Bridge in the future…Al Levy
Contract Bridge has evolved throughout its brief history. The way the game has been played remains the same, but the Laws and regulations have changed through time.
Traditionally, bridge is played at a physical table and, due to the advent of online bridge, is referred to by some as face-to-face (f-t-f) bridge. F-t-f bridge has always, by its nature, contained the non-technical ‘human’ element of getting a ‘feel’ or ‘read’ at the table by observing players’ mannerisms, tempo, state of mind, etc. The Laws and regulations attempt to address the irregularities resulting from this aspect of the game. At the highest level of competition screens are used to attempt to reduce this ‘human’ element and the potential irregularities associated with it.
Online bridge is played on an electronic device (a computer, smart phone, tablet, etc.), with all four players in virtual space. This format, by its nature, greatly reduces the ‘human’ element in f-t-f bridge. It also eliminates all the mechanical irregularities that can take place in f-t-f bridge, including: bids out of turn; insufficient bids; revokes; and penalty cards. It greatly reduces Unauthorized Information (UI) and Misinformation (MI) as players self alert their bids. It eliminates wrong scores entirely. It retains a permanent record of the play, including explanations given and the timing of every bid and play, which can be used in cases of potential irregularities.
So far online bridge has been limited to ‘club’ play and qualifying events, mainly because of lack of monitoring, and for some, fear of competition to organized bridge, especially at the club level.
In the distant future bridge will combine the best elements of f-t-f and online play. It will eliminate all the mechanical irregularities mentioned above and eliminate or greatly reduce the occurrence of the remaining irregularities. The Laws and regulations will be much, much simpler. Appeals will be almost eliminated. Championships will no longer be decided on a technicality.
How it will evolve is unknown. Possibly it will first change in championship events, which is where screens were first introduced. Possibly is will be tried at some clubs as a section of play. In time, as new players are introduced to the game, it WILL evolve. Only time will tell…but there is no doubt that it will evolve.
The evolution based on “the times that we live in”
Modern bridge evolved from a glamorous high society game in the 40s and 50s, with few rules, continuing to be popular in Universities and social groups through the early 60s, to a more complex game (Alerts, more regulations, Appeals Committees). Times changed…social life changed…and the popularity of bridge changed. Glamour and high society were ‘in’ in the 40s and ‘50s so bridge made the front pages. This trickled down to the daughters of bridge players and flourished in sororities and at woman’s social gatherings through the late 50s. In the ‘70s and through today, organizers tinkered with the rules and types of games to make the masses feel more comfortable at tournaments by separating the players through flights and stratification. Now we are evolving into the high tech age of the Internet and iDevice. While ACBL members, at an average age of 69, may get a glimpse of the evolution, future generations will be born into the ‘new’ game.
Now let me describe the future game and its many, many advantages.
Bridge will be played at a bridge table, as it is now, without screens, or with screens, or with diagonal screens separating all four players (depending on level of play and Conditions of Contest). Tablets will be sitting in front of you in some comfortable fashion. Eventually, the software will be developed to accommodate a new display to show opponents’ Convention Card (with a click), easy communication with one or both opponents, for example. The screen will look similar to what is experienced in online play. The tablets will work on WiFi and connected to a central serve, as current e-scoring devices do. You will touch the screen (but may use a mouse in the early versions, or as an option) to place your bids, plays, Alerts and explanations, as well as any communication with your opponents.
The opponents’ convention card will be displayed with a click, and will automatically go to the appropriate convention based on current bidding. Alerts will be either (a) self alerting to both opponents, with opponent questions to only the alerter (as done online) or; (b) both partners will alert and explain, and each will be able to communicate to both opponents. Software will make this quite easy and fast, so no need to worry about delaying the game.
It eliminates cards. A great advantage.
Future generations won’t play ‘card’ games with physical cards, but tablet ‘tiles.’ Even today, can you imagine playing solitaire with cards when your computer or iDevices are sitting next to you!
Want to capture youngsters and future generations? Ever see kids around a table, all on their iDevices? They could be playing every new game around, many of which are played against other humans. Ever see kids playing cards, other than some form of poker, in a college dorm, after a few drinks? Enough said. Cards will not be ‘in’ n the future. Play the same game on an iDevice and we may capture the imagination of future generations. Cards are not ‘cool’ but bridge on an iPad might be very ‘cool.’
In parts of Europe, traditional cards are referred to as talking cards? The WBF uses symmetric cards, an admission that cards do talk! Of course, if you’re inclined to have your cards talk, you can do it easily enough with symmetric cards. Place them one way or another and tell a story about your hand. Reese and Shapiro were creative with their position of their fingers. You might even see even gain information by seeing where a player pulls his card from. Any part of the game that is questionable takes away from the purity of the game and chases potential future players and the media away from the game. Chess is pure as are all deterministic board games. Board games of chance (probabilistic games) are also pure, e.g., backgammon. (AND…cards carry germs!)
It eliminates or greatly reduces irregularities
Mechanical irregularities will be eliminated. UI and MI will be almost eliminated, and in cases that need review, full information will be available including alerts, expiations given, and timing of bids and plays. The opponents’ convention card will be displayed with a click, and will automatically go to the appropriate convention based on current bidding. Alerts and explanations will be easy to communicate especially as software develops.
It reduces the complexities of the game.
World Championships have been decided by far-from-unanimous Appeals Committee decisions. Read the editorials in the Bridge World, and you will think you are playing a game with convoluted and ill-thought out regulations established by idiots. The Laws Commission spends an eternity deciding how to deal with hesitations, unauthorized information (UI) and misinformation (MI), as well as the penalties associated with leads out of turn, inadvertently exposing a card (establishing a minor or major penalty card), making insufficient bids, and revoking, and more…and reviews it continuously with official changes every 10 years.
Much of this will disappear, or be greatly reduced, and the regulators will have little to do!
Scoring and record keeping