IBPA Editorial: May 2013

John Carruthers
John Carruthers

The April issue of The Bridge World presents a view of ‘dumping’ that is slightly at odds with its usual editorial opinion. The opinion stated, by Howard Weinstein in a guest editorial, is essentially that dumping is detrimental to the game and should be made impermissible by regulation as well as by tournament design. That is the view to which we subscribe.

How can tournament organizers eliminate dumping by design?

Dumping is possible in a format where there are multiple qualifiers for further competition, such as the Bermuda Bowl, where 22 teams play a round robin to qualify eight for knockout play. Bridge organizers have conflicting goals, especially in world championships (the Bermuda Bowl  particularly). They desire to guarantee a minimum number of days’ play (six or seven usually) to all competitors, which has meant, to date, a round-robin format. There are other alternative formats in which organizers could guarantee six or more days’ play:

(i.) a triple knockout with two-day matches, rather impractical with the current 22 teams in the Bermuda Bowl (16 and 32 are the best numbers for a triple knockout and even those are not without problems in the latter stages – shorter matches and/or three-way matches, for example)

(ii.) a round robin in which only one team advances – this would entail multiple small groups

(iii.) a single knockout of, say 24 teams, to produce three semifinalists after six days with the knockout losers entering some sort of repêchage to produce a fourth semifinalist.

The WBF has done a good job reducing the probability of dumping, with the top teams in the round robin being able to choose their opponents, but the procedure is not perfect. A team with a ‘lock’ on first place, or one out of the running, still has the opportunity to affect potential qualifiers adversely by dumping to a lesser team, or beating a superior team by using unusual tactics.

Some form of seeding the qualifying teams other than round-robin finish might partially solve that problem but at the cost of eliminating the incentive to already-qualified teams.

The Bermuda Bowl has had many different formats over the years – perhaps it is time for another change.

For the larger-field events such as the World Mind Sports Games (exOlympiad) and the Rosenblum Teams, it is possible to organize the field so that the teams one plays in the round robin are not potential opponents (or at the very least, are not known to be opponents) early in the knockout stage, thus lessening the incentive to dump.