Club Management Focus: Summer 2020

Welcome to the Summer edition of Club Management Focus 2020.

When the Lockdown was introduced back in March I fully presumed (perhaps naively) that by now clubs would have re-opened. Sadly that is not the case, social distancing requirements mean that almost all clubs remain shut. We fully appreciate that clubs are keen to re-open and the EBU continues to review the latest government guidance and to advise clubs accordingly. The latest information can be found here based on a response from our insurers.

Until such time as clubs can re-open face to face there are many ways that clubs can meet together to play bridge online. We now have over 200 EBU Virtual Clubs on Bridge Base Online (BBO) and other clubs are playing together socially on BBO, BCL or other platforms. If your club is yet to embrace online bridge but would like advice on doing so then please contact me via jonathan@ebu.co.uk or 01296 317206. Similarly if your club is playing socially but would like to start running club duplicates online then please contact me and I can help you to get setup as a Virtual Club on BBO.

A benefit of the Summer Meeting being online is that it is more accessible to people from all over the country. The main weekend events: Championship Pairs and Championship Teams have a similar format to normal. During the week there will be a Knockout Teams event as well as the Progressive Congress (formerly known as the Really Easy Congress). The Progressive Congress will feature Pairs, Swiss Pairs and Teams as well as Zoom seminars and hand discussion. Please encourage members of your club to have a look at the events on offer and to join in. Full details can be found here.

We hope you will find the information below useful. Please let us know if there are topics you would like us to cover in future editions.

If you have any queries about any of the content in this newsletter then the best points of contact are likely to be myself Club Liaison Officer, Jonathan Lillycrop – jonathan@ebu.co.uk - or Communications Officer, Sam Kelly - sam@ebu.co.uk.

  • Club Information Forms
  • Dimmie Fleming Awards
  • BBO Royalties
  • BBO Extractor
  • Inter-National Teams
  • Virtual Summer Meeting
  • Bill Hirst
  • Club Success Stories
  • EBU Lockdown League
  • Getting a club and members started online

  • Club Member Information


    Please encourage your members to add their email addresses to their EBU records by contacting the EBU via phone (01296 317200) or email karend@ebu.co.uk or sam@ebu.co.uk. This way they will be able to sign into My EBU and receive emails letting them know of upcoming events.


    EBU Lockdown League



    We are now inviting entries for the Lockdown League series 5. It will follow the same format as the current Season 4 and will start on Monday 17th August.

    To confirm your entry all you need to do is reply to this email, and let us know the BBO names/EBU numbers of any new members of your team as well as any players who are leaving your team. Teams may contain up to eight players.

    We will send out draw/roster information a day or two before the start date of 17th August, and send invoices for the entry fee (£20 per team or £10 for a team entirely composed of juniors) to the team captain, via MyEBU, during the first week of the season. They will need to be paid by Sunday 23rd August.

    There will again be prizes for the top two teams in each division, £40 for first place and £20 for second. The deadline for confirming entries is Friday 14th August at noon.


    Still Time to Enter Nominations for the Dimmie Fleming Award


    The intent of the Dimmie Fleming award is to publicly recognise those people who do not hold an official (i.e. EBU) office, but have given long and distinguished service for bridge administration at County level.

    The duration and value of the service given by those granted the Award should be significant and substantial, but will be viewed flexibly. They should be volunteers who have contributed to County administration, typically giving 10/15 years’ service to the county.

    Board Directors, Vice Presidents, EBU employees are excluded from nomination, however after leaving office such people are eligible for an award, if they have also worked hard for bridge at County level.

    All nominations can be made by any shareholder, county, or EBU member, but should be made via your County who will then submit the nomination to the EBU stating that approval of the County Committee has been obtained. There is a restriction of two nominations from any one county.

    Nominations should be made using this form – please send it to kay@ebu.co.uk.

    The closing date for nominations is 19th August 2020.

    See the previous winners


    BBO Royalties

    We would like to clarify the way the royalties from BBO will be paid and payments for UMS made.

