Given the level of interest in playing online bridge, I have updated the page about the options for online play and lessons we are offering from Monday onwards. These include a number of regular supervised play sessions, plus details of the lessons that are continuing, and the opportunity to book a time for a smaller group session with your chosen friends and partners (either continuous supervision or an hour-long review session at the end). For the first time we are offering you the chance to organise supervised play or small group sessions in the afternoon and evening, subject to them fitting in with my schedule. Follow the link to the online bridge page for more details.
Category Archives: Lessons
One of the very few good things to say about the current coronavirus epidemic is that there are now many more online bridge sites than there used to be, and most are much more sophisticated than they once were. A good many of you have expressed interest in online lessons and supervised play now that all face to face dates in our calendar have had to be suspended.
As far as lessons are concerned, if you are interested in taking part in these, I would like to suggest that as a first step you should sign up to become a member of Bridge Base Online. It is free to join and all you have to do is create a username and password. BBO, as it is known for short, is the most advanced of all online bridge sites and has recently been undergoing modernisation. It is the one that all professional players use and the one I use too.
The drawback with it is that the robots it uses and most of the players you can play with at an online table use American bidding methods, which are different from the ones most people play and teach over here. Those methods typically involve a strong No Trump and you need five cards to open the bidding in a major suit, whereas in the UK we play four-card majors and a weak No Trump.
However for teaching purposes that does not matter as the teacher can control everything that happens at the table. What I would like to suggest is that once you have become a member you send me your username so I can set up tables where only those I invite can play. That way it will be possible to create a suitable teaching environment and also, I believe (though have not yet had confirmed), replicate something that is in principle similar to our Tuesday sessions with multiple tables.
I will provide more details shortly when I have fully explored the possibilities. In addition to teaching on BBO, I will also be creating a number of teaching videos and webinars to explore particular topics. The first necessary step however, if you do want to keep learning during our enforced absence, is for you to send me your usernames (to firstname.lastname@example.org) so I can add them to the teaching/supervised play database. I look forward to hearing from all of you.
Given the latest advice from the Government, it is inevitable that our regular bridge sessions will soon have to be postponed until the epidemic is properly contained. Thanks to those of you who have already told me that they no longer feel able to come to classes or play and learn sessions. I fully understand and support your decision. I was already planning on suspending most of our events even before the latest announcements. This is the BBC News analysis as of 4.30pm today (link here) – Sunday March 15th.
While the Health Secretary says that it is not yet the right time to urge anyone over 70 or those with health issues to self-isolate, that decision will be coming shortly. The peak of the epidemic is not currently expected to occur for around 10 weeks. It seems inevitable however that most people, whether or not they are in the highest risk category, will decide to take matters into their own hands sooner rather than later to try and minimise the risk of infection.
Bridge events as we organise them currently are particularly risky as sources of infection, given the use of playing cards and bidding boxes. We can minimise that risk to some extent by dispensing with boards that move round the room, replacing them with packs of cards that are not used at any other table and are thrown away at the end of each session, and also by stopping using bidding boxes. However there is no way to enable social distancing, which requires people to stay six feet away from each other, or to eliminate the risk of transmission through the atmosphere.
The English Bridge Union has today cancelled all its national events over the next few months and issued new guidance to bridge clubs that do decide to stay open, urging members who are vulnerable to stay away, and clubs that are still open to consider carefully whether their arrangements are still appropriate. Some of us already know somebody who has been infected and it is inevitable that the number of cases is going to continue to grow rapidly for a few weeks.
In these circumstances, I am proposing the following. The seminar tomorrow (on overcalling and the Unassuming Cue Bid) is going ahead, but the series will not continue after that until further notice. I have asked those who have indicated interest in attending to let me know if they are coming or not tomorrow.
The Tuesday play and learn session and Thursday morning refresher course will also not continue after this week, and will this week only operate on the basis set out above – no bidding boxes and no boards travelling around the room. I have created a new Doodle poll for the Tuesday Wytham session to replace the existing one. You can find it here. I would be grateful if you could complete it. I will be contacting those who have been coming to the Thursday refresher course directly with a similar message.
