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The English Bridge School: helping to get bridge teaching online

Last week EBED (the bridge development charity supported by the EBU) launched the English Bridge School (EBS), a new resource for teaching bridge online.

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What is the English Bridge School? In a nutshell, it is a bundle of tools that will help bridge teachers transition from teaching in clubs, halls or living rooms, to teaching online. Although we have all been forced by circumstance to do more things online, this is also something that will be of permanent value even when we are no longer constrained by the pandemic. Online teaching has some advantages:

– no need to book premises

– no need for you or your students to travel

– automates some tasks like scoring quizzes and tests

– links to a rich range of online resources

If you are already a bridge teacher, is EBS for you? Maybe, maybe not. Although EBED has worked hard to make EBS as good as possible (and no doubt too it will get much better as it matures), it is not the only way to teach bridge online; and we (that is, the EBU and EBED) will support bridge teachers however they choose to teach. That said, EBS is inexpensive and helps with both the mechanics and the process of online teaching, so we would encourage any bridge teacher to take a look.

What does EBS include?

There are several key elements in EBS, as follows:

G Suite, which is Google’s browser-based collection of productivity tools, including email, word processor, spreadsheet and presentation graphics. Most people will know these already, since individuals can use them for free, and some will have encountered them at work too. G Suite is the business/educational version which has larger capacity and more important, helps teachers to work as a group with their students. For example, you automatically get a shared calendar which you can set up with links to online classes and everything will work smoothly. If you are wondering what is in G Suite versus what you can get for free, the full explanation is here.

Google Meet, which is Google’s online conferencing tool. Meet also has a free version; however the variant you get with G Suite has some extra features. Specifically, free Meet is limited to 60 minutes per meeting, whereas the the G Suite version you get with EBS has unlimited time and adds features including meeting recording (very useful for teachers), live streaming, and administrative control.

Google Classroom. This is an general online teaching platform, part of G Suite for Education. There is a summary of what is in Classroom here. The main features are the ability to set assignments, communicate with students, publish learning materials, and keep track of the progress of your students. For example, you can create a form with 6 quick questions about bidding or play, have all your students complete the quiz online, and keep track of their scores, all with built-in tools. You could do this without Classroom, using Google Forms or another online solution, but with Classroom it is all integrated.

Exclusive EBED content. This is really the heart of it. The Bridge for All material has been transformed and supplemented for online use, with handouts, lessons, quizzed and teaching plans that you can use or adapt as you like. This material is not yet complete, but more is being added all the time.

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How do you play online with EBS?

You may think there is something missing here: how do you play or demonstrate bridge online using EBS? The answer is that this is not built in, but it is easy to use EBS alongside existing resources. Some of the key techniques are:

Share your screen in Google Meet. This means you can run software such as HandPlay (available in the EBTA Teachers’ Zone) to demonstrate card play and your students will see it wherever they are. EBS also includes sample hands that you can import into Bridge Base Online (BBO), or any standard bridge software, to demonstrate specific teaching points. Most hands are provided in both LIN (the BBO format) and PBN (the standard bridge format), and you can also convert between formats using the free utility provided by Richard Pavlicek here.

Use a teaching table on BBO.  BBO teaching tables let you show all four hands, demonstrate play, or have students play with the teacher available to guide them when needed. Playing bridge (or minibridge) is the fun part of bridge so getting people playing as early as possible, and frequently thereafter, will soon get them hooked on the game!

Use the internet. The beauty of having everyone online is that every online resource is just a click away. YouTube is owned by Google so of course it is easy to embed YouTube videos into course materials. There are also a ton of great bridge teaching resources out there. For example, BBO includes Bridgemaster, a set of exercises that run from very easy to very challenging, all free.

How do you sign up?

Currently EBS is free for teachers who are members of EBTA, the EBED teachers’ association. Students can sign up through an online link here. The cost is £5.00 per month for the student, with the first month free.

Tips for using EBS

There are a couple of things worth mentioning to avoid any friction using EBS.

First, probably a majority of people already have Google accounts, if only because they need to use Android, and this can conflict with the second Google account used for signing into EBS (whether you are a teacher or student). You can get round this by using your web browser’s Incognito (Chrome) or Private (Edge or Firefox) mode. This opens a new browser session without the cookies that tell Google you are already signed in with a different account. Another technique is to use one browser for your normal Google login, and a second browser (such as Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari) for EBS. This is a bit smoother because you can stay signed in when using the second browser. The supported browsers are listed here. Although Google naturally encourages you to use Chrome, the other browsers work fine for everything other than working offline, which is not normally required.

