Play Without the Experts

Submitted by English Bridge Union on

The Somerset Barbarians Bridge Club has developed from a collaboration between Ilminster and Crewkerne Bridge Clubs who played online together throughout the pandemic. Although both clubs are now happily playing face to face again several members indicated a wish to continue playing together online hence the formation of this new online club which is aimed at average and not expert club players.

It all started at the beginning of April 2020 with two non-affiliated clubs, Crewkerne and Ilminster. Following the closure of clubs due to lockdown, the Tony Russ from the Somerset Contract Bridge Association (SCBA) approached clubs in their county and offered them opportunity to play their games online. Mike Dobson runs the Ilminster club with his wife and two friends and is also the treasurer of the Crewkerne club. Both clubs were already heavily intertwined, with about 80% of members playing at both clubs. When Mike heard of the offer from the SCBA to play their club games online, he was very eager to take up the offer. He set up a meeting with the Crewkerne committee, following which they were keen for Mike to move forward with the set up and running of the events.

Mike contacted the members of both clubs letting them know the proposed plan and giving them detailed instructions on logging in to the new BBO platform and how to purchase BBO dollars. Mike and Crewkerne Club Secretary Jo Hemmings also offered practice sessions to the members, to help them feel comfortable with the technology, using the casual game function on BBO. The uptake from their members was impressive, effort was made to involve all members.

The first session started on 2nd June 2020, Mike was pleased to see 11 tables during the first session, with subsequent sessions often having 18 tables. Invites were offered to members from the nearby clubs of Fivehead and Bridport to join, along with individual friends, all joining following committee approval.

One morning, for some inexplicable reason Mike says he decided to email everyone that had played in the previous session, a sarcastic but amusing report on the previous night’s play. What an error of judgement that was as he ended up writing such commentary for well over a year! One or two people even mentioned they were not othered so much with the bridge but always looked out for Mike’s report. One member even suggesting she was going to turn them into a book!

Then in August 2021, the clubs had the opportunity to return to face-to-face play which both clubs agreed to as a handful of members had not wanted to play online for the previous few months and were desperately missing the game. Many members enjoyed playing online and wanted to continue to have the option to do so. With this in mind, the Barbarians club was formed, with play scheduled on a night that still allows both the Crewkerne and Ilminster clubs to have their weekly face-to-face games.

The Barbarians club is open to all Somerset clubs, for the average club members to join. The club is kept at an average level of play to maintain the light-hearted atmosphere. There are regularly 10 tables for these nights. Mike continues his weekly report when he can, poking fun at the previous night’s play. New players from Somerset wishing to play should contact Mike Dobson at

Mike noted that “none of this would have happened without Tony's input and we are also very grateful to Frank Coltman who has been the director of both events the whole time and who also has a sense of humour which he brings to the sessions”.

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