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Guidelines for Commentators

#1 User is offline   debrose 

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Posted 2010-April-06, 20:31

Below is a message I received from Roland Wald, which I think many might be interested in, so I'm posting here (with permission). I'm tremendously impressed with, and grateful for, the efforts of Roland, Fred, and others to further improve the vugraph experience. I will strive to comply with their requests.

Debbie Rosenberg


Dear Vugraph Commentator,

Please accept my sincere thanks for volunteering your time and bridge expertise to be a vugraph commentator on BBO. I know I can speak on behalf of many thousands of bridge players from every corner of the world in telling you how much your service to our game is appreciated.

Over the years BBO vugraph has greatly increased the awareness and interest level in top-level bridge among average players. The efforts of commentators such as yourself has helped to enhance the enjoyment and level of understanding that average players have toward our game. These are obviously good things for bridge. In order to ensure that your contributions to future broadcasts help further these goals, I would ask you to read this document carefully and to always adhere to the guidelines it contains.

I would like to add a few requests of my own:

1) Roland Wald, our Vugraph Coordinator, has been involved in BBO vugraph since its earliest days (in 2002). During that time Roland has logged a massive number of hours organizing, watching, and commentating on vugraph. In his capacity as Vugraph Coordinator, Roland has consistently demonstrated excellent judgment and taste, even in the most trying of circumstances. Roland has the full confidence of BBO management and he is a true and valuable friend of bridge.

I strongly urge you to always treat Roland with the respect that he deserves and to follow his instructions even if you do not agree with them.

2) It is very important that we do everything we can to paint high-level bridge in a positive light. Please do not use the platform we provide for publicly attacking players or tournament sponsors that you do not like. Please do not try make the players look stupid even when, like all of us sometimes do, they make stupid mistakes.

3) Please always keep in mind that you are a much, much stronger bridge player than the vast majority of audience members could ever hope to be. The primary purpose of your comments should be to educate, enlighten and entertain the masses, not to impress your peers.

4) Try to help make our vugraph broadcasts fun for the audience. Adding a little humor to your comments or offering interesting stories about the players when the play is going slowly will be appreciated by the spectators.

5) Our worldwide audiences consist of people representing every imaginable country, culture, and age. It is not difficult to unintentionally offend people. Please be extremely careful about not making comments that might be perceived as being racist, sexist, vulgar, or in any other way offensive to some people.

Thanks again for your support of our vugraph program. I hope you enjoy the time you spend as a BBO vugraph commentator.

Best regards,

Fred Gitelman
President
Bridge Base Online, Ltd.

...

DON’T:

(1) Say: “I would lead a club” without explaining your reasoning.

(2) Say: “GIB says that the contract can’t be defeated”. You may state that declarer has a counter to any defense, but only as long as you are prepared to go into detail once a defender has made a play. GIB is a reference to check an analysis, not the star of the broadcast. Remember that GIB is also looking at all four hands.

(3) State definitively what a bid means unless you know that to be the case.

(4) Forget to tell the spectators that they can see the auction at the other table by moving their mouse over the contract/result line under the West hand if they are using the Windows version of BBO, but must look elsewhere on the web-client.

(5) Make the session a showpiece for your ability with statements like: “I pointed that out before GIB confirmed it” and don’t ignore your colleagues’ chat to repeat what they have just said. It is OK to cancel your own chat if it’s redundant although often the comments will be typed simultaneously and come up one under the other.

(6) Criticize a bid or play without trying to understand why the player made it. Blunders will occur and may be explained as blunders, but no one wants to see commentators put down the players who make them.

(7) Sign up for a session of an important event without doing at least a bit of research on the players, methods, format, and current information sources.

(8) Expect the spectators to know who you are unless you are a well-known world class player or writer; be prepared to introduce yourself with genuine humility.

(9) Treat your personal profile as a joke. Spectators want to know they’re listening to an authority or at least a strong, experienced player. “Novice” or “Intermediate” for skill level may be OK for your everyday activities (if you must) but not when you do a broadcast that thousands of bridge enthusiasts will be watching. Reveal yourself and insert your proper skill level in your profile.

(10) Engage in gratuitous banter with colleagues just for the sake of filling the chat box, especially when the nature of the banter is meaningful only to the commentators.

(11) State the obvious, or (worse) repeat it.

(12) Forget to explain how the software works, access to “movies” and how to review the play at the other table, how to use Vugraph Archives for other events, and so on.

