John Carruthers

THE INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE PRESS ASSOCIATION;  delivers a monthly  Bulletin (Editor: John Carruthers) that is circulated to around 400 members of the International Bridge Press Association comprising the world’s leading journalists, authors and editors of news, books and articles about contract bridge, with an estimated readership of some 200 million people who enjoy the most widely played of all card games. 

This is the IBPA´s Bulletin Editorial: April 2012 

The recent Vanderbilt could lay claim to being the toughest bridge event ever staged, if toughness can be measured by the strength of the field. The top four seeds were Fleisher, Nickell, Cayne and Zimmermann. Jimmy Cayne partnered Michael Seamon with Duboin-Sementa and Versace-Lauria in tow. The other three had the lineups you’d expect . The Diamond team was se eded no higher than eighth. The recent Bermuda-Bowl winning Dutch team and runner-up Americans were spread out over seven different teams, the highest-seeded of which was thirteenth. There is no question that the top 20 teams, at least, could have entertained thoughts of winning, as could a handful of lower seeds. At least 26 nations were represented in the first-day matches, a development that has greatly enriched the event and forced the ACBL to rethink its seeding practices. 

Seeding is pretty good, if not always completely accurate. Here’s how it works: seeding points are applied to each player on the basis of (a.) success in the major U.S. team events over the previous 10 years, or (b.) WBF standing, but not both. One can acquire a maximum of 50 seeding points. Ten points are awarded for a Vanderbilt or Spingold win, 8 points for a Reisinger win and these devalue over time by about 10% per year. ACBL master points are counted as well, to a maximum of 11 seeding points, one seeding point for roughly each 2,000 master points. The alternative plan, (b.), is based on a formula for converting WBF master points and placing points into seeding points .

One event the seeding points do not take into account is the USBF Trials to pick their national representatives (unless the US team has more seeding points as a result of its WBF standing than its ACBL standing). Should a team that wins the USBF Trials (and often goes on to glory in the World Championship) receive seeding consideration?

We think so.The American Trials are arguably the world’s toughest and the winning team (or teams) is always amongst the favourites in any event it plays. One little wrinkle involves ‘shuffling’ of the seeds. Seed numbers 3 and 4 based on seeding points are shuffled for the actual seed number in the event; then the rest are shuffled in groups of four. Thus the No. 8 Diamond team was somewhere in the 5-8
group, while the winners Amoils, the original 14 seed, were somewhere in the 13-16 group.

Let’s now take a look at the USBF “Positioning Points” formula, used to seed its national trials. It takes into account precisely four events, the Spingold, Vanderbilt, Reisinger and USBC, all in the previous 12-month cycle. The points awarded are 100, 99, 81 and 53 maximum) respectively. (In the USBC, points are awarded to winners of the long knockout matches, 18/14/11/8 – thus a team with a bye to the semifinals which wins the event receives only 32 positioning points.) The Bathurst team, which won a 10-day Trials, defeating Nickell and Diamond in 128-board matches along the way (Fleisher had already qualified for the Bermuda Bowl), receives 51 positioning points, while the winners of the Reisinger would receive 81 positioning points for winning the 2011 Reisinger, if they were eligible. As Cayne played with four Italian world champions, they were ineligible for positioning points. Further, had there been four eligible players, their positioning points would have been reduced by a formula.

All this seems more accurate than the ACBL method, except that only the previous 12-month cycle counts. The goals are different, of course. The Vanderbilt seeders want a balanced bracket, where as the U S B F wants  to  send  its  curre ntly – best , ‘ hot ’ team to the world championship regardless of past glories.