Building club membership following lockdown: resources

Between April 2020 and around the end of January 2022, with a respite of sorts between July and December 2021, the UK had restrictions on public gathering which impacted bridge clubs. The consequences for bridge were not all bad: there was a boom in online bridge platforms and much bridge was played while people were trapped at home.

The lifting of lockdown restrictions, however, has not in general meant that our bridge clubs are now as they were in March 2020. The lockdown was long enough to change habits, improved online bridge has given players new choices, some smaller clubs have not been able to reopen while some others have struggled to build up numbers.

The EBU has held several online seminars for clubs including success stories, guidance on hybrid sessions which combine online and face to face play, training opportunities for rusty directors, and new initiatives for promoting clubs and teaching bridge to new players.

Below are the seminars so far. Note that the first seminar in July 2021 was repeated a few weeks later. Links for both are included below; the main content is the same but the discussion of course varies.

Agendas are included so you can easily skip to the subjects that are most useful to you.

We are open to running additional seminars and would welcome ideas on the most pressing topics or potential speakers – contact me

Building your club membership July 2022


    1. Introduction and Welcome (Gordon Rainsford, EBU Chief Executive)
    2. News and demo of our forthcoming improved online club directory and other initiatives to help enquirers discover your club (Tim Anderson, EBU Membership Development Officer)
    3. Love your members: Bakewell bridge club and the journey to online and back to face to face (Barbara Rogers, Secretary Bakewell Bridge Club)
    4. Success stories from both large and small clubs and lessons learned about how to increase engagement with club members (Ian Sidgwick, Chair Gloucestershire CBA)
    5. EBED update on training teachers and directors for your club (Mark Humphris, EBED)
    6. Teaching new bridge players in Yorkshire but where do they go once taught? Survey results (David Guild, Membership Secretary Yorkshire CBA)
    7. Open Q&A

Face to Face and Online Bridge following lockdown April 2022


  1. Welcome from Gordon Rainsford, EBU chief executive and chief TD and introduction by Tim Anderson (EBU Membership Development)
  2. David Dunford: With a swift restart online following lockdown, Nottingham Bridge Club built up online sessions to the point where more bridge was played than before. Now mainly face to face again, what are the challenges of winning people back to the physical club?
  3. Mark Humphris (EBED): With high demand for TD and teacher training, Mark will explain what is on offer and planned, and what clubs and counties can do to take advantage of it
  4. Oliver Cowan: The Oliver Cowan Bridge Club was born as online-only but Oliver is also an enthusiast for face-to-face bridge. How can clubs adapt for changing patterns of play?
  5. Tony Russ (EBU Board, Somerset chair): New marketing initiatives from the EBU to build up your club
  6. Nicky Bainbridge: Rugby Village Bridge Club: prior to lockdown in March 2020, this beginner-friendly club was running 6 thriving sessions every week. Now there are two face-to-face and two online, but the club has managed better than many to adapt and restart. What has worked and how does the future look?

7. Open discussion and Q&A

Restarting face to face bridge after lockdown Repeat seminar August 2021

Agenda – see next video below

Restarting face to face bridge after lockdown July 2021


  1. Welcome (Ian Payn) and Introduction (Gordon Rainsford)
  2. Best practice, social distancing, risk assessment (Nicky Bainbridge)
  3. Hybrid play – general introduction with options (Jonathan Lillycrop)
  4. Pianola/Bridgemate solution (James Ward)
  5. TD refresher courses (Jacks Morcombe)
  6. Marketing and recruiting new members (Tim Anderson)
  7. Club restart recruitment (Douglas Wright)
  8. Online payments (Jonathan Lillycrop)
  9. Open Q&A

Don’t miss our online seminar on Building club membership

We are holding an online seminar, open free of charge to all EBU clubs, on Wednesday 27 June at 10.00am. We have a lot to share about how to build club membership; if you would like to attend, email, mentioning your club, and you would be most welcome.