    For clubs whose players pay in $BB for each game, BBO will on a monthly basis pay us 60% of these payments as royalties. The EBU then passes on the equivalent in sterling by BACS direct to the club’s bank account, after BBO/bank transaction fees. The amount credited does not include any deduction for UMS payments. If we do not hold bank account details for your club, we will contact you separately to obtain these.

    For clubs who collect their money from their players separately, there will be a charge from BBO for which we will make a manual adjustment to your account and will collect it as well as your UMS.

    If you have not already done so, please upload your sessions to My EBU to allow them to be processed. Instructions for how to upload results can be found here. Once uploaded this will generate a monthly collection advice as usual for your UMS, which will be uploaded to your My EBU area, for your information. Although the collection advice is generated we will not deduct any money for this until we have processed the royalties payment each month, as above. If your club pays via direct debit, collection of these payments will similarly be delayed until the royalties payments are processed each month.

    We will email you each month to confirm the royalties that your club will receive from the previous months BBO games or the amount that will be transferred to BBO on your behalf if you are paying them monthly. To be clear, we will not take any money from you for UMS until you have had any money due to you from BBO.


    BBO Extractor



    BBO Extractor is free software for capturing the detailed results and hand records of a BBO tournament in a form suitable for upload to a club's website and EBU UMS. It can capture results for a matchpointed pairs or swiss pairs tournament, a cross-imp pairs tournament, a match between two teams of four, and a league match played in two halves between two teams of four.

    Since March 2020, all clubs in the UK have had to close their venues due to the covid19 epidemic. As a result, many clubs have started running sessions online on BBO. These have been very successful. However, players miss the facilities available on sites such as Bridgewebs and Pianola - the presentation of results in a familiar format, the "Play It Again" double dummy play of hands with card by card guidance, and features for analysis of player performance. For many players, a large part of the interest in bridge comes from the post-event analysis - how could I have made that extra trick, did my opening lead help declarer, where did I (or more usually, of course, partner!) go wrong?

    BBO's strength is its online play facility, rather than its presentation of results. It does not provide a capability to export the results to other sites. That is why we decided to develop an easy to use utility to fill the gap.

    BBO Extractor is a "Chrome extension". This means that if you have the Google Chrome browser installed, the extension can be installed in the browser from the Chrome web store. Then, if you have a BBO tournament page on display in a browser tab, a single click on the BBO Extractor icon will extract results and hand records from the tournament into a 'csv' and 'pbn' file. A companion web app, BBOtoXML, is then used to generate a USEBIO xml file from the csv. This can be uploaded, along with the pbn file, to a website such as Bridgewebs, Pianola, or Bridgecloud, or to EBU UMS. Names translation from BBO usernames to player names is performed automatically, if a names file is available, in BBOtoXML.

    One interesting by-product of playing online, versus in the club, is that BBO records the full bidding and play data for every hand at every table. BBO Extractor captures this data and makes it available for upload via an optional special version of the XML file that contains an unofficial extension to USEBIO. This version of the XML can be uploaded to Bridgewebs, which via a new 'play' link on each traveller line launches the hand in Bridge Solver Online, enabling the bidding and play of that hand at that table to be reviewed, or alternative lines of play to be explored interactively.

    BBO Extractor has been available since the end of April and has seen dramatic growth in usage since that time. As of 10th July there are now more than 800 users worldwide (directors/scorers) who have BBO Extractor installed, 374 of these being in the UK. The EBU recently published a list of 157 clubs and counties running, or planning to run, virtual tournaments on BBO. Around 150 have started running tournaments, and at least 135 of these are using BBO Extractor.

    Our software is not dependent on availability of additional programs, such as Excel. It can run on PCs, or Macs (with Chrome browser installed). Various other browsers also support Chrome extensions, for example the latest downloadable version of Microsoft Edge, and Opera, Brave, and Yandex on the PC. In fact, it can even be run on an android phone or tablet using the Yandex browser.

    You can find more documentation on BBO Extractor/BBOtoXML, and contact details, on our website at https://mirgo2.co.uk/bboextractor, or in the EBUScore Wiki at https://www.ebu.co.uk/ebuscore-wiki/bboextractor.

