Updated advice about social distancing

edited November 2020 in Club Forum

The government announced on 23rd June that it will be relaxing the social distancing requirements with effect from 4th July. This has led some clubs and other bridge organisers to wonder if they will be able to start re-opening at that time.

The government advice does say that social clubs and community centres will be able to re-open, although it says that casinos will not. However, there are a number of requirements in order to be allowed to re-open: apart from keeping a record of everyone who attends, people are still required to stay 2m apart if possible and otherwise to keep at least 1m apart along with having further mitigations like wearing face masks or having Perspex barriers between people.

Although many clubs might have the space to keep tables 2m apart, the standard bridge-table size seats players no further than 60cm from their opponents. We have been unable to uncover clear and authoritative advice that having, for instance, a Perspex screen across the table, is sufficient to mitigate this. Because of this, we are unable currently to advise that even with mitigating actions, Bridge Clubs can generally re-open to run face-to-face games that comply with the regulations.

If anything more definitive is uncovered and/or when these requirements are eased a bit more and clubs are thinking about reopening, they should firstly do a risk assessment. To help with this we have a very comprehensive document based on one provided by Nicky Bainbridge of Rugby Village Bridge Club, which she is willing for others to use. Going through this document methodically should highlight the various things that need to be considered in preparation for re-opening when the time is right.

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Comments

  • However much care is taken over cleaning surfaces, I cannot think of a way to overcome the touching of playing cards, which cannot be sanitised between rounds, by multiple members during the corse of a session. I think this will be a major stumbling block to reopening clubs.

  • edited June 2020

    Players wearing disposable gloves is a potential solution to that. Another possible solution is to open clubs only for team matches where clubs are more likely to have enough sets of boards so that each player's cards are untouched by other players; That would allow league matches to restart and allow some limited face-to-face bridge which I'm sure would be attractive to many social players. I suppose having multiple rubber bridge games going on at the same time (or similar) would also potentially be feasible.

    As Gordon says, the risk level for most clubs is probably still too high to reopen for regular duplicates, but it will also depend on average turnout, the size of the venue (in order to accommodate social distancing) and any underlying health conditions that members may have.

  • @lomax said:
    However much care is taken over cleaning surfaces, I cannot think of a way to overcome the touching of playing cards, which cannot be sanitised between rounds, by multiple members during the corse of a session. I think this will be a major stumbling block to reopening clubs.

    Well there are a couple of possibilities: one is to play with tablets but at the club. Lovebridge.com shows one way of doing this.

    Another is for each player to have their own pack of cards and to be provided with curtain cards of all the hands. They then make up just their own hand for each deal and don't share cards with anyone. Instead of a board in the centre of the table, you would need a card indicating dealer and vulnerability.

    But we are not yet at this stage: these are only thoughts in preparation for when the time does come when it is feasible to play in a club.

  • Thank you Gordon. The curtain card and personal pack option is a great idea.

  • Better than curtain cards would be a printed sheet of curtain cards – this could be easily produced for each direction. This could also include the information about the dealer and vulnerability. So a Mitchell movement would be much easier to handle.

  • @AndyCarpenter2020 said:
    Better than curtain cards would be a printed sheet of curtain cards – this could be easily produced for each direction. This could also include the information about the dealer and vulnerability. So a Mitchell movement would be much easier to handle.

    Yes indeed. It was to allow for Howells & arrow-switches that curtain-cards were suggested but even then they could be printed round by round on a sheet of paper.

  • The trouble with curtain cards - for those of us who remember them! - is that it's very easy to get the cards wrong, producing endless confusion when there turn out to be 14 trumps in the pack ;)

    I've been thinking for some time that someone must be developing a solution similar to BBO, so players can use their own phones or tablets to bid, play and (automatically) score, but via a club's own server.

    Lovebridge.com seems to be just that, but there's no indication that I can see of exactly how it works, nor how much it would cost. Is anyone in the UK working on something like this, do we know? Victor Lesk (who already runs BriAn), for example? Or if not, could the EBU explore the possibility of negotiating a discounted price for Lovebridge, or a similar system, in return for a recommendation to UK clubs?