Second, what if you prefer to use Microsoft Office for preparing handouts and presentations? You can do this quite easily. Prepare your documents in Microsoft Office, and then upload them to G Suite, or use the desktop Google Drive application so they are uploaded automatically.

Third, what if you want to use the material in EBS but prefer a different platform for video conferencing, for example? The answer: what’s best is whatever works best for you. If you have a subscription to Zoom, for example, and you and your students prefer it, you can use that and still use the EBS material. You miss out on a bit of integration with the calendar, but it is not difficult to work around.

Learning more

There is plenty more information on the EBS site, and if you are the kind of person who learns best through video, a bunch of videos which take you through the G Suite platform and getting started with teaching bridge on EBS.

We are keen to know more about what works best with online bridge teaching so please let us know how you find it, and any tips that we can share are always welcome too.

Could you be a bridge teacher? How can you tell?

Bridge teaching is at the core of bringing more people into the game and into our clubs, and to that end the EBU is glad to sponsor club members who want to attend an EBTA teaching course – inevitably these have been disrupted by the current pandemic but we hope will be up and running again soon; and in the meantime (or as well), there is always opportunity to teach bridge online.

One of the questions though is how to encourage more people to come forward as teachers – and not just anyone, the people who are both well suited to the task, and who will follow up by actually running classes. What does it take to be a good bridge teacher?

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First, while you must of course know the game well enough to teach it, you do not have to be one of the top players at your club – unless you are teaching at a more advanced level, which is less common than teaching beginners. The goal is to get people playing and enjoying bridge, and once students progress to the point where they can play in a club session, there are many different ways they can improve.

Equally, being an expert bridge player does not automatically make someone well suited to being a teacher. You also need a good level of empathy, being able to see bridge from the perspective of the newcomer and understand how challenging it can be, with so many rules and conventions.

Enthusiasm for bridge, on the other hand, is really important. Enthusiasm is infectious and someone who loves the game will help students to love it too.

Patience, friendliness, ability to explain, confidence in leading a group, sense of humour, good organisation skills: all these are great qualities for teaching bridge. None of us is perfect though, so you don not have to score highly in every aspect to be an excellent bridge teacher.

How can you find out if you or another person will be an effective teacher? Going on a course is one way, but represents a considerable commitment. Another possibility is to find teachers locally and offer to assist them, or join in with teaching and supervised sessions at a club. It will soon be apparent whether it is something you could be good at doing.

When I attended a teaching course myself, I found it more challenging than I had expected. Knowing how to play bridge is only the start. Managing a class of students and working out how to pace the course for them and convey the basics of the game, while also keeping it entertaining and not too much like going back to school, is demanding though also very satisfying.

Bridge teaching is hugely worthwhile because it has such long term impact. Bridge is a game for life, it helps us find new friends as well as being a superb mental exercise. Most important, it is a lot of fun, and enabling new people to enjoy bridge is a wonderful gift.

There are people in every club who would make excellent teachers, so now is the time to give them a nudge.

EBU Virtual Bridge Clubs and why we need online bridge

These are hard times for bridge clubs, and speaking personally I greatly miss the bridge sessions we enjoyed before the UK went into “social distancing” lockdown.  None of what follows is meant to suggest that playing bridge online is a perfect substitute for the enjoyment of playing face to face at a club, and I very much hope we can get back to doing that safely before too long.

In the meantime, clubs are currently unable to meet, and it is also possible that return to normal will not be smooth or immediate, but a process over a long period. There may be further lockdowns, and there may be understandable reluctance on the part of some members to return to club meetings while there is any perceived risk in doing so.

Playing bridge online is real bridge. You can play against a computer but compare your score with other humans (Funbridge); or you can play with other people just as you would if playing at a club (Bridge Base Online (BBO) or Bridge Club Live). We should acknowledge too that online bridge has some advantages. You do not have to travel; you can play at any time; you can easily find a partner or find somewhere to play with your normal partner; there are no worries about rooms or tables or preparing the boards or car parking. While we hope that our clubs will emerge in good shape when the current crisis is over, I also suspect that some of us will get a taste for online bridge that will continue. Perhaps it will make sense for some clubs to run regular virtual bridge sessions.

