How better to spend New Year's Eve than playing bridge online? I put out the call for a bridge game that would be just for fun -- no sanction, no director, no masterpoints. We would use RealBridge, the platform from the UK which integrates audio and video into the bridge table.
Many of us have been missing team games. It's my favorite format for duplicate bridge, and by far the best way to hold a game with an extreme range of bridge experience.
RealBridge does a beautiful job of team game support. They offer round-robin, swiss, and head-to-head (knockout) formats. Their one current failing is that an odd number of teams requires one team to sit out a round. Every round is played in a "barometer" style, with all teams playing the same boards at the same time -- which inherently limits the ability to support a three-team round-robin in a larger game.
I was confident that we might get enough players for six tables, and for a while thought we might have eight. A few players asked to join very late in the process. By New Year's Eve afternoon I had six tables and four extra standby players who might have been able to join.
When game time came around, it took a lot of extra time for a few players to get connected. One player was attempting to connect from Australia, and simply could not reach the RealBridge servers in the UK for some reason. Having a few players on standby meant we were able to have one of them fill in at the last minute.
One of the advantages of playing in teams of four is that it can accommodate players with huge differences in bridge experience. Most of my players had regular partners, but not established teammates. For nearly all of the teams I was able to match up a very experienced pair with a relative newcomer pair. Our players ranged from "learned to play this year" to Sapphire Life Masters.
I created a list of teams and set up six tables. As players logged in to the game, they were able to join their teammates at a table. The audio and video function was mostly seamless. Everyone was able to chat while we waited for the game to come together.
In dealing with connection and player issues, I had to rearrange one or two players. We were finally able to get started about ten minutes late, at 8:10 or so.
I had set up a round-robin team event so each team would play against each other team. We played five rounds of four boards each. Scoring is instantly available of course, and at the end of each round teammates would join up at their home table for a few minutes of postmortem.
This was a casual game, so the time on the clock was pretty relaxed. We finished up the game at about 11:00. What a great way to spend New Year's Eve at home!