the game would have to divided into two sections. Let us say there are 25 tables. Then one section, call it SECTION A, would have 13 tables and the other section, call it SECTION B, would have 12 tables. There would be 2 boards per round for 12 rounds, for a total of 24 boards played. 11 is top and the average is 61. 
          Why not have one section of 25 tables? If this were the case then some teams would play against opponents that other teams never play against. Example: team # 1 East/West  would play against teams 1 - 12;  while team # 13 East/West would play against teams 13 - 25. Not a real Duplicate Bridge game. Having two sections  means that each East/West team will play against mostly the same North/South teams as every other East/West team. 
         The problem that does arise is that one section might have hands that have larger Match Point swings. That is, the Match Point score in one section would be considerably higher than that in the other section. And since there has to be one over all winner between the two sections, this is not an equitable situation. Solution: have the hands played in SECTION A be the same as the hands played in SECTION B. Therefore both sections will play exactly the same hands. Big swings, little swings are irrelevant.
          How is this done? With computers it is easy. Before the match the computer generates and prints 36 numbered hands. After the players take their seats they are instructed to flush the boards - arrange the cards in suits and put them back into the pockets. One pocket will have only Spades; another only Hearts and so on.  Then the printed computer generated hands will be distributed with the number on the printed hand to the corresponding board number. Example: hands 17 and 18 will go to table 9 (in SECTIONS A and B) that has boards 17 and 18. The players at table 9 will create hands 17 and put the cards back into the appropriate pocket in the board. They will do the same for hand 18. 
         Since each person at table 9 has seen the cards for these two boards, the boards are passed to a lower table (sometimes with a skip). Now the play can begin. SECTION A and SECTION B will be playing the exact same hands. 
        HAND RECORD. Since these hands are in the computer, it is relatively easy to generate all 36 hands on one sheet of paper: 18 hands per side. This is called the Hand Record.  The Hand Record is a  printout of all the hands played. Naturally it should be given out to the players after the match. See Hand Record.
         Now a player can see why she did poorly or great on any one particular hand. The best way to do this is to take the Private Score Card, go to the Summary Sheet and write in the Match Points scored for each board. 
         On board 24 we only got 2 Match Points. Why? Bad defense?  Or did the opening lead burn a trick? Or was it superior Declarer play? And on board 4, should 2 $ be made? Are we in the wrong contract? Or should the opponents be playing the hand going down 2? The answers to these questions are often to be found in the Hand Records.

There are no secrets in Bridge. It is true, your opponents do not have to know your mothers maiden name, but they should know what your bid means. Also what are your discarding conventions, if any; and what are your opening leads? What is your No Trump range? And anything special? All this information is usually contained on the Convention Card which is the outside of the Private Score Card. The Private Score Card is private, it is hidden; while the Convention Card is public, it is visible.
          The Convention Card should be filled out by you and your partner before play begins. If you are starting with a new partner, get to the game early so you both can discuss conventions, discards, etc. and fill out the Convention Card.
          The ACBL* requires that one Convention Card be on the table for club games and two Convention Cards displayed for tournaments.  The opponents can view the Card at  any time and ask questions concerning its content.
         Any convention that is in RED on the Card must be alerted. That is, the partner of the one who made the bid says the word "alert." When it is an opponent's turn to bid , he may ask the one who said "alert" what her partner's bid means.
         Any convention on the Card that is in BLUE must be announced. That is, the partner of the one who made the bid says the word describing the bid, such as transfer or forcing. 
         Any convention that is not on the Card or differs from SAB (Standard American Bidding) should be pre-alerted. That is, alerted  before the cards are taken out from their pockets on the board. Such bids might include weak No Trump with a range of 12 - 14 HCP; or the short Club opening; or the Precision System. This gives the opponents a chance to create a defense to your convention before the bidding and play has started.
*American Contract Bridge League

DO NOT bid or play with special emphasis or use any inflection of the voice which would give partner information as to the nature of your hand.

DO NOT use any winking, waving, shaking of the head, standing on the chair or other forms of body language to help partner decide what to bid or play.

DO NOT fall asleep at the bridge table. Sleeping or paying 
insufficient attention can be disconcerting to those who are still awake.

DO NOT indicate approval or disapproval of a call or play.  Throwing things and cursing are in bad form. Gratuitous comments are also to be avoided. 

DO NOT prolong the play unnecessarily. But just to play it safe keep food and drink nearby.

DO NOT hesitate, either in the bidding or in the play, in order to deceive the opponents. However, if there really is a problem, hesitation and  even thinking is permissible. Try to limit the time to one hour.

DO NOT vary the normal tempo of bidding or play for the purpose of distracting the other players.  There are other ways of doing this; taking off your clothes or playing the saxophone.

DO NOT cry, moan, faint or die during the game. This does not enhance partnership longevity.

DO NOT use different designations for the same call (A Club, or I'll bid a Club or I think I'll bid, er, let's see, one Club,  or Why not, make it a Club, etc. are incorrect. The only proper bid is one Club. 