The EBU is doing a few things to encourage clubs to play online. Note first, if clubs play competitive tournaments on BBO they can continue to submit sessions for master points and NGS (National Grading Scheme); in fact, we very much encourage you to do so.

We have a spreadsheet which will automatically convert a results table into the XML file required by the EBU’s system and this is available on request. The club can then submit its results.

Virtual Bridge Clubs

With that out of the way, here is a quick look at the EBU’s arrangements for virtual bridge clubs, announced last week. All clubs should have received an email with details.

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The idea of the virtual bridge club is that an EBU club can play pairs sessions on BBO as a club with a trained director (TD), who can be one of your existing directors after training, or a TD who we can help you find. The fundamentals are as follows:

  • Once in the scheme, you can run pairs games of any size at any time, subject to the availability of a TD.
  • Your members can pay “table money” through BBO in which case the the minimum cost is $3.00 per player (about £2.50). During the current crisis, the club receives 70% of this (it is normally 50%). Alternatively you can arrange with us to have members play without paying BBO direct, in which BBO charge about $1.00 per player. Clubs can then make their own table money arrangements with members. In both cases, the club submits its results and is charged UMS in the usual way.
  • All virtual bridge club sessions must be submitted to the EBU under UMS. You can exclude sessions from NGS if you prefer by choosing the code. Code 10 is normal, with master points and NGS, Code 11 no NGS or master points, Code 12 master points but no NGS, Code 20 for counties.

A TD offer for virtual bridge clubs

Playing on BBO is a little different from playing in a face to face club. A group of EBU TDs has got together to offer some paid help, and we can put you in touch if needed. There are three offers:

a) You can have a BBO session set up and run for you at £40 for 18 boards or £45.00 for 24 boards. This includes finding hosts for single players, making rulings and correcting results for up to 20 minutes after play, publishing results to your website, submitting UMS, and providing a BBO TD.

b) There is a “support only” offer which provides assistance with rulings and results, publishing results to your website, and submit for UMS. £20 per session.

c)  You can have one or more of your club TDs via two online sessions with screen sharing. You will get support material and assistance with users struggling to get online. This costs £100.

Questions about BBO virtual bridge clubs

Once in the scheme, do clubs have to pay for a BBO TD?

No. Once a club is in the scheme you can play as many sessions as you like and run them yourselves with your volunteer TDs just like a normal club night.

Do our TDs become BBO TDs via this scheme?

Not exactly. You have TD privileges within the virtual bridge club scheme, but not outside it. When setting up a session, you can appoint any BBO member as a TD for that session. But you cannot create pairs tournaments outside the virtual bridge club scheme, unless you are already a BBO TD. Our understanding is that BBO is not currently appointing new TDs because of the stress on their system during the COVID-19 crisis.

Is there a cost to join the scheme?

No. However the EBU administers the scheme and must be satisfied that the club is ready to run sessions. This could be via paid assistance as mentioned above.

Is it fair to award master points and NGS for online games, given that you cannot physically check that pairs are playing according to the rules?

We have posted about the ethics of online play here. It is a matter of trust, on the one hand, and also that anomalies become obvious, on the other. Normal disciplinary measures apply. But clubs have an option to exclude sessions from either or both master points and NGS if they prefer.

Do online sessions drag on because of disconnects, or players leaving their computer for some reason?

No. There is a setup option to have the time per board limited, for example to 7 minutes. EBU sessions are run like this. In this case, the round always ends when the time is up. Boards not completed get an adjusted score. Details of how this works are in the BBO guidance, but it is designed to be fair.

Can we control who plays in our sessions?

Yes. You can create what BBO calls a custom list of those allowed to enter. This can be just your members, or you can get together with other clubs.

I still have questions, can you help?

Yes. Please contact us with your questions. If you are an EBU club and have not received the application form, contact our club liaison officer Jonathan Lilycrop.

Teaching bridge online: a necessity and an opportunity

Membership development is all about teaching bridge to new players. With bridge clubs closed and people stuck at home that is challenging; but it also an opportunity to give people something fun and absorbing to do while housebound, by setting up online classes or discussions.

