Midweek events at Eastbourne

Last year when we were not able to run the Summer Meeting at Eastbourne, we ran the mid-week events as satellite events in a few clubs around the country. This was very successful so we decided to continue it this year, which certainly meant the overall fields were much larger than they would otherwise have been.

However, a number of people felt they detracted from coming to Eastbourne and removed much of the incentive for staying during the mid-week. One point that was made by a few people was that the trophies should have gone to the Eastbourne winners rather than the overall winners.

The demise of the mid-week knockout teams was lamented, though no real solution to this was proposed, since it had been in decline for quite a number of years and was discontinued solely due to lack of support. Any good suggestions for bringing it back?


  • I think there are two things that puts players off playing in the midweek knockouts
    1) Threesomes. You can't guarantee there will 8, 16 or 32 teams entering so invariably you need threesomes (or byes) to get the right number of teams through to the second round. Even though with two out of three teams qualifying from a threesome the teams in the threesome have a better mathematical chance, I think most players prefer head to head matches. There is an alternative way of reducing the field in the first session and that is to make it a multi-teams, with the leading team getting first pick of opponents in the next round.
    2) The less strong teams get detered from entering at all, because the field is always very strong, and they know they are going to get trounced in the first round. A way round this is to borrow an idea that is popular in america and have bracketing. In america the brackets are determined by master points. I'm not suggesting we do that, but we could use NGS grades to determine the brackets. Ideally you would want at least three brackets but initally, until the entries build up, you might only have enough teams for two brackets. It would be up to the directors in charge where to do the split, but there is no reason the brackets have to be the same size.
    Just one example, say 12 teams enter and the directors decide that a good place to do the split would be after the 7th strongest team.
    I would suggest the following
    1st Bracket 7 team multiple teams, 4 qualifiers, 1st team gets choice of opponents from 3rd & 4th teams.
    2nd Bracket 5 team multiple teams, either 2 or 4 qualifiers, if 4 then continue as above.

    Another thing they do in america, is to have a new event starting each day. So for example, at Eastboune the KO teams would start on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday afternoon you could have a new event beginning, consisting of any teams eliminated on Monday who wants to play again, plus any new teams that want to start on Tuesday.

  • edited August 2019

    Combining David's points with those already suggested relating to a "handicap" system of sorts, you could have (for example) three different multiple teams sections (e.g. King and above, Queens and Jacks, Tens and below - dependent on numbers). This way you're playing against teams of similar ability (as suggested above). Assuming e.g. 24 teams with 8 teams in each section, you could have 5 qualifiers from the King+ section, 4 from Q/J and 3 from 10- so all teams have a chance to qualify for the main final, but with a different probability. From then on, it's a straight knockout (though again you could mix up the seeding to avoid the 10- teams having to immediately play the strongest team in the QFs), and with a possible repechage/open event for non-qualifiers.

    Most of this is very similar to David's view above, but providing teams in each section the chance to qualify for the main final (as opposed to a secondary final based on their initial bracket).

    Either way, this seems like a very good way of avoiding both the triangle and limited teams issue - however, I think the bigger issue is encouraging people to stay during midweek at all (with quite a high additional expense), so this would have to be combined with some other (perhaps more innovative) tournament formats (and not just eight pairs events). The suggestion made to offer a fast track bridge course for complete beginners (or also improvers) for other family members could be a possibility, even if the turnout initially is relatively low. Also, only offering trophies to Eastbourne winners should prevent the satellite events from taking away too much of the entry, while the offer of masterpoints and (at least some) prize money would hopefully allow the satellite events to continue to run successfully.

  • Here's some feed-back from one of the other mid-week venues, FWIW:

    Last year and this year, I ran heats of the Monday and Thursday evening events (PWTE & Mixed Pairs) at Sheffield Bridge Club. Both years I wrote to about 20 other bridge club secretaries in the area and, strangely, I got no pairs of non-Sheffield BC members on any occasion. Almost everyone playing at Sheffield BC was a club member and very probably none would have been at Eastbourne had we not been running these heats this year. The events were popular and I would strongly consider running them again at SBC if invited next year.

    Barrie Partridge - CTD for Bridge Club Live

  • When I first went to Brighton ten years ago, there was a large contingent of juniors who stayed the whole week. It seemed to be the young players who were holding the midweek events together, and I think it's fair to say that they were the group most put off by the move away from Brighton. This year I stayed the whole week, but that was largely because my regular partner is my wife and we fancied a holiday in Sussex anyway. With the drop in numbers and strength of field, there's really nothing to attract, say, a strong young junior pair, to stay the whole week. And if you can't get people to stay for midweek, they're less likely to come down for both weekends.

    Holding the midweek events as simultaneous really was a kick in the teeth for those of us staying the week. I'm not fussed about the PWTE or the Mixed Pivot Teams (though Pivot Teams seems like an odd event to play as a sim), but the Tuesday and Thursday night pairs ought to be fairly prestigious and have been massively devalued by having to compete against pairs playing against their regular club opponents. These events ought to be highlights of the week. I'd be OK with the suggested compromise of awarding the trophies to the Eastbourne winners.

    It'd be nice to reinstate the midweek teams, but if the numbers aren't there, more could be made of the afternoon Open Pairs competitions. How about a small prize for the individual/pair with the best three scores from Monday to Thursday? This would at least give a sense of continuity and maintain interest through the week.

