(Updated 11th April 2020)
The main news this week is that I have made some further improvements to the way we are running our online sessions. Thanks to everyone for their patience so far. I know that many of you are playing a lot of online bridge now, which is excellent news. As the lockdown and social distancing restrictions seem set to last at least until the end of this month, and probably longer, it looks like there will plenty more opportunities to improve your game and while away the hours at the same time. It is encouraging that all the research done so far suggests that playing more bridge is good for your long term mental health and wellbeing.
I am making some important changes to the way that the Tuesday morning sessions (what I call “Wytham online”) are run. Having experimented last week with the use of Zoom rooms, I am now able to make this a much better experience than it has been so far – thanks for your patience while we worked out how best to do this. How it will work in future is that each table will have their own Zoom breakout room, where they can freely chat to each other without having the distraction of hearing those at other tables also talking. Everybody at the table will be able to communicate directly with each other as well, just as when we meet in Wytham. You don’t have to do anything except click the link I will send out on Tuesday mornings around 9am: I can set everything else up.
The other great advantage of this arrangement is that it will enable me to visit each table more often to offer advice and supervision. I can for example arrange to visit each table in turn for 10 or 15 minutes each time, either to watch the current play or to answer questions about hands played earlier at your table. I am confident that this will work considerably better and make it much more enjoyable for everyone involved. We will continue to allocate all comers to tables of roughly equal ability and experience. It means that you do not always have to play with the same group, though you are free to do so.
The booking page link for these Tuesday morning sessions is here. I hope you will try this new and improved format! If you have trouble with paying by Eventbrite (as some of you have been having), you can also pay by bank transfer, but please make sure you do so 12 hours in advance with the date clearly stated. Please let me know if there is someone you are expecting or hoping to play with. In order to make this work for everyone, I am going to have to be fairly strict about insisting on advance booking, so I can make sure the numbers are working.
Private group sessions
For the rest of the week, as mentioned last week, I am continuing to offer any group of four players (more if some are happy to spectate) the chance to have a private 60 or 90 minute supervised play and learn session with me. I have now got six regular groups who have opted for this format, which allows me to give undivided attention to every bid and play you make in that time, again with voice interaction on Zoom. By using a BBO teaching table, it gives me greater freedom to comment and show what might/could have happened.
So quite a few of these private group slots in the week have gone, but I still have room for one or two more. Please email me if you have a group or a partner who is interested and wants to book a regular slot. To the extent that time allows, I am happy also to try and match up those with others of the same levels of experience so they too can benefit from this. Tuesday afternoons and Thursday mornings are full, but there are still a few 60 or 90 minute slots available on other days. I am meanwhile looking for volunteers for a regular 90-minute supervised session at 2pm on Saturday afternoons.
I will be continuing the regular Monday morning topic seminars (two hours with presentation slides and direct Q and A participation via Zoom). You can book a place for several weeks ahead by following this link. The topics for the coming weeks can be found on the seminars page. Although this Monday (April 13th) is Easter Monday, I propose to continue with this series when the topic will be Showing your shape (including discussion of reverses. how to distinguish 5-4, 5-5, 6-4 and 6-5 hands and the dreaded 4-4-4-1 shape).
What it will cost
To keep it as simple as possible I am proposing a simple tariff for any sessions you book, as follows, per player. Monday topic seminars: £20 each. Tuesday mornings (“Wytham online”) £15. Small group sessions £15 for 60 minutes and £20 for 90 minutes. Anything longer: by negotiation. Experience suggests that most of you find 90 minutes about the most you want to spend on direct supervision before your concentration goes, but there is nothing to stop you playing on with your table without supervision either before or after my involvement. That way you get both some uninterrupted play and some tuition. It also means I can help a greater number of different groups each week. Some evenings may also be possible. To minimise the time I have to spend checking payments it would be helpful if you could pay in advance as soon as your booking is confirmed.