It is also true that people everywhere are discovering that working or socialising remotely is now pretty easy to set up, thanks to technology, and that might give bridge teachers some ideas for the long-term, particularly if finding premises is a problem – though of course we are all also looking forward to the time when we can meet in person again.

How do you teach bridge online? This will require a video conference; it is not absolutely essential that you can see your students, but it essential that they can see you. There are a number of solutions for video conferencing. The big winner in the current crisis is Zoom, mainly because it works, is easy to use, and is free for up to 40 minutes. The free usage is generous and you can, for example, have a 40 minute session, a break, and then another session. Or you can take out a plan, currently £12.00 per month. The service does cost something to operate so paying is not a bad idea.

The other essential feature is screen sharing, so you can show students what is running on your PC or Mac.

Microsoft’s Skype or Teams, or Google Hangouts, are other solutions. They all work and have the required features, so it is a matter of personal preference.

If you use Zoom, take a took at the meeting settings. Here is a possible setup. Notice I’ve checked the option to record the session, so students can view it again for a recap (and you can review it to see how it went):

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Zoom has also posted some advice on online teaching – check the Educating section here.

One other piece of advice: check your audio setup carefully. Ensuring that your students can hear you easily is perhaps the single most important thing you can do. You’ll notice above that I’ve also suggested “Mute participants on entry”. Distracting noises from participants can be a problem, so encourage them to stay muted unless they are in a quiet environment. It is easy to unmute to ask a question or chat.

What to show on screen

The next obvious issue is what to show on screen. Here are a couple of suggestions. If you are an EBTA teacher, you have access to HandPlay, software which lets you display a hand on screen and play through it. You can load hands from a library (the screenshot below is from the pre-empts library) or make up your own.

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Another useful tool is good old PowerPoint, or similar software such as LibreOffice Impress, which is free.

Online bridge software like Funbridge, BridgeBase Online or Bridge Club Live can be useful for grabbing example boards as a screenshot for inserting into a slide presentation. You can also grab screens from Bridgewebs or similar, for recent games from your club for example. And don’t forget that the Play it again feature in Bridgewebs takes you to Bridge Solver Online, which shows you exactly how many tricks you can make depending on which card is played from a hand, a great teaching feature. Bridge Solver also integrates with BBO.

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Our partners at EBTA also have some advice on online teaching, which members can find in the Teacher Zone.

Giving students actual practice

Students will want to do some actual online play as well as learning how. You can setup online games for them, for example on BridgeBase Online. BridgeBase has a teaching tables feature and see here for more information (scroll down to Teaching on BBO). You can use text messaging with students in BBO, or use the Voice feature, or you can have a simultaneous video conference so you can talk them through games.

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Don’t lose touch with your students

One last point: whether or not you decide to do online teaching, it is critical not to lose touch with your students during an enforced break of uncertain duration. Even if you don’t want to do online teaching, why not have a virtual coffee morning so you can get together online and chat?

As ever, we would love to hear from clubs and teachers about what works and what does not, so we can benefit from your experience.

Keeping your bridge club alive in difficult times

As I write, most bridge clubs in England are not meeting. Our official advice is here. It may seem as if there is nothing we can do until we can return to playing at the table, but this is not the case. It is important that we look after our members and find ways to keep the club going even if it is not possible to meet.

The first thing is to keep in touch. There are several ways:

– Email.

– web site notices.

– phone.

– social media, for clubs that are active on Facebook, Twitter or similar.

Visiting is obviously possible but against government advice, since we are being asked to maintain social distancing and that is not possible with face-to-face bridge.

But what is there to say? Here are some suggestions.

Online bridge

First, what about playing online? There are a number of options and I will list some of the main ones below.

Bridge Club Live. This is an EBU affiliated club. You can play for free in guest rooms, or sign up as a member to get full access. You play with real people and it is UK based so plenty of Acol/weak No Trump (though all are welcome). Your club can register, in which case club members who play in the drop-in-drop-out (DIDO) tournament (which runs almost all the time) can compare their results with those of other club members.

What is the DIDO tournament? Described here, it is an all-day tournament scored with pairs scoring (MPs). You commit to playing at least 4 boards at a time, and if you play 16 boards during the day (which can be at different times, in rounds of 4 boards), then you appear in the daily leader board and receive EBU master points.

