Andre Asbury

Balance between convenience and fairness

During the GNT qualifying sessions Saturday, flaws in ACBLScore and maybe in the conditions of contest for team events as well were discovered. The D7 flight B game had 20 teams with 4 teams qualifying for the semi-finals Sunday morning.

The teams were divided into 2 relatively equal 10 team groups, with the top two from each group qualifying. I surely expected this to be a full round robin with 9 rounds of 6 boards, arranged such that the highest seeds play each other toward the end. This looks like clearly the best way to narrow the field to 4 teams. However, possibly because the championship flight GNT was running concurrently with 8 teams (and therefore a full round robin of 7 matches), the flight B game was also run as seven 7’s but with Swiss pairings rather than a partial round robin such that everyone plays a relatively equal strength of opponents. To me, that seems most fair, since the goal isn’t to find a winner through the 2 session qualifying.

My team finished with a somewhat respectable 87 VP on a 70 average but that wasn’t good enough to make it through such a big cut – we definitely saved our best bridge for the Sunday Swiss in the concurrent sectional, in which we scored 96 on a 60 average.

The interesting/controversial thing was in the other group where one team withdrew after 4 rounds. The computer assigned 3 of the lower teams to a round robin for rounds 5 and 6. After round 5 there was a dilemma: the Fordham team had played everyone except the 3 teams in the round robin and the one that withdrew. Clearly they had not gotten the best of draws so far and the pairings for round 6 only made it worse. The Fordham and Boyd-Bowman teams were well ahead of the rest of the field and instead of breaking up the round robin or assigning them to play the withdrawn team and giving an artificial 14 VP or something like that, the two top teams in that group were paired against each other again. Fordham wound up just missing the cut and Boyd-Bowman wound up winning the event.

Should ACBLScore have been able to anticipate this potential problem and assign different teams to the round robin? Should it check that the teams toward the top of the pack be less likely to have to have a playback?

Should withdrawals be allowed in the middle of GNT qualifying events (or other similar events)? Should the conditions of contest be changed to make a field too big for a full round robin (or a full round robin within 2 separate brackets) to be played as a Swiss with the whole field? That would eliminate any potential problems with playbacks and withdrawals since there would be a larger pool of teams to pick from.

If we are allowing the potential for this to occur, should the round robin be broken up (have the round robin be continued in round 7 so that one of the round robins teams can play the team that has no opponent in round 6, thereby having to have a 1 round robin in round 6)?

Should the format of GNT qualifying change so that there isn’t such a huge cut at one stage – maybe with 20 teams, maybe qualify 8 teams and play another round robins with carryover.

At sectionals and club games and side games, I can understand running a movement because it’s easier or quicker but in major events, events should be as fair as possible, even if it’s a little less convenient.


PatrickMay 17th, 2011 at 2:07 pm

That is really awful. They should at least get the average of what other teams got against the withdrawn team. Or why not just drop that team entirely and void all the scores of the matches involving that team? Then break up the round robin and have everyone play everyone else. Is this impossible?

It could be worse–in District 3 Flight B, there were 25 or so teams, and we played a one-day, six-round Swiss. The winner qualified for the GNT. That was it. Maybe next year they could just spin a big wheel and pick a team at random; it would come to about the same result.

Round-robin plus KO is, I think, probably the best format possible with 16 teams or fewer.

Bobby WolffMay 18th, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Hi Andre,

You, if anything, were kind to the organizers with your description of the horror brought on by that particular movement and the execution of it.

How about starting with the same type carefully seeded, if possible, 2 10 team groups. Then a full day of 8, 7 board, swiss matches (scored by victory points), playbacks allowed starting with the 4th (possibly 3rd) match, qualifying 8 for the second day.

The 4 highest qualifiers would have the right to pick their opponent starting with #1 and of course choose their opponents from the 5th-8th qualifiers, forming an 8 team bracket from the beginning with seeds 1 and 4 and then 2 and 3 in the same semi-final bracket. I would suggest 24 boards (KO matches) in the 1/4 finals, 26 in the semi-finals and 28 in the finals. Starting times could be 10AM, 2:15PM and 7:30PM for the finals. At least some food for the winning (continuing) teams needs to be available, preferably on site (another reason to play 5 or 6 handed).

An option could include having some small carryovers used from the possible Saturday matches such as 25% of the margin of victory in total IMPs (with a fairly low maximum such as no more that 12 IMPs for a Sunday rematch) in order to keep players playing their best on Saturday for fear of playing against the same team on Sunday (Also the leading teams will be able to better able to calibrate their choosing opponents, possibly based on carryover). *If record keeping is difficult because of possible TD overseeing, then DO NOT USE this option! The TDs need to take on the responsibility of accurate reporting (exactness) of all results.

Regarding the withdrawal of the rogue team, there should be admonitions in the CofC against that, except, of course, for slam dunk reasons with carryover penalties for future competitions to any team (individual players) abusing their responsibilities.


1. Qualifying not thought to be such a rat race with, in my judgment, 521/2% being 50-50 to make the top 8. Your 62.14% (87 with a 70 average) had every right to be included to play on Sunday. Injustices like that should almost never happen.

2. Qualifying success on Saturday carries over to Sunday in a likely fair way or, at least, close.

3. A slight increase in entry fees for the event (8 teams instead of 4).

4. The 1st round of the Swiss SHOULD NOT be seeded on Saturday, otherwise the better teams will be unfairly disadvantaged.

5. I am not familiar with ACBL score and its components, but in order for the choices to work the programmer(s) needs to be intimately familiar with bridge and its somewhat curious differences from other competitions.

6. Normal tournament requirements (logistics and timing) need to blend in with competitive fairness, especially if the winner(s) continue to seek higher goals.

7. The litmus test for all incorporated rules points directly to only including scoring decisions (length of matches and competitions within the event themselves) which tend to make contests fairer, with particular attention to not allowing preconceived seeding decisions to have much, if any, real advantages.

8. Without all of the above, (and probably more) the players always will get the worst of it when it comes to analysis of how the competition was handled.

Thank you, Andre, for at least attempting to be a constructive reporter and thus bringing hoped for improvement to future events.

Andre AsburyMay 19th, 2011 at 2:17 am

Thanks for your comments, Bobby. And Patrick, a one day Swiss qualifying is way too random to determine who gets the subsidy to the NABC ($3200 this year for the D7 winners).

Being able to finish in time to get home at a reasonable time makes it difficult to narrow to an 8 team KO. People don’t want to be finishing up at 10:30 on Sunday night and turnout would be very low if it extended 3 days.

There are a couple of reasons I was “kind” regarding the organizers. The team that was screwed the most by the execution of the event (mainly the withdrawal) didn’t complain much, if any. And the DIC has always been one of my favorite directors so I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

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