(13) Be afraid to explain how a convention or treatment works and/or the reasons why you believe the method is good or bad (or both). If you suggest a different treatment, it should not be prefaced simply with “I play…”, especially if that treatment would work better on the current deal. Rather, if you are discussing alternative methods, treatments, conventions, do so from an unbiased perspective, stating the pros and cons.

(14) Forget that these shows are supposed to be both informative and entertaining and that there will often be vast numbers of spectators whose first language is not English.

(15) Forget that Roland can provide a set of links and macros to facilitate the informational aspects.

(16) Be afraid to say that Mr X is going to bid 5D because it’s his style to be aggressive in the slam zone, especially if you know that to be true. Don’t send a chat, “5D”, without explanation or with the comment “I would bid 5D”.

(17) Say that a spectator points out that the hand can be made by blah blah. If that seems sensible you can say it yourself and sometime during the broadcast thank the spectators for their often valuable ideas, suggestions and analyses. The audience expects expert analysis and commentary from the panel, not from the audience. It is not plagiarism or improper to use a spectator’s comments yourself; in theory, the spectator is speaking to you privately to help you do your job well.

(18) Point out that fireworks are coming later in the session; spectators may be looking at the other room simultaneously or checking upcoming results in the movie mode, but others look forward to seeing the deal come up fresh with a current review of what happened at the other table, but without the crystal ball technique.

(19) Dominate the “microphone” – let the audience think you’re a group dedicated to what you’re doing. Make your comments count.

(20) Forget to provide interesting anecdotal and informatory commentary. If you’re working on a Zonal Trials speak of the event they’re qualifying for, how many teams will be at the WC, defending champions, teams already qualified, upcoming other zonal events, any thoughts on dark horse contenders, favourites, etc.

DO:

(1) Treat your voluntary sessions as if you were getting paid for them.

(2) Look out for other potentially excellent commentators to recommend to Roland.

(3) Treat the players and other commentators and the game itself with respect. Put yourself in that player's seat and try to figure out why s/he did what s/he did even if it may turn out to be unsuccessful.

(4) Your homework.

(5) Recognize achievements of merit past and present.

(6) Look at the operator’s explanation of alerted calls, but be skeptical when they appear unlikely; operators have a difficult job and do make errors. The same can be said for inconceivable results. Try to confirm with the operator in private chat. The best operators are invaluable resources for the commentators.

(7) Project possible competitive actions rather than say something like “An easy 4S here”; uncontested auctions are increasingly rare these days. Always look for traps and obstacles that could affect the normal result. When more than one bid/contract/competitive action exists, discuss the possibilities without prejudice or the advantage of seeing all four hands. When discussing the play, discuss the percentage line, alternative lines, safety plays, and only then the successful line if it is different.

(8) Refrain from stating what you would “lead”, especially if it is a difficult lead or blind lead, and your lead is the best (or only) one to defeat the contract. Similarly, when discussing the defence, do try to understand and explain the meaning behind the cards the defenders play. If you know their methods, this can be very enlightening for the audience, especially where the plays relate to spot cards early in the defense. You may say “East has played a middle card to ask for the continuation of his suit. He has essentially denied interest in a switch to either side suit.” Or “Some pairs play suit preference in this situation, but this pair employs obvious switch”. Explain how that works.

In situations where you do not know the meaning of a signal, allow someone else to comment. Don’t say “heart now” because that is the winning play. You may say “We can see that a heart now would defeat the contract, but East has only the xxxx information, and he may play a spade instead.” Or “West gave an attitude signal on East’s club ace that involved the diamond suit as well. West would have encouraged a club with the king if he did not want to ruff a diamond.” In other words, explain the bridge plays, not your choice for a play.

Realize that good defense requires a complicated blend of partnership carding agreements, common sense, card reading, and the ability of the defender to “read” declarer’s intentions. If you make a statement about the defender’s next play while he is thinking, explain why you think he will arrive at a particular position.


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#2 User is offline   Walddk 

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Posted 2010-April-07, 02:46

Sent to around 340 people on my contact list. Credit to Eric Kokish (eok) of Canada, who took the initiative and who has been a main contributor to the DONT's and DO's.