There is a special offer for EBU members joining the club here. If you use this link, new BCL members get 50 days free. The full price is £72.00 per year. There is a little wrinkle you should be aware of. If you have a discounted subscription like the special offer, you will also pay an EBU UMS (Universal Membership) charge. If you pay the full price it is included. How much? £0.67 per month (a bargain!).

Note that there is, or will be, a cost for clubs to register. It is free until 1st July 2020 but will be £24.00 per year for the club, and club members also need to join as individuals.

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Bridge Base Online is the largest online bridge platform for real-time bridge – by which I mean, you play with real people and wait while they are thinking and so on, just like in a club. There is an option for robots, but mainly for practising. It began in the USA and is truly international, which means the majority of players use a strong No Trump, but there are plenty of Acol players too.

The EBU has made arrangements with Bridge Base to run EBU sessions every day. Joining in one of these sessions costs one “BB$” which you purchase at the rate of one BB$ per US $. It is just a way of keeping some credit with Bridge Base to avoid paying a small sum each time you play. Master points are awarded. They are 12-board games and there are currently four every day, at 2pm, 3.30pm, 7.30pm and 9.00pm.

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We have a guide to registering for Bridge Base Online here.

Funbridge is the largest online platform for computer bridge – but with a difference. Every game you play on Funbridge had its results compared with other people, so it is a kind of computer duplicate. The standard is high; the computer opponent is better than most human players even if sometimes it does strange things (just like us). In 2019, an average of over 1 million deals were played on Funbridge every day.

Funbridge has a nice user interface and some great features, like the ability to replay hands as many times as you like (only your first score counts unfortunately!). Because you play against the computer, there is no waiting around, and you can play as slowly as you like without annoying anyone. You can’t let down your partner therefore, but equally you won’t be congratulated for your great play, except by the reward of a nice score.

You get 100 free boards when you sign up, and can play 10 boards for free every week. Beyond that buy packs of boards or pay a subscription for unlimited games.

The EBU runs a Funbridge session every day, and master points are awarded. There is a small extra charge for playing in the EBU sessions, currently €2 (though like Bridge Base, Funbridge has a virtual currency called Diamonds). Full details of the EBU sessions are here.

There are several ways you can do things as a club on Funbridge. You could have a team in the Funbridge Team Championship (6 members in each team), and you can create Funbridge tournaments for your club. It is not ideal though, since players always play solo, and you have to accept that non-club members might play in your tournament. These other games do not cost any Funbridge Diamonds though, and you do not get master points.

We have said a bit more about these and other online bridge options here.

Encouraging and supporting online bridge

Do you have members who would like to play online but may struggle to get started? You can offer to help them either by talking them through it on the phone. We can also help with advice. A great idea though is for one or two members of your club who are comfortable with playing online to make themselves available to encourage others.

Please also advise them that if you are playing online with other people you need to apply the same high standard of behaviour as you would at a real table. For example, imagine you over-bid and see the contract is hopeless as soon as dummy goes down. Do not think about abandoning the board, as that is inconsiderate. Grit your teeth and play; the next board may be a triumph.

Continuing bridge learning

Another idea is to encourage club members to use the opportunity of more time at home to improve their game. There are plenty of sites out there, from no fear bridge aimed at novices, to the highly educational Bridge Master which you can find (completely free) on Bridge Base Online. Bridge Master has several levels; you have to find a line of play that succeeds for a variety of hands. At the high levels it is very challenging, and you can learn different types of squeezes.

If you are running bridge classes, you might consider running some classes via web conferencing. Many systems let you share your screen so you can show hands and other presentations.

Let’s not forget books as well. There are many superb books on bridge at every level, so this is a good time to remind members of them and make some recommendations.

Have you got ideas about keeping your club together during a time of not meeting? Please let us know in the comments or contact me by email as we would love to share them.

Supporting youth bridge: what can clubs do, and a new initiative in London

In talking to bridge clubs about the demographic issues facing our game, I am often asked what we are doing to help more young people benefit from the fun and challenge of bridge.

Our message to clubs in general is to focus on an older age group, for two reasons. One is that the older group is more responsive to bridge in general, so marketing campaigns aimed at them are more rewarding. Second, in some cases there is a bit of a cultural (and timing) mismatch between a typical bridge club and someone of school age or a student. We think it may be better to form new clubs for young people – though this is not always the case, and if you are a bridge club which is successfully attracting players both young and old, that is fantastic and keep going!

