JRG — Information about bridgeblogging.com

I Do Not Understand Masterpoints

While I have my own bridge website, I am posting here because I would like enlightenment from players who are more knowledgeable than the few hometown players who read my blog.

How games are run and scored seems at odds with what I “knew” and understood before returning to Canada a number of years ago. I have trouble understanding how a one section game with a Mitchell movement with N-S pairs scored separately from E-W pairs can have “Over All” rankings. The image below of a recent game (I did not direct this game) illustrates what I mean.

Only this section played the boards. The N-S pairs were ranked 1, 2, 3, etc., and so were the E-W pairs, so overall rankings were not based on multiple sections playing the same boards. Note, however, the columns titled “Overall Rank” and “Master Points”. Clearly any given N-S pair was ranked against the other N-S pairs and similarly for the E-W pairs.

So, without a one-winner movement, how can there be an overall winner with higher master point awards? How can the second place E-W get a higher master point award than the first place N-S pair? Yes, I know they had a higher percent scoring game, but that was with their game being scored against the pairs that held the same cards that they did.

On a different, but related topic, I do not understand how, in an ACBL game one can run a one-winner Mitchell movement without an arrow-switch. When we ran one-winner Mitchell movements in Costa Rica, it was always with an arrow-switch movement (the EBU also run arrow-switch Mitchell movements). The fairness of the arrow-switch movement comparisons has been shown, mathematically to be superior to a one-winner straight Mitchell. For what it is worth, I have always thought a one-winner Mitchell movement was ridiculous, but perhaps I’m missing some mathematical subtlety

I can look up the references if anyone happens to be interested.


LarryJuly 26th, 2017 at 04:29

This game is an ACBL NAP qualification game.

While it is true that a Mitchell movement without an arrow switch is not a fair movement, it is difficult to choose another movement for 8 1/2 tables in a one session game. Special games in ACBL sanctioned clubs usually have Master point awards for overall regardless of the ‘fairness’ of the movement.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 26th, 2017 at 06:44

Hi John:

What a provocative blog!

First, coming from someone who has devoted over six decades of his life to bridge organizations in an administrative capacity (both ACBL and WBF) pro bono, one of Bobby’ biggest gripes (of course incomparable to the heinous crime of cheating) .. is awarding masterpoints in any competition (A, B or C) even if the last place performer finishes above his peers with a 40% game or less). Credibility and integrity have lost their meanings!

When I began playing in the 1950s, bridge was considered a majestic game. At the helm were talented and experienced bridge players. NO LONGER!

It has obviously become a business .. with the bottom line being MONEY, MONEY, MONEY .. gradually increasing club and national membership fees, dues, elevated card fees often with the issuance of more masterpoints. Bridge is obviously a dying business. Our general population is aging. As I have said before, we cannot revive them from their graves, BUT WE CAN GO ALL-OUT TO INCORPORATE BRIDGE INTO OUR SCHOOL CURRICULA. With 200,000,000 youngsters playing bridge in China .. and eleven other European nations as well (loved by students, parents and faculty), WHY CAN’T WE GET OFF OUR BUTTS and concentrate on formal educational programs rather than the flooding of masterpoints??

To do otherwise, the Western bridge hemisphere will die and nothing but doom and gloom awaits us. If this is not a sincere WAKEUP CALL, I don’t know what is!

JRGJuly 26th, 2017 at 09:15

Provocative? I’m just trying to emulate you 🙂

I see you noticed that an under 50% game got awarded Master Points. I didn’t point that out, as I was concerned more about movements and the inflated Master Point scale — but I probably should have.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 26th, 2017 at 10:00


We have always shared an ’emulated’ objective .. how to better the game, hoping it will not fade into oblivion.

slarAugust 8th, 2017 at 01:09

My issue is more that this game was awarded as an open game even though there was not a single Flight A pair in attendance. I feel that the awards should be based on the quality of competition that actually shows up. That is an absurd number of masterpoints for a 9 table B/C game. Those awards are more in line with a B/C Sectional with at least twice as many tables.

Unlike others, I do believe in stratification. If you are willing to play in an open game, you should be rewarded if you out-play your peers. If you can out-play the Flight A players, all the better, but realistically it isn’t going to happen very often unless you punch way above your weight.

JRGAugust 8th, 2017 at 03:27

Hello slar,

I've always felt this particular club is doing strange things with masterpoints. One of the things is stratifying with B/C labels. My partner and I came 1st N-S and show up as B-strata; however, we are both SLMs. When I ran games at another club, there would always be an A-strata and most people who were LMs were put in it (some whose abilities had declined markedly or who achieved LM by simply playing 3 or 4 days a week for years, were put in B). C was reserved for true novice/beginner/never going to make an end-play except by accident players.

In general, I'm not totally against stratification; but I'm much more comfortable with there being separate games. I have seen, at club games (and I expect it happens at tournaments) that a few C-level players in a strong field simply turn it into a crap-shoot. When you play against a pair that is going to score on the order or 30 or 40%, you have to get a good score against them. Most of the time that is going to happen; however, sometimes they have a straightforward 1NT – 3NT auction with 9 top tricks and no more unless we revoke. The latter can end up hurting one's game.

While it is lawful to take one's judgement of the opposition into account, I feel strongly that psyching against such a pair is simply unsportsmanlike — never mind the pitfalls of psyching too much (which in this case, would rapidly become a concealed partnership understanding).

To my mind, having an enjoyable game of bridge means playing with and against one's peers. Yes, playing-up is valuable experience, but not when there is a huge disparity in skill levels.

slarAugust 8th, 2017 at 07:12

If you’re blessed with a strong enough club that you can have multiple sections then great. My unit game normally has four sections – A/X, B/C, I (<200) and N (<20). (They mix the A/X and B/C for NAP/GNT qualifiers or weeks that overlap with nationals or regionals.) That works great. I've also played in clubs that are ostensibly open but that mostly attract palookas. That's okay too, but it is a different kind of game. It is a bit silly to treat those the same.

The stratification rules are pretty much set in stone. NAP/GNT qualifiers require no player to have more than the threshold in masterpoints but most games are based on average. Where the thresholds are placed is director's discretion. I've played in games where 1000 was flight A.

JRGAugust 9th, 2017 at 12:18

Unfortunately, we aren’t blessed with a strong, or large enough club. It could put together a team game (not a Swiss) that had players with over 1,000 masterpoints. That’s one of the things I miss about living in Toronto.

Leave a comment

Your comment