And so another lockdown begins. I write on the first day of what is at the moment planned to be a month-long shutdown. The days loom ominously in front of us, the nights lengthen. Outside it’s cold – definitely a firm, November cold, and this morning in my neck of the woods there was even a thick fog, which lasted for some hours after dawn.
At least we’re lucky. Golfers and tennis players thought they might be allowed to continue to play during lockdown, not entirely unreasonably as both sports lend themselves to social distancing, but no, the axe fell unceremoniously on them. They can’t play on-line (well, they can, but it’s a pale simulation of the real thing), we can. And now, it can be revealed, I have! Yes, all these months I’ve been exhorting you to play on BBO or wherever, I’ve been avoiding it myself. My rationale was that since lockdown (or Lockdown 1, as I suppose we should call it) I’ve been spending from 8.30 in the morning to 6.30 at night staring at a monitor, so I’m hardly going to rush to use a computer when off-duty. But now I’ve played a whole three times. A Gold Cup match (okay, technically it might have been the Silver Plate) was scheduled, so my partner for the match, Chris Duckworth, arranged a “practice game” for me, roping in Brian Callaghan and Jeremy Dhondy. She then forced me to play in the Young Chelsea’s Friday evening game, and finally I played in the match itself. And you know what? It was easy. I took to it like a duck to water, and although I still don’t have much spare time for social games, I’m looking forward to the next round of the Gold Cu – the Silver Plate, and our Crockfords entry is in (David Burn having retreated from his initial position when I asked him to partner me in the event: “You must be joking”).
So whilst I wouldn’t exactly say that I’ve “got the bug”, online bridge has opened itself up to me, and now I have the choice of playing or not playing, which has to be a good thing, because before that, there was just a self-imposed void. I’m hearing good things about RealBridge and am looking forward to trying it. It brings us, I gather, a step closer to reality, which, in lieu of the genuine F2F article, has to be a good thing.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to discuss online bridge without touching on cheating, as I have done before. You would not believe how many cases are currently at some stage of proceedings under the auspices of the L & E and the various subsets thereof. Our teams of volunteers and staff at Aylesbury are stretched beyond capacity, but we will prevail. At the forthcoming AGM there are some bye-law changes in the offing, which should allow the process to be speeded up. I won’t go into detail because as a matter of courtesy the Shareholders (who get to vote) are entitled to hear about these proposed changes first, which they will when the AGM papers go out shortly. Rest assured, by the way, we are not planning to trample on the rights of individuals. Disciplinary Hearings aren’t kangaroo courts – they’re there to get at the truth, and all panellists know they have a responsibility not just to ensure that the guilty are punished, but also a responsibility to ensure that the innocent aren’t. This is probably as good a place as any to thank Geoff Smith and Sally Bugden for their work over the last few months in making sure Disciplinary Panels have firm and consistent procedures, and that they have sentencing guidelines to…er…guide them. My thanks also go out to all the volunteers who are doing the work, putting cases together, prosecuting them and hearing them. There are an awful lot of people going at it hammer and tongs to ensure that the game is cleaned up. Heads will roll, and although I bear no personal animus to anyone who has cheated, they have to be brought to book, and to do their time.
On to lighter matters. The online Tollemache qualifier is imminent, and after that the Year End Congress will be held online (as I type the Tournament Panel is discussing timings and other details). Will we be allowed to play the Tollemache final in the middle of February in a real hotel, with real cards, real waiters and real arguments about which dinner sitting people are supposed to be in? I certainly hope so, because if we can do that, we can do the Easter Festival as well. Is there some chance of having F2F as hybrid events, with people playing in person and remotely? If the logistics can be worked out, I don’t see why not. More players means more scores, more scores means more comparisons, and more comparisons mean truly validated winners.
As I mentioned earlier, my part of South West London was shrouded in fog this morning. But as I look out of my window now, as the afternoon takes hold, the air is crisp, and a shining Sun adds clear definition to houses and trees. Just because things are dark and gloomy, doesn’t mean that they’re always going to be dark and gloomy.
Until the next time,