It may not be easy though, and we also know that you cannot just march into a school, college or university and set up bridge classes. It is a cooperative effort and you need to get everything right, from safeguarding policies to the right way of teaching the game (or perhaps MiniBridge).

Where people have the enthusiasm and have put in the necessary hard work, there are great results. Young people who learn to play love the game, and there are also plenty of opportunities to compete at every level form local to international.

If this is something you want to support, but you do not know much about it, check out the EBED Youth page. This includes a Youth Handbook which distils a lot of information, wisdom and experience into a 10 page booklet that sets out what you can do, with links for more information.

The Young Chelsea Bridge Club in London has come up with another idea, which is to offer to teach bridge to every student who cares to sign up. There is a pilot project to teach bridge to chess players and you can find more information here. We wish them every success.

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Hello, I want to learn to play bridge. Can you help?

Someone contacts your bridge club and says, “I want to learn to play bridge”. What answer do they get?

The EBU’s membership development efforts are largely focused on supporting clubs in getting new members by teaching bridge to newcomers. This is the only method that works to keep the game thriving. Therefore when someone contacts a club and says that they want to learn the game, this is something that is most welcome.

Having the right response ready though is not trivial. What you would like to say is, “Thanks for calling, that is fantastic news and I am sure you will enjoy learning. We have a class starting in two weeks time, can you make Tuesday evenings?”

Unfortunately not all clubs are in a position to give that kind of answer. Running bridge classes takes considerable investment of time and energy, and you have to have one or more teachers, premises to teach in, and an ongoing plan to take students into supervised bridge and then into full club sessions. Some will drop out along the way.

I am sure all enquirers to any of our clubs get a friendly response. But in some cases it might be less than ideal. For example:

  • “No we don’t teach bridge. I think there might be some classes in [another town]”
  • “Thanks for calling. Wait a moment … I’ve looked online and there are 10 bridge teachers in your area, can I send you the link?”
  • “Great that you want to learn bridge. I know [some name] does teaching, I’ll give you the number.”
  • “Let me take your number. We’re not teaching at the moment but if we do in future I’ll be sure to call you.”

The lack of a good response may have several outcomes:

  • The person may give up and not learn bridge after all
  • The person may end up finding a teacher who is not of a high standard
  • The person may find a teacher who is not linked to an EBU club – not so bad in that they do learn bridge, but no immediate benefit to clubs which need new members

I must add that we know of many clubs which do a wonderful job of teaching and welcoming new members so the above is not in any way meant as a criticism. Rather, it is a reflection of the fact that not all clubs are equipped to teach and that the resources we have for putting enquirers in touch with the right bridge teacher are perhaps not as good as they should be.

What can we do? First, we want to encourage all EBU clubs to be teaching clubs, either on their own, or in combination with other local clubs. It is not necessary always to have a course about to start. People are usually happy to wait. Even if you run courses just once a year, that is not a bad answer. “We have a course staring next September” is a great deal better than having nothing to offer.

There are many excellent bridge teachers but we think clubs have a key role alongside teachers, the simple reason being that we think an EBU duplicate bridge club is the best place to play bridge. If the club is at the centre of the teaching process, the newcomer is much more likely to end up playing at the club, than if they are directed to an external teacher.

Can the EBU do more to support clubs in this important matter? I think we can, along with our colleagues at English Bridge Education and Development (EBED). We are certainly open to suggestions about this so please do get in touch.

Finally, if you are reading this and want to learn bridge, feel free to contact me tim@ebu.co.uk or give us a call! We will do our very best to help you get started.

Ten reasons to play bridge: presenting the game we love to the community

We have plenty of material on this site on how to attract new members to your club, but perhaps not enough on the heart of the matter: why play bridge? Please feel free to use or adapt this in your own bridge promotion.

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Ten reasons to play bridge

1. Bridge is an endlessly fascinating game, easy to learn but also mentally challenging to play at the highest level. It is played with 52 cards dealt into 4 hands, and every hand is different; you will almost certainly never see the exact same deal in your lifetime (there are 53,644,737,765,488,792,839,237,440,000 possible deals, if you are mathematically curious).