    John & Mirna Goacher

    There is also an alternative to BBO extractor, developed by Chris Chambers from Ipswich & Kesgrave Bridge Club.


    Inter-National Teams



    If you are a member of the EBU, and were born outside England or have a non-British passport, you are eligible to play for your country in the EBU Inter-National.

    The event will be held online over the weekend of 22nd and 23rd August, with a qualifying session of 24-28 boards on the Saturday, and the semi-finals and final on the Sunday. It will be contested by teams of four. Countries will each be limited to two teams, and no team may contain more than one player with an NGS grade of Ace. So far we have incomplete teams from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Poland, Turkey and USA.

    All interested players should register their interest by emailing Elisabeth Bingham at internationalbridge2020@fastmail.com. If you qualify to play for, say, Malaysia, but don’t know any other eligible players, contact Elisabeth. She will give you more details, and put you in touch with potential teammates.


    Virtual Summer Meeting in ‘Eastbourne’

    The Summer Meeting will now be held as a series of online events, from 1st - 9th August.

    The first weekend of there will be Championship Pairs, with Midweek Knockout Teams and Championship Teams the second weekend. There will also be daily events, online zoom seminars and late night speedballs.

    Precise details of event times, formats and costs, together with information about registering for them are available on the Summer Meeting webpage.

    Entries can be made through My EBU, under Utilities, Book Events or by emailing comps@ebu.co.uk


    Bill Hirst


    We were sad to hear of the death of Bill Hirst earlier this month. Bill was a former member of the England Senior Team. He played in two European Championships and The Olympiad and was non-playing captain for the English Open Team in Pau (2008).

    Below are a couple of reminisces from Bill's friend Mike Pomfrey:

    In 1999 the Queensland Bridge Association had invited the EBU to send a team to the Gold Coast congress, in return for a similar invitation to the previous year’s Brighton congress. Bill Hirst, John Hassett, Ron Morrish and Denis Robson were invited. Denis’s work commitments meant he had to withdraw and the others asked me to join the team, partnering Ron, who is also sadly no longer with us.

    Here’s a hand from the pairs event which shows Bill’s thoughtful approach to the game. Ron and I thought we had a top here.

    {dnnone 84 KT754 Q2 T964; QJ9762 9 654 AQ5; T3 AQ3 AJ973 973; AK5 J862 KT8 KJ2}

    Bidding at our table:

    {b.pp1dx1sx2dpp2s/}

    Bidding at Bill/John's table:

    {b.p2sp2np3hp4s/}

    Our East’s action, or rather lack of action, was rather feeble. Lest you think I was bidding frivolously, this was one of only two psyches in 368 hands (the other one worked, too). Ten tricks proved easy.

    It was left to Bill and John to show that 4!s is by no means impregnable. 3!h showed a maximum weak two with a singleton heart. (By the way, does nobody consider that East hand worth a one bid?)

    Knowing of the stiff heart, Bill started off with !hA. It’s their style to McKenney when there are no more cashing tricks in the suit and John duly signalled with !h10. A low diamond came next. Would you, as declarer, put all your eggs in one basket by playing the king? No, nor did this one, and that was curtains.

    Our friendship also extended to the golf course. With Bill’s son Andrew and others we used to play in events around the country. We once went to Carnoustie; I think it was just before the wind blew the field apart at the 1999 Open. Bill could sympathise. The course was long, the rough was thick, the wind blew. One day he was on the final green when Andrew came up excitedly. “Dad, the scores are really high.” In other words, keep trying, you never know...

    Bill’s reply: “I’ve got this putt for a thirteen.”

    His round hadn’t gone well. Its nadir came on the 18th tee, when Bill’s drive sailed over the boundary fence. His playing partner then pointed out that he had teed up a few inches outside the markers (anyone else would have said so before the shot) and that he was therefore penalised a further two strokes, four in all. We later discovered that was wrong but Bill accepted with good grace. Sometimes you just have to laugh it off.