I am sure we could have added another ten sections, but this is not a scientific essay and I think we are pretty much covered as it is. If only people would read it and, even better, adhere to the guidelines! One can always hope :unsure:

Roland
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#3 User is offline   mrdct 

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Posted 2010-April-07, 16:04

It would be useful if GIB was disabled for commentators in a similar way to how GIB is disabled for vugraph operators.
Disclaimer: The above post may be a half-baked sarcastic rant intended to stimulate discussion and it does not necessarily coincide with my own views on this topic.
I bidding the suit below the suit I'm actually showing not to be described as a "transfer" for the benefit of people unfamiliar with the concept of a transfer
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#4 User is offline   gwnn 

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Posted 2010-April-07, 16:20

I'm sorry I'm not a big time vugraph user so perhaps this is why I don't understand. Suppose there is a subtle point in the play that all commentators miss. which one is preferable:

*one of them presses the gib button and asks the others in the chat "hm gib says this cant be made. I can't say how line (...) wouldn't work?" Now another one of them realizes what's wrong and everyone is happy.

*none of them are allowed to press the gib button and they just agree that line (...) would work. I suppose one of the spectators could tell them but perhaps nobody thought to look because they see nothing wrong with the obvious line.
... and I can prove it with my usual, flawless logic.
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#5 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2010-April-17, 20:39

Great guidelines, Roland and Debbie! No wonder the commentaries are good!

Agree with Gwnn: commentators aren't gods and Gib occasionally drags their flights of fancy back to earth.
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#6 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2010-April-19, 07:43

These are guidelines, not strict laws. I think the point about GIB is that it has sometimes been overused. It's OK as an occasionally supplement to human analysis, but shouldn't be relied on as a substitute.

Remember, GIB never guesses two-way finesses wrong, and drops enough stiff kings to become head of the Rabbinical Council.

#7 User is offline   gwnn 

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Posted 2010-April-19, 07:55

Quote

DON'T:

(2) Say: “GIB says that the contract can’t be defeated”.

sure sounds strict to me... Of course it's easy to overuse. That is why I carefully constructed a specific example when using GIB would be useful and constructive, as opposed to saying "oh no that rule is bad, get rid of it". I think it is probably overused but asking commentators not to mention GIB at all is excessive.
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#8 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2010-April-19, 08:38

The title of the entire document is "guidelines". So even though every item in it says "DO" or "DON'T", you must read them in that context.

#9 User is offline   skorchev 

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Posted 2010-April-19, 09:19

Excellent, excellent, EXCELLENT!
BE COOL!
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#10 User is offline   peachy 

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Posted 2010-April-19, 15:58

gwnn, on Apr 19 2010, 08:55 AM, said:

Quote

DON'T:

(2) Say: “GIB says that the contract can’t be defeated”.

sure sounds strict to me... Of course it's easy to overuse. That is why I carefully constructed a specific example when using GIB would be useful and constructive, as opposed to saying "oh no that rule is bad, get rid of it". I think it is probably overused but asking commentators not to mention GIB at all is excessive.

Perhaps spectator preferences could be considered. I am certain that majority would like an untainted-by-GIB analysis and explanation of declarer's and/or defenders' choices, based on that person's experience and expertise - instead of at opening lead, blurt out "Down 1" [because the person has GIB on and GIB says it is down 1... duh. ] Spectators can put GIB on and see what it says, without a commentator telling them what GIB says.

Not having GIB at all would surely separate the wheat from the chaff among commentators/analysts, but that would be overkill. Also, not every commentator is even close to the skill level of the players, and they don't have to be - nor pretend to be. There is a lot of other stuff that spectators like to hear. I know it because I am also a spectator although on occasion I have had the privilege of being a volunteer commentator.

And yes, they are guidelines, not strict rules. Perhaps some of it could be spelled out as a definite No-No but why - commentators are expected to be tactful, thoughtful, fair, and impartial, and keeping the focus on bridge and the players and the spectators, instead of on themselves.
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#11 User is offline   gwnn 

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Posted 2010-April-19, 16:21

Fair enough, we may agree to disagree. I just stated my opinion, it sounds too strict for me even considering that it's just a "guideline", for example it is also just a guideline that you should not "Criticize a bid or play without trying to understand why the player made it." but somehow this one (and most of the others) sounds like a universally applicable request. Anyway I am not sure if it's appropriate for me to post here at all, sorry for the distraction etc.
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#12 User is offline   wank 

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Posted 2010-April-24, 17:36

more importantly remind the commentators that the players aren't double-dummy
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#13 User is offline   cphastrup 

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Posted 2010-May-11, 16:15

Quote

(DON'T) (11) State the obvious, or (worse) repeat it.


Obvious to whom?