  • PS thought the system would put in my name - I'm Sandra Nicholson (Oxon shareholder)

  • Not mentioned in the risk assessment schedule, but possibly helpful, reduce the number of players one is exposed to by preferring 3 or 4-board rather than 2-board movements.

  • @Sandra_N said:
    PS thought the system would put in my name

    Fixed.

    I anyone wants their 'handle' changed from a string of digits, email robin @ ebu.

  • Looking ahead to when we will be able to open the Club again, I can see merit in being able to run a "blended" session where some people would play at the Club and others could play the same cards from home (online) at the same time. Not just to deal with some people being timid about coming back, but also to deal with longer-term issues such as some members not liking driving at night, etc etc. One of the great things about online bridge has been that we have been able to involve members who are unable to deal with the physical demands of 3 hours at the Club and we would like to retain this inclusiveness.
    What I need though, is some guidance, on how we might run such a session - would it be feasible to upload to the scoring system the online session from BBO (via Extractor etc) and effectively treat it and the "real" session (with Bridgemates) as 2 sections? I am not sure that we can do that in Scorebridge.

  • edited July 2020

    @jw said:

    What I need though, is some guidance, on how we might run such a session - would it be feasible to upload to the scoring system the online session from BBO (via Extractor etc) and effectively treat it and the "real" session (with Bridgemates) as 2 sections? I am not sure that we can do that in Scorebridge.

    This would certainly be achievable using EBUScore, so there shouldn't be any problems as long as the turnout in both sections is high enough. I'm not a Scorebridge user myself, but it should (I expect) similarly work if it is compatible with BBO Extractor and with multiple sections.

    You may also want to see similar threads about how robots were used to fill a sitout in normal club nights before the pandemic... this concept could be replaced by having human players at home playing against human players in the club. Whether that can be implemented would depend on e.g. tablet availability, the movement etc. but something that's certainly worth considering.

  • edited July 2020
    I have been considering options around blendling online and club bridge too, similar to above... however, one of the potential cross-contamination points will be the cards themselves.
    2 options come to mind... 1) duplicate all hands so each table is issued with a full set of boards for the evening. Reduce the sessions to 1 a week, so the cards should be clear of viable viruses a week later.
    2) everyone plays online on BBO, though some will be at home others can come to the club and play in a more social environment. We have umpteen tablets, so this seems like a possibility and they can be cleaned after. People could bring their devices too.

    What do people think about that? There would be the added benefit of no leads out of turn etc
  • It seems to be quite a good solution, but will people come to a club to play online bridge? Why not just have everyone playing online but have a Zoom social gathering in the middle? Then you get safe play as well as socialising.

  • That would work for me, but trying to get people to play online bridge AND have a zoom meeting is not something that I would want to support.
    I helped 7 tables to get going last Tuesday as a first try online, while working towards having our own virtual club. It took one table 50 minutes to actually get all 4 players on the same table and start their first board! Trying to talk them through BBO and Zoom is a bit of a stretch for a lot of our members.

    I think the call to come to the bridge club is quite strong - I know of several people that will be there on day 1, whenever that will be. However, there are also several that have already decided that it will be 2021 before they venture to a club, regardless of what the law/rules say about it.

    I'm not sure that the club would be viable running solely as face-to-face, as we would just get 3 or 4 tables potentially. Add in 3 or 4 remote tables worth and now it becomes worth while again (it would also be more inclusive of those with serious health conditions).

  • To answer Gordon's question about people coming to the club to play online bridge, members' greatest fear seems to be the possibility of touching anything that may be touched by others. So not only the cards, which have to be touched when dealing as well as playing, but bidding boxes and Bridgemates. I know people have suggested solutions to these (one set of boards per table, carry your own bidding box around), but playing online not only eliminates all these issues but makes the game flow better. No leads out of turn or revokes for example. The only thing I think would encourage more people to play online at the club was if there was a way of pausing the play so they could have a chat between hands. BBO is a bit relentless especially if you are not a very fast player or have problems with clicking on the right card. It would seem a shame to throw away the benefits of playing online when we do eventually get back into clubs.
    I think Sandra's point is a good one - rather than each club contacting Lovebridge individually, would the EBU be able to do it on our behalf?

  • I'm due to have a conversation with Lovebridge tomorrow so will report back when I have.

  • Great, thank you Gordon, we look forward to hearing more!