    Club Success Stories and the EBU Forums


    We have heard from some clubs of the success that they have had with creating online games for their members. We have set up a Google Docs so that clubs can share their own stories and read other clubs’ stories for inspiration of continuing to play bridge online.

    Another place for clubs to discuss their ideas and share their experiences is on the EBU forums. There are a number of different forums there with different topics of interest, including a thread specifically set up for clubs to discuss their thoughts about the COVID-19 situation and to plan for when the restrictions ease up.

    Joining the EBU Forum is free and open to everyone. You do need to be approved to join, which helps us avoid spam posts, but just mention bridge as your reason for joining and you will be approved without question.


    Getting a club and members started online

    At the beginning of the lockdown my main aim was to “entertain” bridge club members as my club has always provided a sociable and friendly atmosphere which I suspected that members would otherwise miss.

    Technology and online bridge can appear very intimidating, so giving members my time and guidance has been crucial. I believe that achieving so many members playing in the club duplicates has all been from the preparation stages, specifically:

    • Getting players registered with BBO and practicing a little before embarking on a duplicate;
    • Emphasizing that they can choose to ONLY play with players that they know from the club;
    • Finding a few members who were familiar with BBO to practice and set up a game with new members as a sort of a mentoring system.

    For the last point, I would partner the new member and ask a couple of members to play against us. I would call them and talk them through and technical problems, such as getting logged off, or how to use the chat option.

    A few found the registering stage the most worrying. Setting up usernames and passwords for them and registered them using my email address proved helpful.
    For the next stage I set up an online teams knock-out to enable players to keep in touch with other members, but also to get practice at playing online. It came as a bit of a surprise but 96 members chose to play in this. This coincided with when the EBU were advertising the duplicates.

    The response from Jonathan Lillycrop was very quick and extremely helpful that I decided to give this a try. Jonathan provided full information and couldn’t have been more helpful.

    There were a few decisions that I feel helped some more nervous players join:

    • Having only my club members playing. The success of the club in real life is the wonderful friendly nature of all the members and I wanted to try and emulate this in the virtual world.
    • Payment for duplicates to be paid to me. This meant that it was not necessary for players to purchase $BBO and made it as easy as possible for players to play. If they didn’t like online payments then I could sort this out with them directly.
    • Using a director from the EBU. One big difference directing on BBO is that you don’t play as you would in a normal club duplicate. I love seeing my members at the table in the “real” world and thought that I would also like to do this in the “virtual” world too. I was familiar with the chat and could be reassuring to any members I played against. Having someone in charge who was familiar with the set up meant it would run as smoothly as possible.
    • I would act as a substitute player. It is necessary to have an even number of pairs. Having a pair from the club to be a substitute didn’t feel right in this situation. Many players would be looking forward to playing and not being able to play because of the numbers made me feel a little sad on their behalf so I chose to do this with a player I knew would play at the club in a friendly way.

    The first duplicate attracted 25 tables, which was fantastic, although I did feel like when I let a child loose in a park without reins; the difference here being that there were 100 of them, none of whom I could see! However, Jonathan coped with all the usernames and ran the club perfectly. As a result, members are thoroughly enjoying playing again.

    As one of the most sociable bridge players in the world, I do appreciate that online duplicates are not the same as face to face. However, there are also many advantages:

    • Members who moved away from the area are now able to play in the club again;
    • Beginners who were hesitant to join in duplicates at the club have actually found it less intimidating than sitting at a table with players;
    • You don’t have to travel, and I can see in the winter if the weather is bad then there will be this option too. The club has attracted some new members who are a little too far away to make the journey.

    New members are made aware that the club is very friendly. As a player I have been surprised how much I have enjoyed playing online. Being able to chat to members on the table has been great – maybe my partners think I use this option more than I should.

    Keeping the club together during the lockdown has been wonderful and I hope has been a source of entertainment and comfort to everyone. I would like to thank all members for putting their trust in me to help them play online and I would particularly like to thank Jonathan Lillycrop, who has been a joy to work with.

    Abbey Smith