    But those things are just tinkering: personally I think the EBU should go all-in to make something of the midweek, and step 1 has to be to kill off the Seniors competitions. Maybe in the past there were enough players to hold a Seniors congress and a high-quality Open congress concurrently, but this isn't the case any more. You need to get the non-Seniors to stay for the week, and the strength of field just isn't going to be there if the Seniors go off to play their own events. Ideally, create an Open event that people would actually care about: not just another multi-session pairs competition. Something like a "Summer Foursomes" would be great, ie. more than just a reinstatement of the midweek teams: perhaps a pure double-elimination like the Spring Fours, but otherwise a similar format that doesn't involve getting knocked out before Tuesday teatime.

    If you can get people interested in midweek again then they'll be there for the weekends.

  • The mid-week is dying. This year outside the seniors about 60 people stayed for the week including several family groups. I am sure the satellite events contributed to this decline. Barrie may well be right that not many Northern players would have come to Eastbourne rather than playing locally (we do need to look at why fewer strong Northern players no longer come at all) I am sure that is not true of Richmond which held 'heats' of all four mid-week events. I am sure if the format stays the same there will be far fewer than 60 next year.

    We could paper over the cracks by moving the July seniors event to the Summer Meeting but as I will say elsewhere I favour moving it to the spring.

    If we are to save the midweek we need a dramatic move. We are at such a low ebb that an incremental approach will not work. Even with the reduced numbers who want to play in tournaments there are enough to make the mid-week viable but we need to move swiftly. I propose a Green-Point event on the Wednesday of 54-60 boards with two meal breaks which starts early enough and finishes late enough that it is not commutable. Perhaps this could be the KO teams with a Swiss consolation or may be even easier a KO Pairs with Swiss consolation.

  • Across the atlantic they have three eleven day national congresses each year, starting on a Friday, and ending a week later on the Sunday, so exactly the same length as Eastbourne. The difference is that at Eastbourne there are only two major events, and each is just over two days long, (two and a half if you are in the teams final) whereas in the american nationals there are major events spanning all eleven days of the congress with a full programme of lesser events for non-expert players. If we we want people to stay the whole week there need to be more attractive midweek events than are currently offered. Reintroducing the afternoon Knockout is one way, also have other events spanning two or more of the afternoons, so that there are events people want to play in both afternoon and evening.

    I agree with Paul Gibbons, I think the satellite events are contributing to the decline. There's no incentive to come to Eastbourne when you can play in the same event, possibly in a much weaker field, on you own doorstep.

    I also think the Seniors should be a separate congress on a different weekend, it wouldn't matter if we were still getting the number of entries we were getting 15 years ago, but now, it just means that the Seniors that would play in the open events are playing in thier own event reducing the entries to the open events.

  • Agree with the Davids; I think a "summer congress relaunch" is worth a shot, without the seniors events running alongside. (Nothing against seniors events; I just think they should be separate congresses).

    I think the best schedule would be to have two, maybe three, major midweek events, with the first starting the Sunday evening. The format/scoring methods would be chosen to provide contrast with the existing weekend events.

  • By the way, I think a Summer Fours is a great idea, but perhaps better for it to be held over the August BH weekend to give it a chance of having the same success and prestige as the Spring Fours?
  • I played the midweek compeitions at my club - and much enjoyed them. There is no way my non-bridge interested spouse would let me abandon her to go and play bridge for a week and a half. Keep them for Eastbourne if you like, but don't abandon the concept of distributed EBU competitions.

  • A bit out of left-field, but my suggestion would be to develop the Summer Meeting beyond bridge and have it become a Mind Sports Festival. I don't know much about the new venue, but back in the Brighton days I used to look at those huge empty halls, especially midweek, and think that smaller games federations would kill for that kind of space. We'd still have the same bridge events, but there would also be Backgammon and Go and Shogi and board games and other fun events in different parts of the venue.

    Maybe there wouldn't be a lot of cross-pollination - it's optimistic to hope that dozens of Chess players would drop in to the bridge - but I think it would give the event a much better atmosphere, make it feel special and become something people looked forward to again. Brighton used to have 1000+ people milling around, browsing the book stands, chatting about hands, and if we can't get back to those numbers with bridge players, maybe this is the next best thing. Plus presumably it would make things a bit cheaper.

    Maybe one of the reasons that some people don't play midweek is because they don't really fancy ten days in a row of bridge. But if there was a Ticket To Ride tournament one day to break things up, or they could spend an afternoon trying out Shogi, who knows?

  • How about more seminars aimed at a variety of different levels. The "discuss it with an expert" sessions are always popular.

  • @Karen said:
    How about more seminars aimed at a variety of different levels. The "discuss it with an expert" sessions are always popular.

    They are always popular at the weekends - less so during the weeks. And of course we need to find experts willing to do them!

  • Let's not forget the Really Easy Congress midweek was pretty successful with 24 pairs in the final Swiss Pairs.
    It may be very possible to increase this number with a little concerted pushing through teacher network, club network, website and social media.

    Peter Bushby Suffolk

  • Building on Karen's suggestion.... how about an 11AM start, 24 boards with a couple of experts playing in the field, an included buffet lunch with wine, and then the experts lead a discussion of the hands and bridge tales and tactics in general. This worked very well at a local club when Sally Brock visited.

    Peter Bushby Suffolk

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