1. Introduction and Welcome (Gordon Rainsford, EBU Chief Executive)
2. News and demo of our forthcoming improved online club directory and other initiatives to help enquirers discover your club (Tim Anderson, EBU Membership Development Officer)
3. Love your members: Bakewell bridge club and the journey to online and back to face to face (Barbara Rogers, Secretary Bakewell Bridge Club)
4. Success stories from both large and small clubs and lessons learned about how to increase engagement with club members (Ian Sidgwick, Chair Gloucestershire CBA)
5. EBED update on training teachers and directors for your club (Mark Humphris, EBED)
6. Teaching new bridge players in Yorkshire but where do they go once taught? Survey results (David Guild, Membership Secretary Yorkshire CBA)
7. Open Q&A

Restarting face to face bridge after lockdown

I carelessly typed “restarting bridge after lockdown” but quickly corrected myself. While the pandemic has had many tragic consequences, bridge has been a fantastic pastime for lockdown and enormous energy from the bridge community has gone into the online game, with new and improved bridge platforms, help for members who struggle a bit with the technology, and transforming face to face competitions into online events that have sometimes proved more successful than before, because there is no need to travel or find a suitable hall.

We have a group of around 20 novice players who play online at my own club in Winchester and they absolutely love the game – I will say a bit more about this later – but I mention it now because it is so rewarding bringing new people into the game and seeing the fun they have, with every session bringing up new challenges, plenty of mishaps but it is all part of the adventure.

But what happens now, with government restrictions lifted, but some club members understandably cautious about returning to face to face sessions? While it is fantastic that we are able to meet again and play with real cards, it also presents some new challenges. In lockdown it was simply a question of how we could support online bridge; now we have a mixture of online and face to face with some puzzles about how best to handle it.

This is a membership development site: and we must remind ourselves of two things. One is that we know well that when bridge is enthusiastically promoted and carefully taught, there is strong demand, though getting all the pieces in place is challenging and some areas are easier than others. Second, we are very aware of the demographics of our members, with the average age of an EBU members somewhere in the seventies and some smaller clubs still facing the challenge of either bringing in new members, closing, or merging with another club – and for some of these, lockdown has been the last straw.

Everything that was true before lockdown remains true today. We have an urgent recruitment task, and speaking for the EBU, we want to support our clubs in the task of marketing, teaching, and then making the tricky transition from classes to the main club sessions. We are also aware that it is not just a matter of teaching more bridge but also helping clubs to be enjoyable places for novices to play, with friendly directors and members who understand that novices make more mistakes and sometimes inadvertently break the rules and to treat that sensitively and sensibly. Recruitment is not just a matter of persuading people to turn up at our clubs, but also about making our clubs even more lovely and enjoyable places to be, and benefiting from the best recruitment method of all: word of mouth.

What about the restart though? We must acknowledge that we face some real challenges simply getting our previous members to return. In my town of Winchester we have three clubs in the same town, Winchester bridge club with two sessions a week, Badger Farm Bridge Club and Badger Farm Acol Club with one session a week each. Prior to lockdown, each of those sessions was typically between 7 to 10 tables, a little smaller for Badger Farm Acol Club. All three clubs have restarted, and for the first face to face sessions, there were just 2.5 or 3 tables. Numbers are creeping up, as people begin to feel more confident, but it is a long way back. The picture nationally will make a difference to how ready people are to return.

Looking at the numbers for last month, I see that just over half as many EBU members played in sessions as in July 2019. What have those missing members been doing? Some of them did not want to play online, some of them did not know how, some of them did not feel they had the opportunity if their regular club was no longer meeting. Others will have played but not in EBU sessions.

I promised to tell you more about our group of novices at Winchester. We are fortunate to have a relatively large group keen to play bridge, and during lockdown they have been playing online on Thursday evenings, in supervised or gentle play with four or five tables. At our club pre-lockdown we ran a supervised bridge session on a Monday evening and the club’s first instinct, following the government’s lifting of restrictions, was to ask our novices to transition to face to face on Mondays. The first Monday just one turned up. The second Monday, three. Worried about losing the group, we put on an online session on a Thursday, we got five full tables, all novices.

