National Grading Scheme Consultation

The EBU’s National Grading Scheme has now been in operation for over five years. We are delighted that it has been such a success over this time, and it continues to be extremely popular with the membership – the relevant pages are the second most visited on our website, with over 20,000 visitors a month - and the envy of bridge players, and NBOs, in many other countries.

At the AGM in November we presented Mike Christie with the Silver Award in recognition of the work he has done to both establish the system, and help to update it.

This seemed an appropriate time to consult with the clubs to establish whether there was anything further which could be done to improve the NGS. We are therefore seeking any feedback you may have - please send it to Gordon Rainsford:

One issue which is of concern to us relates to the misuse of the ‘exemption’ which is available. Last year we contacted all clubs to highlight how the system should be used, and wrote specifically to clubs where we believed players were misusing the exemption, but the practice seems to be continuing. It is therefore our proposal to remove the ability to exempt a pair from the NGS calculation, and all results will be included. We would like your feedback on this proposal.

To remind you, one host player in each session, with their partner if desired, is currently permitted to have their score exempted from inclusion in the NGS calculation, providing they express their intention to be exempted in advance of the session starting.

This exemption was included so pairs which come about when an unfamiliar partnership is created at short notice, with no time to discuss a system, do not have their NGS adversely affected.

Instead, we are seeing instances where a player appears to be exempted with great frequency, but only when they get a bad score – their good scores are always included. This indicates that they wait until the session is scored before choosing whether to be exempted, and therefore appears to be wilful manipulation of the system. Others have been exempted even when playing with regular partners.

We are aware that some people believe that removing the exemption will reduce the number of people willing to act as a host/stand-by player. These people shouldn’t worry, however, as the data shows that playing with someone for the first time has very little impact on your NGS – Michael Clark has crunched the numbers and explains all in this article.

Some people are concerned that playing with a much weaker (or a much stronger) player will adversely affect their NGS. That is not the case. As Michael’s article points out, the NGS judges performance relative to expectations, so there is no disadvantage to partnering a player of a much different grade. The exemption was therefore not intended to be used by people acting in a ‘mentor’ role. Players who do find their grades are lower than they think merited by their ability can, however, always opt to have their NGS shown as “private” until they get back to what they believe to be an appropriate grade.

If you have any other thoughts or ideas relating to the NGS then please get in touch with Gordon Rainsford:, so we can consider them during this consultation period. Please send your thoughts before 30th April.