Although such a scenario was unthinkable just a few short months ago, the dangerous COVID-19 virus has shuttered bridge clubs across the world and brought tournament play to a complete halt. With national and local governments ordering people to shelter at home, and social distancing encouraged for the safety of everyone, many bridge players feel cut off from their friends and favorite hobby.
Yet fans of online bridge have long known that playing the game via the internet is great fun and that you can even play with your regular partners. Even better, ACBL masterpoints are available for certain games. But with the coronavirus preventing players from gathering in groups, online bridge – once merely a convenient option – is how most folks will play duplicate for the near future.
ACBL’s partner, Bridge Base Online
Bridge Base Online is the largest provider of internet-based bridge in the world. Thousands of bridge enthusiasts can be found playing on BBO at all times of the day and night.
If you’re new to online play and want to give it a try, search for Bridge Base Online on your laptop or smartphone browser and sign up. After setting up a user name and password, you’re ready to explore.
BBO offers an amazing menu of playing options. There are free, informal games with live partners and opponents from around the world, or you can play with and against robots. You can even set up private tables to play just with your friends.
If you prefer ACBL-sanctioned games – ones that offer masterpoints – there’s plenty to choose from. These cost a small fee, but they are all ACBL-rated games that award ACBL points. Using a credit card, players may purchase Bridge Base Dollars, which are essentially pre-paid entry fees. Every time you play, the fee is deducted from your account.
All price information below is subject to change.
The most common types of BBO masterpoint games
- ACBL Robot Duplicate: An individual contest played with and against robots. You compete against the other humans sitting your direction playing the same deals. Twelve boards, matchpoint or IMP scoring, one hour maximum to complete. $1.25 per session.
- ACBL Daylong. The same as the ACBL Robot Duplicate games, but, as the name suggests, you have all day to complete 12 boards, allowing you to periodically pause and return to play. $1.35 per session.
- Individual ACBL. These are also individual contests (you don’t need a partner) but played with and against humans. You play a few boards with a randomly assigned partner before switching to a new partner. Twelve boards, matchpoints, scored barometer-style, 48 minutes long. $1.25 per session.
- ACBL Speedball. These are pair contests, so a partner is required. A regular partner is easiest, but a partnership desk is available. These are 48-minute games with 12 boards. $1.25 per session.
Look carefully at the line in dark green. The Host column confirms that these are all ACBL masterpoint games. “ACBLSYC” stands for “Support Your Club.” The Title column is a brief description of the game format. The Type column specifies whether the game is played by individuals or pairs. The Start column indicates how many minutes before the game starts. The Entries column tells how many players or pairs have already entered the event. The Entry Fee column specifies how much the game costs to play.
Special games to support clubs
“SYC” games at ACBL World
There are two types of Support Your Club games: ACBL Black Point Games and ACBL Daylong Black Point Games. The former are pair games you play with a human partner; the latter are individual tournaments with robots. When you play in one of these games, a majority of the table fees is given back to your club. This way, you can help to support your club while also having the opportunity to win ACBL black masterpoints. These are 18-board matchpoint games. The pair games are $5 per session, and the individual games are $6.
Your local club: Virtual Games
Your local club: Virtual Games
Under the “Competitive” link on BBO, you’ll find games hosted by local clubs that have arranged to run games online for their members. These games are typically restricted to club members, but each club has its own rules on who may play. Likewise, clubs may host games with various numbers of boards, and they set their own entry fees. The clubs receive a majority of the fees collected by BBO. As this issue went to press, more than 100 clubs had already set up virtual games on BBO. The ACBL has sent all club managers an email explaining how they may participate in these online contests.