DO NOT lead the next trick before the previous trick is completed. If you won the trick, take it in before you lead the next trick. 

DO NOT do anything that might cause annoyance or embarrassment to your partner or to the other players during the game.  Save that for later.

DO enjoy and have fun.

Duplicate Bridge is not really a money game, although many local clubs offer cash prizes to the winners. Some clubs might offer a reduction or even an elimination if next week's card fee. Almost no tournament, sectional, regional or national offer cash  prizes. So why play? For the excitement of competition, the joy and challenge of the game, and the glory of winning. Event hough it is just a card game, Bridge becomes a matter of life and death. 
          The ACBL (American Contract Bridge League) does add an incentive to the game by awarding Master Points to the winners and runners up. Master Points are intangible; a numerical record keep in a computer. (In the old days of BC - Before Computers - Master Points were issued on a pink slip of paper.) Besides being a status symbol (the more the higher), these points are use to determine a persons level of play. This  would add equity and meaning to the match. 
         Thus, a novice or beginner event might be for players with under 100 Master Points. And these 100 points might be divided up further into various strata: C strata 0 - 20;  B strata 21 - 70; and  A strata 71 - 100.  So in a novice stratiflighted event the A, B and C's play together, but there is a winner for each strata. That is, there is a C winner, B winner and A winner. Or you might be in a game for only C players or just B and C (stratified). You can only win in the strata you are in or higher. Thus a B player can be first in the A strata or B strata, but can never be first in the C strata. 
          For regular non novice events the strata might be dispersed as follows: 0 - 200 is C; 200 - 1500 is B; and 1500 + is A. The Director or tournament committees members decide how to split the stratum up.
          In Team-of-4 knockout events the total number of Master Points of the entire team, is used  to determine the bracket and seed.  If your team, let us say, has a total of 2325 Master Points, then it might be the second bracket. Brackets are arbitrary and are made by the Directors. Teams with a total of Master Points of 0 - 800 would play in the bottom bracket. 800 to 2000 in the middle bracket and 2000 + the top bracket. And teams within the brackets are usually seeded. That is the team with the lowest number of Master Points will play against the team with the highest number of Master Points. (This prevents the two top teams from knocking each other out early in the match.) 
              It should be noted that the number of Master Points one has does not necessarily reflect the  persons Bridge playing ability. There could be players with lots of Master Points that are not as good as players with less. This system is not perfect.

Most tournaments do not use Traveling Score Slips, but instead use Pick-up Slips. See figure 20 below. These are filled out by North at the end of every hand. One Pick-up Slip per round. When the round is over, a player from the East/West team checks to see if the scoring is correct. (Keeping record in the Private Score Card is essential for settling any dispute.) If correct that person initializes the Pick-up Slip. It is put on the table face down to be collected by a caddy during the next round. 
         With Traveling Score Slips, after a few rounds the players can see how they did on any particular board. They see  the results of how of how the hand was previously played. This cannot be done  with Pick-up Slips, making estimation of how one did on a hand more difficult. 
          Pick-up Slips are used in club games for the last round of a match. This enables the Director to enter the SCORES from the Traveling Score Slips into the computer. While the Director is doing this, the players are finishing the last round. During the last round, the Director will sometimes post preliminary results. The Final Result will be printed out when the SCORES from all the Pick-up Slips are tabulated. 
          The Final Scores are posted. Now, if you want, you can ask the Director for a Summary Sheet.

figure 21  PICK-UP SLIP

Unlike what some players might think, Bidding boxes are not some torture device designed by a sadistic bridge player.
PROS: Everyone can see the bid. This is especially welcome in a noisy room or by people who are aurally handicapped.  No extraneous gestures or intonations. There is just the bid and nothing but the bid. Since there is no oral bidding the room tends to be quieter. And when the bidding is finished after 3 passes, everyone can see what the bidding sequence was for the entire auction.
CONS: Cost is a factor. Bidding boxes for 20 tables could run as high as $700. And there is upkeep; bidding cards get lost or worn. Unfamiliarity is also a reason not to use Bidding Boxes. I  like the old way, where I said the bid.  Another reason for not using them is that Bidding Boxes take up room on the table. The Guide Cards, the boards, the Convention Cards, and maybe a cup of coffee - all use up the same table space.
            In spite of the CONS, all  tournaments use Bidding Boxes, and a lot of clubs are starting to use them. So make room and get used  to them; Bidding Boxes are here to stay.

E - Flat. Not quite. Duplicate Bridge is ubiquitous. It is played in clubs, tournaments, on boats, on the internet, and maybe one day even on planes and trains. It fulfills some of the reasons why we play the game: fun, social and mental stimulation. 
          This is done on a larger scale than if you just played at home with your regular foursome. And every one can play; there are games for the novice and expert. No excuses, get out and play!
         Duplicate Bridge  extends the boundary of Bridge  to include more people, lots of fun and a greater challenge.