1 - X - P - 2
P - 2 - all pass

(assume 2 bidder isn't minimum)

Obvious to some: doubler and partner are playing ELC
Obvious to others: ELC means "Equal Level Conversion"
Obvious to even others: Equal Level Conversion means that double followed by a suit bid need not be strong and/or forcing
Obvious to even others again: The benefits of Equal Level Conversion is that you can double on some hands that would normally have to pass or make a skewed overcall
Obvious to... etc.

Sometimes you need to explain what is obvious to some - but not to others.

A good trick is to imagine that you're speaking/writing to a specific someone you know - and preferably not a world class player. :P
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#14 User is offline   Phil 

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Posted 2010-May-12, 11:08

Roland - here's a possible idea for finding commentators for the less prestigious events where you don't pre-schedule speakers.

From now on, if I am available to commentate, I will put an ATC in my profile. That way, you don't have to try to ask 50 people - you can just see who has a designator in their profile.
Winner - BBO Challenge bracket #6 - February, 2017.
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#15 User is offline   cicus 

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Posted 2010-May-12, 13:40

Phil, on May 12 2010, 12:08 PM, said:

Roland - here's a possible idea for finding commentators for the less prestigious events where you don't pre-schedule speakers.

From now on, if I am available to commentate, I will put an ATC in my profile. That way, you don't have to try to ask 50 people - you can just see who has a designator in their profile.

My solution is to log in under a secret name when I am unavailable or have no desire for commentating.
Gabor Szots
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#16 User is offline   0 carbon 

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Posted 2010-June-02, 23:21

It would be ideal if FD cards were started for each of the competitors so the bids get explained immediately - at least for the first round or two of bidding. That would make things easier for the commentator and the spectator.

tOM
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#17 User is offline   Walddk 

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Posted 2010-June-04, 01:07

It would indeed, but the world is not ideal. You just ask the organizers how many convention cards they get well in advance, but that's what they need in order to implement the feature you suggest. Even then it's time consuming, and I suspect that most NBOs don't the the staff for it.

Some organizers are quite strict regarding convention cards, but most are not. As a commentator I can assure you that it's very nice when we actually have CCs we can refer to. In most cases we don't I am sorry to say.

BBO can only encourage organizers to make it a must for at least major tournaments, but at the end of the day it's not our decision.

Roland
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#18 User is offline   nickf 

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Posted 2010-June-04, 01:15

0 carbon, on Jun 3 2010, 03:21 PM, said:

It would be ideal if FD cards were started for each of the competitors so the bids get explained immediately - at least for the first round or two of bidding.

I agree - that would be ideal - but it just isnt going to happen in our lifetimes.

Writing a FD card is a time consuming exercise and tournament organisers have far more important things to do. The best we can hope is they post copies of the cards online.

nickf
sydney
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#19 User is offline   JanM 

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Posted 2010-June-04, 12:56

nickf, on Jun 4 2010, 12:15 AM, said:

0 carbon, on Jun 3 2010, 03:21 PM, said:

It would be ideal if FD cards were started for each of the competitors so the bids get explained immediately - at least for the first round or two of bidding.

I agree - that would be ideal - but it just isnt going to happen in our lifetimes.

Writing a FD card is a time consuming exercise and tournament organisers have far more important things to do. The best we can hope is they post copies of the cards online.

nickf
sydney

Actually, someone did try doing FD cards for the US Team Trials last year and we discovered that you can't load them when you're a Vugraph operator. That's a deliberate decision, as I recall. So despite the fact that it appears to be a good idea, it isn't going to happen.
Jan Martel, who should probably state that she is not speaking on behalf of the USBF, the ACBL, the WBF Systems Committee, or any member of any Systems Committee or Laws Commission.
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#20 User is offline   mrdct 

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Posted 2010-June-04, 18:20

nickf, on Jun 4 2010, 02:15 AM, said:

0 carbon, on Jun 3 2010, 03:21 PM, said:

It would be ideal if FD cards were started for each of the competitors so the bids get explained immediately - at least for the first round or two of bidding.

I agree - that would be ideal - but it just isnt going to happen in our lifetimes.

I think there is a world market for about five computers — Thomas J. Watson (Chairman of the Board of International Business Machines), 1943.
Disclaimer: The above post may be a half-baked sarcastic rant intended to stimulate discussion and it does not necessarily coincide with my own views on this topic.
I bidding the suit below the suit I'm actually showing not to be described as a "transfer" for the benefit of people unfamiliar with the concept of a transfer
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