  • edited July 2020

    I had a very interesting conversation with them and in addition to the information available on their website, they have also provided me with a link to a new video.

    It has been in use in Hungary for about 18 months and been well received, but they are adding a number of features to make it suitable for more global use and expect this to be complete in the next few weeks, after which it would be available for NBOs and their clubs. This includes having output in USEBIO format so that results can be uploaded to My EBU.

    The way it works is that people play at a bridge table live and move in the same way as usual, but they play without cards, on tablets, which stay at the tables. Styli are used to avoid too much contact with the tablets. Clubs would need to provide tablets, one per person and pay a fee to Lovebridge (currently about €2 per table per session). It is not currently possible to have a mixture of home and club play, but it is something they hope to provide at some stage.

    They have promised to keep me updated as to when the current stage of their development has been completed so that our clubs can consider if this is of interest to them.

  • Very interesting not sure whether everybody would accept playing on computers

  • Interesting, but would be better if the tablets moved with the players rather than staying at the table. That would eliminate the necessity for users to use styli to avoid touching the tablets. It could also allow players to use their own tablets/phones, rather than the club having to provide (and charge, and clean) a tablet for each player - that is, assuming that the software is capable of running on smaller devices than shown in the video.

  • @jgoacher said:
    Interesting, but would be better if the tablets moved with the players rather than staying at the table. That would eliminate the necessity for users to use styli to avoid touching the tablets. It could also allow players to use their own tablets/phones, rather than the club having to provide (and charge, and clean) a tablet for each player - that is, assuming that the software is capable of running on smaller devices than shown in the video.

    Couldn't this be done with BBO? You could carry the tablet with you...

  • When I asked the Lovebridge people about this, they said that their experience of people using their own tablets was that then they didn't see the need to move tables and it removed the social element that was fundamental to their model. Of course they could leave their own tablets on the table, but most people wouldn't be happy with that and then you are back to needing a stylus.

    You could of course just play BBO in a club and then you could include people playing from home too, but then some might wonder why they should go to the club at all. If for the social element, why not combine online bridge with a Zoom meeting and breakout rooms?

  • @gordonrainsford said:
    When I asked the Lovebridge people about this, they said that their experience of people using their own tablets was that then they didn't see the need to move tables and it removed the social element that was fundamental to their model. Of course they could leave their own tablets on the table, but most people wouldn't be happy with that and then you are back to needing a stylus.

    It does sound a bit as though Lovebridge are making a virtue out of what is possibly a design limitation. I can't see small clubs being able to afford the cost of providing a tablet at each table for every player. It looks from the demo video as though they are using large tablets (10" ?). Given that the tablet stays at the table and players move, a large tablet at each position is probably essential to accommodate players with poor eyesight. A quick look on Amazon suggests that the cheap end of the range for 10" tablets is around 80 to 90 pounds. So, for a 10 table club, the outlay would be over 3000 pounds.

    If players can use their own devices and take them when they move, this cost is avoided, or at least reduced.

  • The way I see it we could combine virtual and real bridge world using BBO with (or without) ZOOM and combine this with face to face venues, clubs or caffees or similar.

    Wherever we play bridge we would need a good internet connection. No problem at home.
    If playing online away from home we would need to be in a place with a good mobile reception. I would like to use my 7 inch tablet so I could use my mobile as a hotspot. There is a mobile BBO app and this can be used too, without a tablet. All fully charged, maybe a spare battery pack.

    Caffee Bridge
    Meet up with friends in a caffee in Chislehurst for a coffee morning, just in time for our 10.30 virtual club online session. Director could be with us, or in another caffe or at home in his/her piyamas :). There may be another coffee morning going on in a caffee in Maidstone in the same time.

    We all get on BBO and register for our 10.30 session, or we could have done this already at home before we went out. Maidstone people do the same. Perhaps this is an 18 board session. We drink coffee, eat cake and play bridge,
    making sure we don't show our screens to the other people around us. Of course we might play against the Maidstone caffee or somebody else that stayed at home. Some people played from home in the same session, with their spouse watching over their shoulder. We finish at 12.30. Some crazy person uploads the results to our website (yes this can be done from a tablet) and then we have lunch.