While sessions are suspended, I will be offering the option of online lessons and also a regular online tournament as well. If you are interested in either of those options, please let me know – playing online may not always be as much fun as playing in a social setting, but this could be a chance to work on your game so as to come back even better and stronger than before when the virus threat has subsided. If you unfortunately find yourself among those who have to self-isolate, this may also be one good way to while away the time.
There is, finally, the possibility of holding smaller private group lessons as well, in particular cases where everyone involved is not in the primary risk category, understands and is happy with the risks and suitable playing conditions can be created. For the moment I am monitoring developments closely and will only offer that on demand and in the light of prevailing medical advice.
I very much hope that those of you who have been regular or occasional participants in any of the classes or play and learn sessions will let me know what your thoughts are on all the above. I shall provide further updates on the website and by email so that we do not lose touch. If you have not already signed up to receive emails from this website, it would be very helpful if you could do so now, by adding your email in the box to the right of the page.
This is obviously a very difficult set of circumstances, particularly so as the lessons and sessions we run have been growing in popularity and I know how many of you have been enjoying the chance to play and learn with our convivial and growing group of participants. However it is obvious that we must do everything we can to minimise the risk of infection over the next few trying weeks and protect those who are at risk. I hope that we will all be back at the bridge table sooner rather than later.
Thank you finally for all your emails and messages. Please keep them coming!
Monday 2nd March
Next Level seminars – every Monday morning
This week: Fourth Suit Forcing, the must have bidding convention
North Oxford Association, Summertown, Oxford, 9.45am to 11.45am
Follow this link to let us know you are coming
Tuesday 3rd March
Supervised play and learn
Wytham Village Hall, 9.30am to 12.30pm
Our regular Tuesday morning session
Follow this link to let us know you are coming
Thursday 5th March
Wytham Village Hall, 9.45 to 11.45am
Maximum four tables; sorted by ability
Expert tuition at the table
Email email@example.com to enquire about spaces
Lessons 5 to 8 will be scheduled shortly
Here (at last!) are my plans for teaching in the New Year. I am trying this time round to be as flexible as possible, so that nobody is disadvantaged if they cannot make all the lessons in each course. There is a summary on this link. https://arb-oxf.uk/summer-2019-courses/
Here are the current options:
There is no scheduled beginners class at present, but if you would like to learn from scratch, don’t despair. Simply drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know you are interested in learning. I shall add you to my waiting list and as soon as there are enough people to make it viable, we will schedule a time and venue for the beginners course. You won’t regret learning this great game!
This will be taking place over four consecutive Friday mornings beginning on Friday January 17th. Each session will be a double lesson, which experience shows is helpful for those at this stage of their learning. The course is already nearly full, but there may be an opportunity to join if you let me know in the next week or so. There are a couple of one-off spots also available on the first and third dates. Venue: Wytham Village Hall. Start 9.30am. Free parking. Booking form attached. See the course outlines page on the website for more details. Ideal for those who have been on a Beginners course or know the mechanics of the game but want to press on ahead.
The Next Level
This courses based around Andrew Robson’s latest book, The Next Level, which looks in more detail at the bidding conventions and play techniques you will already know if you have completed the Essential or Improver courses. There are 36 separate topics (listed on the website) and I am proposing to teach these as individual 2 hour lessons, each one featuring at least four hands to play, plus a separate bidding quiz and notes I am writing for each topic. Each topic will go into greater depth about such tools as Stayman, transfers and Roman Key Card Blackwood and many suit play techniques. If you have to miss one, provided you can notify me in advance, you won’t be charged but can roll forward your course fee for that day to a later lesson. The initial course fee for five lessons will be £100, after which you can renew for a further block of five lessons at a time. Provisional timing and venue: Monday mornings at the NOA in Summertown. Please let me know if you are interested and I will send you a booking form.
