Handicap events

The suggestion was made that we should make more use of the NGS scheme to run handicap events, recognising how central handicaps are to sports like golf and horse racing.


  • Serious golf events don't use handicaps. And handicaps only exist in horse racing to facilitate gambling. That's not to say that handicapped events in bridge shouldn't exist, but I don't think their place is in national tournaments.

  • Agree entirely. Perhaps having a "handicap prize" would be nice though.

  • Entirely disagree!( Assuming I would be agreeing with Michael.)
    Sure, the Majors aren't handicap events, but I don't think anyone is suggesting the Spring Fours or the Gold Cup would become handicap events.
    A tournament schedule that is oriented to 'serious' competitors will only be sustainable if there is a feeder schedule that is nurturing the next generation of those serious players. Arguably the bulk of the current EBU tournaments provide that feed. And it is that feed that is declining.
    In my view (virtually) anything that can be done to stimulate entries should be tried.
    At our Club, with poor attendance at our monthly teams event, we trialled a handicap teams tournament this year.
    I was initially sceptical: there appeared to be some very generous handicaps around!
    But the results weren't ridiculous and the events have proved very popular.

  • When tournament bridge restarted after WW2, one of the events was a handicap teams event, the Equity Cup.

    It attracted a decent entry in its first year but was not held thereafter. I suspect that the reason might have been that playing a 32 board match with a starting deficit of up to 3,000 aggregate points was not an attractive prospect.

  • We have tried handicap teams scoring this year in parallel with our main club multi-round teams competition (on the same boards) and it went down really well. Players and teams who faithfully turn up each month but normally have no chance of winning the main teams contest came out on top and got prizes. Both contests were summed over the year (8 best scores out of 12). This went down well with the entire club membership. Our monthly teams night is actually the best attended of our sessions.

    Why not have a handicap score as part of the main EBU Summer Swiss Pairs/Teams, in parallel with the main results? That way the people at the bottom of the field have something to play for (apart from the Green Points). It gives an extra incentive to club players to step up a level and have a go against the strongest players, even when they know they won't do well in the main ranking.

  • I think Ian Kemp has nailed it. I have some additional thoughts to expand on this idea.

    You could have two trophies: the current one and the handicap one (giving it an attractive name like the Terence Reese Cup or whatever). The handicap trophy would be given to the pair or team with the best NGS result relative to their expectation (I suggest for teams the performance of both pairs is considered in aggregate rather than make it into a pair event). The handicap winners would be given equal coverage when reporting on the event. You could also present some mini trophies or medals to keep permanently (a bit like those given out for the Tollemache final) for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the handicap.

    I think it is important to give a reasonable amount of prize money for the handicap event. I am not sure you should go as far as to equalise the main event and the handicap, but I suggest giving out at least three prizes that are approximately 50% of the top three in the main event. I would suggest abolishing the B and C stratification prizes to fund this. You could still give additional green points for the highest placed pairs in the B and C stratifications.

    Then you have two ways to sell the Summer meeting Swiss to those who do not expect to do well: (1) "even if you don't expect to be in contention, you have an equal chance of winning the handicap"; (2) "you may have the opportunity to play against the stars of the game (and it won't hurt your chances if you do because of the way the handicapping works)".

    (I would suggest not using the term "main event" when promoting it and instead refer to the names of the trophies. The key is to try to give them equal recognition. For the Swiss Pairs, you could simply describe it as the Harold Poster Trophy for the highest score and the [Terence Reese Cup] for the best handicap performance.)

    This approach could apply to a wide range of events.

    If you think this is a good idea, I would suggest "backtesting" it first, just to check that the top pairs or teams in the handicap are usually not also those that finish high up in the main event. If they are then you could introduce an additional restriction that the top N places (for some N to be determined) are not eligible for the handicap trophy or prizes.

    You would probably need to restrict the handicap entries to those who have a mature NGS grade, in order to avoid foreign experts gaining an advantage.

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