Category Archives: News

Online bridge

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 arb.oxford@gmail.com) so I can add them to the teaching/supervised play database. I look forward to hearing from all of you.

BBO website

 

 

 

Coronavirus update

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!

Jonathan

 

 

Latest news

Thanks to everyone who has so far responded to assorted Doodle polls about our regular events – Tuesday supervised play and learn at Wytham, the Thursday Refresher course (ideal for, but not limited to, budding partners) and topic seminars based on Andrew’s The Next Level book. Please continue to update those if your plans change. The subjects of the seminars are moving into territory that some of you may be interested in if you have not come across them before. Next Monday (March 2nd) for example will cover Fourth Suit Forcing, an essential addition to any player’s bidding armoury, and future topic include Roman Key Card Blackwood, Jacoby Two No Trumps, two-suited overcalls (Michaels and the Unusual no Trump) plus many others. The seminars are single two-hour sessions at the North Oxford Association in Summertown, north Oxford starting at 9.45am, and cost £20. You can find the topics on a week by week basis by following the What’s Coming Up link at the top of this page, or the dedicated The Next Level page.   A reminder also that Andrew Robson’s charity day event at Rose Hill Community Centre is coming up on Monday March 9th.

Bridge this week

Tuesday 13th January

Play and learn: Wytham Village Hall, 9.30am to 12.30pm

Thursday 16th January

Refresher course: Wytham Village Hall, 9.45 to 11.45am

Friday 17th January

Next Step course: Wytham Village Hall 9.30 to 12.45pm

If you have expressed interest in one of the two courses, but have not seen an email from me in the last few days, please check your spam folder or contact me on arb.oxford@gmail.com.

Bridge at Wytham update

A quick reminder to anyone who has not seen my earlier message that exceptionally there will be no play and learn session at Wytham Village Hall tomorrow morning (December 3rd); instead the session will be held on Thursday (December 5th). It will be back to normal next week and every Tuesday thereafter, excluding the Christmas break. I am looking to hold two play and learn sessions a week in the New Year, as well as further meetings in Charlbury, and more courses.

Bridge this week

Our autumn Andrew Robson bridge courses start this week, with Improver starting tomorrow at 9.30am in the NOA, Summertown, and a bespoke Refresher course for a number of you who have requested it on Thursday mornings (same time, same venue as Improver). I will also shortly be confirming final details of the Beginners, Essential and Advanced Play course dates. Two of these courses (Beginners and Advanced Play) will be made up of four three-hour lessons rather than eight shorter weekly ones. If you would like to join any of these, even at this late stage, please feel free to let me know and I will fit you in if I can.

For the next few weeks our regular Tuesday morning supervised play session will be held at Wytham Village Hall, which is the next (very lovely) village you get to if you keep going past The Trout in Godstow (our former venue) and sits just the other side of the A34. Some of you may know it already from either the pub (The White Hart) or the conservation work Oxford University does in Wytham Woods or from Inspector Morse (one of whose murder cases takes place in the woods). It is accessible either from Wolvercote or directly from the A34 and overlooks the cricket ground and the woods. There is parking right outside. It is just a couple of hundred yards from the pub and village shop for those who like to stay for a drink afterwards.

Being a village hall means that we do not need to be so rigorous about ending at 12.30. I propose therefore to keep the official starting time at 9.30, but as long as you can turn up by 10am, you will always be welcome. I am also reinstating a Doodle poll to allow you to indicate if you are likely to be coming – not compulsory, but helpful for Annabel and I to know rough numbers. Here is the link to the poll. I will normally check the names on Monday afternoons. I will also check the bank account to make sure I know who has paid in advance (still the preferred payment option, although cash is also welcome).

There will be another lesson and play session in The Corner House, Charlbury on Thursday afternoon (September 26th) starting at 1.45pm. Further regular dates will be scheduled when I have an idea of how popular they are likely to be, based on this second Doodle poll (link here). Those who have already been to one of these popular sessions, or would like to consider them in the future, are invited to show their interest in future dates between now and Christmas. Hope to see you soon.

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