This seems a good illustration of how online bridge does not always translate easily to playing face to face. What went wrong? There seem to be several factors. Someone can play on Thursdays but not Mondays. Another gets home from work in time to play online, but not in time to travel. There is more though: there are people who have learned bridge online and have never held a hand of cards at a bridge table. Of course we are ready to help but I think we need to run a specific session on the mechanics of how to play face to face, with people who can play bridge quite well but have never used a bidding box or moved from one table to another.

It is still not that simple. We have had considerable success having novice pairs join one of our main club sessions online – we did have two such sessions, now we have one – and it seems that the classroom to clubroom transition is easier online. The environment is familiar, and if you can cope with not scoring very well, it seems to be quite comfortable, less intimidating than moving from a more social gentle duplicate to what may seem a very serious club session where it feels like any slight misdemeanour is frowned upon.

Similarly, we are discovering perhaps that transitioning from online to face to face is itself challenging, even if moving from gentle duplicate online to gentle duplicate face to face. We can address this in part with some special sessions but I think we also need to reflect and think: well maybe this group just prefers playing online and we should not try and force them in a direction that they do not want to go. If nothing else, I hope that the lockdown period has shown us that online bridge is still bridge, it is not quite the same as face to face bridge but neither is it radically different. At our club we will be making the same journey as others, playing some bridge at our lovely premises, some online, and likely some hybrid sessions too.

We have also discovered that the online environment is in many ways better for teaching and novice play than face to face. Whole categories of error, such as insufficient bids, playing out of turn, and revoking, are eliminated. Movement happens automatically. The system automatically records not only the score and the hands, but also the exact bidding and play, and you can review later exactly where things went right or wrong. You can also speak at a table, presuming you have video and audio as we do, and not be heard at any other table. It would be foolish for us to ignore these advantages.

I realise that we have landed ourselves with a new category of problem: how our clubs flourish in a scenario where some play online, some play face to face, and some do both. The issue of transition from online to face to face will not go away, and of course there is also a group of members who prefer to play only face to face, and that is fine too, we love them just as much. Accommodating all these different needs and preferences is going to be a challenge: but another way of looking at it is that the advances in online bridge and our familiarity with it has given the bridge community some great opportunities to bring new people into the game. That is an opportunity for us to learn together about how to make the most of it.

The EBU recently put on an online restart seminar covering how to make face to face sessions as safe as possible (I spoke briefly at the event and the above is mostly drawn from that), how to do hybrid scoring between online and face to face events, and several other topics including Q&A. The recording is below; and there is a second Restart Seminar on Tuesday 17th August, from 9 – 11am, via Zoom. If you would like to attend this event, please email Please let us know if you have any topics that you would like to see covered or if you feel you have valuable experience that may help other clubs and would like to give a short talk at the event, please let us know.

Half a year of lockdown: Getting clubs and club members playing online

The bridge world has been shaken to its roots by the COVID-19 pandemic with most of our clubs (there are a few brave exceptions) unable to meet face to face since the second half of March this year. That said, the response of the bridge community has been energetic and heartening, with many players refusing to give up their enjoyment of this greatest of games. Clubs swung into action, setting up online bridge sessions and encouraging their members to take part. Online platforms have greatly improved since lockdown began, starting with our EBU virtual bridge clubs on Bridge Base Online (BBO), enabling all our clubs to play sessions with just their own members, and continuing with developments like Bridge Club Live creating new club-only sessions and new entrant RealBridge offering video and audio at the table to recapture more of the social element in an online context.


These efforts and innovations mean that the amount of bridge played by our clubs is around 60% of what it was before lockdown, which considering the challenges we faced is an amazing achievement. There are so many stories that it is hard to pick just one; but a great example is what has happened at Stretford, a long-established club near Trafford in the Manchester area. Soon after lockdown kicked in, club secretary Dave Tilley realised that something had to be done, not only for his own club, but also for Warrington south-west of Manchester (where he also plays) and Brierfield to the north. “I set about getting the three clubs together,” he told me, “to work as a virtual bridge club.” He took advantage of the EBU virtual club scheme and the results have been fantastic. Monday afternoon, 9 or 10 tables. Monday evening, 18 tables. Friday evening, 12-15 tables. Sunday morning, 11-15 tables. Bridge teaching is also continuing, with Thursday morning lessons followed by 12 boards of play.