I am repeating this course as it proved very popular before. Because of the amount of individual attention involved, I am limiting the numbers to a maximum of four tables. It will be held every Thursday morning at Wytham Village Hall, starting at 9.30am and lasts around two hours. The format is very simple: each table deals and plays a hand, which is then discussed in depth with all the players at the table. The emphasis is on recognising situations as they arise and practising what you have learnt before, although in practice new topics keep on cropping up (e.g. signalling, using cue bids for slam bidding). I shall be providing a follow up note on any important ideas to emerge each week. Ideal for current or potential partners who want to play regularly together (although individuals are also welcome). The cost is £20 per week. First come, first served. Email me on this email if you are interested in signing up.
I am also scheduling this course, which is about the art of successful defence at the highest level. Venue and timing will be determined as soon as final numbers are confirmed. It follows on from the successful Advanced Play course held in the autumn. Improving your defence will not only make every hand of bridge more interesting, irrespective of whether you are dealt any good cards, but also make you a popular partner. All the secrets of signalling, counting and discarding are covered. Just email if you are interested.
Learn and play
The regular Tuesday morning supervised play sessions will continue at Wytham Village Hall throughout the year and I hope that the numbers will continue to grow, as they did satisfactorily in 2019. The first session of the New Year will be held on January 7th 2020. I hope to add a slightly different second supervised play session each week, starting in February. The idea I am toying with is running each session with a slight difference, playing a pre-dealt set of boards, just as on Tuesday mornings, but scoring each session as a teams event to add a slightly keener competitive edge to proceedings, and maybe adding a Q and A session at the end (as Andrew used to do in his club). Don’t be put put off if this sounds too serious: it will all be done in our normal friendly atmosphere. This could be held on a weekday evening, starting at 7.15pm. Let me know if this might be of interest to you.
As you now there are 11 Robson course in total, all of them listed on the website (link to Our Andrew Robson courses) and I am always willing to offer them if there is sufficient demand. The way I propose to deal with this is to invite you to suggest the courses you would like to take and as soon as there is enough interest to make them viable I will be happy to schedule them. Experience again suggests that running courses as four double sessions or even two or three triple sessions can be the easiest way to resolve the problem of only being able to attend some of the normal eight weekly lessons in each course. Finally if you know of anyone who you think would enjoy learning bridge with me, please feel free to give them my contact details and ask them to get in touch.
Happy New Year to everyone.
The first course I am offering in the New Year is Andrew Robson’s Next Step course. This is the follow up to his popular beginners course which I have taught in Oxford three times already. The course will be held as four double lessons on four consecutive Friday mornings, beginning on January 17th 2020 and running from 9.30 to 12.30pm (or however long it takes to cover all the material). The venue will be Wytham Village Hall. The cost is £180 for the entire course, which includes a 50-page set of course notes, expert tuition, refreshments and follow up material. Each lesson includes four pre-dealt hands for you to bid and play. A number of you have already signed up for this, but if you have not done so and think it might be suitable for you, please let me know as soon as possible. I am attaching a Next Step Booking Form, which includes how to pay by bank transfer, but you can also pay online here as well. Details of other courses in the New Year will be published shortly.
Next Step course Q1 2020
The Next Step course is ideal for those who have learnt the absolute basics of the game and are looking to further and practise what they have learnt.
I have now published details on the website of the confirmed Andrew Robson courses which will be starting after Easter. They are Next Step, Essential Extra, Improver Plus and Advanced courses. For more details of these courses please follow this link. To book a place simply send me an email (email@example.com) and I will confirm and provide bank details by return if you need them. I am also planning to offer another Beginners course, with the first lesson free if you attend and later decide that this is not suitable for you. If the times and dates do not suit you, don’t worry – simply email me with the course that you are hoping to do and I will make arrangements to schedule it as soon as there is sufficient demand. Detailed lesson by lesson outlines of the 11 Andrew Robson courses that are available to take are now listed here. I will also separately be running single topic seminars over the course of the next few weeks – do look out for details of those. The weekly play and learn sessions will also continue after Easter. Looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible!