The ACBL's latest Web page redesign includes a page that gives your rank (inverse matchpoints) and percentile in a wide range of masterpoint categories, for instance where you are relative to all players that got any gold points this year. If you just copy-and-paste that page into a spreadsheet and do some basic math, you can find out the size of each category, which makes some interesting statements.

probably not interesting except to active bridge players )
Last night's game at the Bridge Spot had a different electronic scoring box that they were trying out, the BridgePad. These are smaller and flatter than the BridgeMate (I can hide the BridgePad under my convention card) and with a larger, backlit screen (in "traveler" mode you get sixish hands at a time, not two). The director mumbled something about being able to do more on the server end with them, which sounded a little more like there was better server-side software than that the capabilities of the boxes were actually any different.

I think overall I prefer the BridgeMate. The BridgePad's "NEXT" button that gets used for everything is the bottom-left, not bottom-right, button, and that feels counter-intuitive; the 2x5 digit layout rather than a 3x3 keypad layout also is a little harder to use. Entering a contract BridgePad makes you push "NEXT" one more time (3, spades, NEXT, N/S) than BridgeMate. I didn't actually find the display that much better, and I heard some complaints going around about the smaller size. BridgeMate explicitly prompts North to have either East or West push "OK" to verify the score, and if you're new to this class of electronic scoring device I could see not realizing that was the correct mechanic with BridgePad.

This doesn't mean that the technology is a bad idea, and both products claim to integrate with ACBLscore (at the Bridge Spot this means the director mostly sits around at the end of the night hitting "reload"). If the larger screen is the BridgePad's big feature the client software could make much better use of it; I think BridgeMate has a better physical form factor and is somewhat more usable on a couple of axes.
Most bridge players are familiar with the Blackwood convention, which asks your partner how many aces they have by a 4NT bid. This falls down when a pair is made up of two software engineers who understand numbers "zero", "one", and "many". (Yes, we did have not one but two hands last night where we miscounted/misbid the number of aces we had and so had a grand slam down one where the small slam was in, why do you ask?)
[ profile] narya has managed to suck me into her somewhat-regular bridge group. I feel like I'm getting up to "okay"; certainly I've figured out all of the core mechanics, and in bidding land I generally have a good feel for what I want to say if not how to actually say it. Playing last night I definitely noticed there was a difference between "I made a mistake" vs. "I just didn't figure out the puzzle". Mere ineptitude doesn't actually bother me so much, since I figure that if I play enough hands I'll start to get better at figuring out where the cards I need are. It's making active mistakes that can get in my partner's way that's bugging me more.

Three hands )
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