Electronic scoring has spread like wildfire over the last few years, and now all EBU events are scored by Bridgemate (our Official Wireless Scoring Provider), and most counties and many clubs also use some sort of wireless scoring. However the setup costs for this are not cheap, and some smaller clubs that cant afford it may feel they are getting left behind.
With this in mind, bridge player Victor Lesk, who makes apps (applications for use on smartphones & tablet computers) for a living, has developed BriAn. The idea behind BriAn (which stands for Bridge on iPhone and Android) is that so many of us now have smartphones (iPhones or Android phones), that they could be used as scoring devices, sending information over a wireless internet connection.
I went along to a game run by Ned Paul, which was scored using BriAn, and Victor Lesk was there to show me it in action. The most important thing that BriAn needs is an internet connection, but many venues will already have that. If you are playing in a venue without internet, all is not lost at the game I watched, Victor ran a server off a dongle on his computer to provide a wireless connection for all the players!
Then there needs to be a scoring device (iPhone, Android phone, Android tablet or iPad) at each table; most tables will have at least one player who is able to provide their own. If a stationary pair provides the scoring device, it will be assigned to the table, but it is also possible to have a moving device assigned to one pair instead, going from table to table with the movement. On those occasions when neither pair at a table has a scoring device, Victor has some spare tablet computers available (which he also sells at a very reasonable price), to use until someone with their own device comes to play at the table.
At the start of play, Victor set up the event with an appropriate movement and checked that there was a scoring device on each table. Most of the players seemed to know what to do, but he was there to show those who didnt. The event setup can be done on a smartphone or tablet, but its easiest to use a computer so that you can type names in on a keyboard.
The user interface is attractive and straightforward. Players can see how they are doing as they go along, with a ranking list being displayed on their device, and hand records with Deep Finesse analysis shown after each board has been played and scored. One further advantage that comes from its using the internet, is that it can score events over more than one venue: Ned has organised a series of Café Bridge events for the London Metropolitan Bridge Association, in which players move around from one venue to another over the course of the session. BriAn scores these with ease, when other systems might find it hard to cope with the players being so spread out.
It certainly seemed to me that BriAn might indeed be just the answer for small clubs that cant afford a whole battery of scoring devices and a server. It has a full range of all the most common pairs movements, and Victor has plans to introduce the facility for scorers to program in their own. It will produce p2p files for submitting to the EBU and web-pages for your own sites. The software for running a duplicate is free to download, and payment is made by purchasing batches of credits it costs less than 30 pence a pair per session to score an event using BriAn.
More information about BriAn (which is one of many solutions) can be found at http://www.brianbridge.net