    Eastbourne Congress
    I see you are planning to run the virtual Eastbourne congress this year. Do you place any constraints on where the players must physically be? Could you have somebody on a Blackpool beach playing in the Eastbourne Congress or would this be against the rules? :) But, seriously, somebody might be on holidays in Eastbourne and play in the congress via the hotel wifi.

    Real Cards
    Some people might be missing real cards. If and when they can meet in a smaller groups safely, they could have a separate movement in the club or anywhere else. They could use pre-dealt hands.
    In the same time there could be an online session using the same pre-dealt hands. I understand it is possible to load your own pre-dealt hands on BBO? The real cards section and online section could be combined afterwards via a scoring program, EBUScore or BBO Extractor.

  • What we are trying to do is to find options, for clubs then to decide what suits them best.

    At the top of this thread I've mentioned one way of playing with real cards without ever touching anyone else's.

    Then there is the possibility of playing online but in a club with other members, possibly at the same time as some others play the same game from their homes.

    And there is the Lovebridge option, which might be too expensive for most clubs but has many advantages for top-level games since it allows vu-graph presentation with a time-delay to improve security. The cost saving in not having to deal boards for an event like that would also be significant.

  • @gordonrainsford said:
    ...
    And there is the Lovebridge option, which might be too expensive for most clubs but has many advantages for top-level games since it allows vu-graph presentation with a time-delay to improve security. The cost saving in not having to deal boards for an event like that would also be significant.

    For top-level games maybe, but I was replying in the context of club bridge, which is the subject of the discussion in this thread.

  • I too think it would be better if players could use their own phones or tablets. The incentive to move tables is (a) social - say hello to your opponents, and have a chat with them if you finish in time - and (b) the opportunity to ask them more detailed questions about their bidding and carding than there's time to do on BBO. Also, people could upload their system cards onto their own devices and show them to opponents on request.

    It would be nice to have an arrangement where people playing at home could join in, but our club couldn't afford to hire our normal venue and charge less than the normal table money. Having to pay BBO fees on top of this would make it very expensive for members and would probably be self-defeating, as not enough would come to the club to make it financially viable.

    For information, I've been in contact with Victor Lesk and he says he's not working on anything like this himself, but he believes others are.

  • @Sandra_N said:
    I too think it would be better if players could use their own phones or tablets. The incentive to move tables is (a) social - say hello to your opponents, and have a chat with them if you finish in time - and (b) the opportunity to ask them more detailed questions about their bidding and carding than there's time to do on BBO. Also, people could upload their system cards onto their own devices and show them to opponents on request.

    It would be nice to have an arrangement where people playing at home could join in, but our club couldn't afford to hire our normal venue and charge less than the normal table money. Having to pay BBO fees on top of this would make it very expensive for members and would probably be self-defeating, as not enough would come to the club to make it financially viable.

    For information, I've been in contact with Victor Lesk and he says he's not working on anything like this himself, but he believes others are.

    This looks interesting - being used at Winchester Bridge Club.

  • Harrogate Bridge Club, who are running three BBO duplicate sessions per week, have posted this message on their website. They normally have six or seven tables in each room.

    ============

    In response to members’ enquiries Harrogate Bridge Club is planning to run a trial session at the club at 1pm on Tuesday July 21st to see if there is the demand for this. This initial session will be free.

    The decision had not been taken lightly and a number of precautions have been and will be put in place to ensure our safety, which include additional cleaning of the club as required.

    To avoid contamination from bridge equipment we ask participants to bring an iPad, tablet or laptop so that we can play on line with company thus maintaining the social side of bridge. Rob [..] will attend this session to give advice on their use.

    On arrival we hope to do a temperature check and the hand sanitisers provided should be used and we ask that face masks be worn inside the club. Coats should be placed in bags (your own or the plastic ones provided) to avoid cross contamination. Men should place theirs in the bar area and ladies under the windows at the back of the club.

    At the moment we suggest that members bring their own drink and do not use the kitchen facilities. However small bottles of water will be provided free with disposable cups.

    In order to facilitate social distancing most of the furniture downstairs has been relocated and only three tables will be in use in each downstairs room ie only space for 24 players.

    If you wish to attend this trial session please contact me [..]. Bookings will be on a first come first served basis for the 24 places.

    ============

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