Virtual Bridge at Stretford, Warrington and Brierfield

It’s notable that Dave, ably assisted by others from the three clubs, has introduced variety in the sessions to suit different standards. The Monday afternoon bridge is for 10-high in NGS terms, meaning that members can play there without having to face the most expert opponents. He has also worked hard to maintain a friendly atmosphere. You might imagine that this is difficult to do in an online context, but there are some similarities with face to face bridge, in that the way sessions are directed and the interactions with the players create an atmosphere and keeping this friendly and welcoming improves everybody’s enjoyment.

Dave is also aware that even when we are able to play in physical premises once again (which we all look forward to doing), it will not be the same as before.  “I actually think that clubs will probably function better still having some sort of virtual bridge in their lives,” he said. As an example, he told me that prior to the lockdown, there was no bridge anywhere locally on a Friday evening, other than a small session at Trafford which attracted 3-5 tables. Now, “we’re getting 15 tables on a Friday night,” he told me. Online bridge does have advantages: no travel on dark winter nights, available to people who cannot easily travel, home comforts while you play. It will never replace the face to face experience, but alongside it, will continue to play a bigger role than before.

Getting more players online

As I write a further tight lockdown has been announced in England and it does not look like we will be back at our premises in the near future. While the surging online activity is encouraging, we also have to recognise that many people have NOT yet found a way to play online, and many clubs have in effect closed their doors. Our figures tell us, in fact, that while on average the people who play online are playing MORE bridge than before, this is balanced by the fact that more than half our members are not playing in EBU sessions at all. While recognising then the wonderful achievement that the hard work of the bridge community has achieved, it is also obvious that we have more to do.

Lessons from lockdown

One of the things we have learned from experience so far is that many of our members want to continue playing with their friends – not in bigger or more general sessions that have been made available. This means there is huge advantage for clubs in putting on club sessions which are more like the old face to face experience. Many clubs have done this, but many more have not, which means there is still plenty of opportunity to do so. We can think of club members as in three groups:

1. The keenest players. These members were quick to move online if they were not already there, playing in the EBU’s general sessions on BBO, in new county competitions, or wherever they could. Although in general this is a good thing, it has had a side-effect in some cases of drawing those players away from their home club and they may now need to be encouraged back.

2. The middle ground. These members are not so keen that they have sought out online bridge, being held back by various factors. Some may not be confident with the technology of playing online. Some will happily play with their familiar club members, but not in bigger groups where there are many they do not know. Some want to play more gentle or slower-paced bridge than the typical online environment allows. What these people have in common is that they respond well when invited to play online with their club, especially if there is help available with working how to log in and get started with bridge on their computer or tablet. Payment can be a point of friction; some are understandably cautious about handing over credit card details to an online provider. Clubs may be able to help by being a trusted intermediary, collecting payments and passing it on the online platform (the details of what is possible vary from one platform to another).

3. The most reluctant. These members enjoy bridge at the club but they do not want to play online. We should recognise that it is a different experience and does not suit everyone. There is no need to try and twist someone’s arm to play online if they do not want to; it may even put them off coming back to the club when face to face resumes.

How many are in that third group? Some, but our impression is that this is a minority in most clubs. There seem to be a lot of members in the second group though – they will enjoy playing but only as part of their club and in club sessions. This is a great opportunity for clubs who are not currently playing online. Rather than saying “we are closed”, they can try running online sessions and invite all their members to take part.

Of course even this may be out of reach for the smallest clubs, in which case the next best thing it to get together with another geographically nearby club. This will be much more familiar than playing with complete strangers.

Here to help

We believe bridge is a great activity to keep us cheerful in difficult times and we want as many of our clubs and our members to be playing as possible. If there are things we can help with, like how to choose an online platform, or how to find a director, or other issues, please get in touch with myself Tim Anderson or club liaison officer Jonathan Lilycrop and we will do what we can to advise and assist.

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.


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.


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?


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.


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):


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.