2. Bridge is a lot of fun. At a typical club, participants play around 24 hands in a session (though fewer if you are just starting out), and each one can be triumph or tragedy as you try to out-play and out-wit your opponents.

3. Bridge is good for you. Dr Caroline Small at Imperial College London researched the topic and found:

  • Recent research has demonstrated that individuals taking up membership of a club at retirement live longer.
  • The results of the model suggest that individuals who play bridge have higher levels of overall wellbeing

There are also benefits for young people in learning bridge. It helps to teach mathematical concepts like probability as well as learning to work in partnership with someone else – because bridge is played in pairs.

4. Bridge is a great way to meet people. Young people make friends easily, but it can be harder when we are older, for example when moving to a new location. Joining a bridge club is an excellent way to meet people in the context of a shared activity, so you can socialise as little or as much as you want.

5. Once you learn bridge, you will never be bored again. You can play bridge whenever you want. The best place to play bridge is in a bridge club, but you can also play online, without a partner, and at your own pace, for example with Funbridge.

6. Bridge is inexpensive. Most EBU clubs ask between £2.00 and £3.00 “table money”, that is, the cost of playing in a session that lasts for two to three hours. That’s not much more than the price of a cup of coffee, and less than what you would pay for a pint of beer in a pub.

7. Bridge is so absorbing that you leave your worries behind you. Since you have to concentrate on the game, all the other things on your mind will be forgotten.

8. Bridge is a game for all ages and levels of physical fitness. As long as you can see the cards and handle a bidding card, you can continue to enjoy bridge. Clubs can arrange for you to be seated at the same place at one table throughout the session if you would rather not move about.

9. Bridge is not just for experts. Even if you score badly, you will still probably do well on some of the hands in a session; it is not like chess where there is one winner and one loser. Less experienced players can enjoy seeing how they improve over time.

10. Bridge presents lovely opportunities. Once you can play the game, you can travel to compete in tournaments, some of which are tailored to suit less expert players. You can also enjoy bridge holidays and cruises. Learning bridge is the passport to many enjoyable experiences.

What bridge players think

We asked thousands of bridge players what they like about the game. Here are some of their responses:

  • Bridge is very stimulating. Every hand is new, so you never get bored. It’s absorbing, frustrating, challenging, addictive, satisfying – I love it.
  • I enjoy the mental gymnastics, the infinite variety, and the succession of unique challenges.
  • My wife and I wanted something to do together – as we both were logically-minded and played other card games, we took up bridge.
  • My husband, sometimes uses a wheelchair so it is an activity we can do together.
  • I love the achievement in winning without being aggressive towards others – it’s friendly competition.
  • “Walking into the club, greeting friends, chatting, then being totally absorbed by the bidding and playing of each hand is a wonderful way to spend a happy and sociable evening with the huge bonus of enhancing brain power”
  • I play to socialise and catch-up with friends doing an activity we enjoy. I enjoy being part of a team or partnership – it’s more sociable than games such as chess.
  • I learned as a way to get to know people when I moved city – there’s a real bridge community.
  • I play to meet new friends and enlarge my social group. I recently returned from abroad after many years and it got me back into the community.
  • It gets me out of the house and with people. It gives me focus. When things go well I feel good.

What some celebrities think

Martina Navratilova (tennis champion) “No matter where I go, I can always make new friends at the bridge table”

Bill Gates (co-founder of Microsoft) “Bridge is the king of all card games”

Alex James (pop star, bassist in Blur) “Bridge is utterly compulsive … it isn’t too hard to learn and you actually start enjoying it before you get very good.”

Using Nextdoor to get your bridge club and classes better known

How do you get your bridge club and classes better known in the community? Although on occasion people will travel some distance to play bridge (and why not?) we believe that the more local, the better. This is particularly the case when you are introducing people to the enjoyment of bridge later on in life.

For this reason we have long recommended Facebook for promotion and advertising of upcoming bridge teaching. Facebook lets you specify a target audience within a few miles of where your lessons will take place, and to a specified age group.

Facebook is good in this respect; but there is another hyper-local option which, we are hearing, is very effective. This is the Nextdoor network. One club in Kent found 12 new students for their bridge classes very quickly through Nextdoor – and it was more effective for them than leaflets or other methods. Another club in Yorkshire also reports a good result.

What is Nextdoor? The concept is quite simple: it is a network of groups each of which covers a small area such as a housing estate. Only people in that local area are allowed to join the group; this is not very rigorously enforced but seems to work well.

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Nextdoor is therefore the perfect place to announce your bridge classes, which you can either mention in community posts or advertise in a sponsored post. You must of course be respectful of the online community. You should read the community guidelines and the information on promoting local business. If your bridge club is run as a for-profit business, you must follow the guidelines. On the other hand, most bridge clubs are not run for profit and benefit the community in all sorts of ways, providing social interaction, mental challenge, and of course a great deal of enjoyment.

The important thing is to be a good citizen and communicate the opportunity bridge represents in an appropriate way.

Properly used, Nextdoor is a valuable way of contacting your local community alongside other approaches. You can sign up here. Note that you do not have to share your full address with your neighbours; this is the default but you can change it in privacy settings to show only the street.

Take-up will vary from one area to another, but in my own area the site says that 26% of 1000 households are represented, quite a good proportion.

Tips for marketing your bridge club


The idea of marketing a bridge club is relatively new for many of us. We have been accustomed to people just turning up, and then typically playing regularly since it is so enjoyable.

Bridge players still tend to play regularly once they get to know the game, but sadly we can no longer count on people just turning up. Introducing bridge to new people has become critically important to the long-term future of our clubs, and a combination of bridge teaching and marketing is the best way we know to accomplish that.

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Every clubs is different and every region is different so of course we acknowledge that “whatever works for you” is a valid principle. That said, we have learned more about what tends to work and what tends not to work. Here are a few tips from that learning.

Human contact works best. We respond well to recommendations from friends and to human stories. We respond badly to random advertisements, in a world where we are bombarded with advertising from dawn until dusk. What this means is that a leaflet passed on by a friend or neighbour is many times more effective than one pushed through the door. The further thought arising from this is that every member of a club can, in a quite way, help to promote it. So:

  • More effective: leaflets or word of mouth recommendation from friends
  • Less effective: pushing leaflets through the letterbox of 1000 local homes

Following on from this, try to emphasise the human stories in club publicity material. A quote from a member of the club who has recently learned bridge and enjoys it is worth more than any amount of quotes from celebrities or information about the game.

Similarly, press advertising in general we have found not very effective. The problem seems to be that despite large distribution numbers, press ads do not get much attention and of course are completely untargeted. Hyper-local publications are actually better as well as cheaper: a parish magazine or community newsletter rather than a city-wide or regional local newspaper. Editorial in the local press is much more effective, and free, if you can get it. Again, stories are the key. New premises? A good news story about growing popularity? Research about health benefits of bridge could be a hook for a story. Bridge on Coronation Street? Appoint a publicity officer for the club and keep a look out for stories.

  • More effective: press editorial, hyper-local newsletters and magazines
  • Less effective: press advertising in newspapers and wide circulation publications

Keep it local! Most of us do not like long journeys. If advertising on Facebook, stick to no more than a 5 mile radius from your club. Yes, there might be someone 15 miles away who will make the effort, but not many.

  • More effective: your own town, suburb, housing estate or village
  • Less effective: trying to broaden reach to everyone who might possibly be able to attend

Have a clear and reassuring call to action. Several human characteristics can work against it. We are all busy and fail to get round to things even that we feel are a good idea. And we are naturally a bit suspicious or worried about scams, unfriendliness, strangers and so on. So in our marketing it is essential to have a clear “what to do next” such as sending a message, or an email or calling a number, preferably with a deadline that must not be missed. “Bridge taster session on 1 December, free refreshments and your first lesson free” makes a nice offer complete with a date, for example.

  • More effective: a clear call to action with a dated event and a special offer
  • Less effective: “Come and visit us sometime” or a link to a club web site that has information on it somewhere about learning bridge 

It is also important to think about the destination as well as the journey. We consistently see that bridge clubs which achieve a welcoming atmosphere and who set out to provide an enjoyable session as well as high standard of bridge find it easier to attract new members. Even details like the lighting in the car park makes a difference. We want our clubs to be places that people love to attend.

  • More effective: A friendly atmosphere with thought given to every aspect of the session
  • Less effective: Bridge but not much else to attract people

What strategies have you found effective? We would love to hear from you so let us know!