Sunday, 8 December 2013

Blog 62: Another year older...

This year has been one of change as has become usual over the last few years.  We said goodbye to Sally Bugden as Chairman for the past five years and hello to our new Chairman, Jeremy Dhondy.  Earlier in 2013 we implemented our new web site, based upon a very comprehensive content management system, which seems to be working very well.  We don't believe it is perfect (yet), but it is a great improvement on what we had before, and we will continue to tweak it during the forthcoming year.

One major change just implemented is the way we deal with members' passwords.   When we started the "members area", we chose to maintain members' passwords in a form that we can all understand.  This was a "follow-on" from the way our previous computer system did things and also so we could provide as much help as humanly possible to people who are not very computer literate. However, as the cyber world seems totally obsessed with obtaining personal information via the internet we have decided that we need to "hash" our passwords so that they cannot be intercepted. (N.B. "Hashing" is like encryption, but is one way only). We do understand that the average cyber crook is not hugely concerned whether or not you got more than 50% in last night's game or whether you earned twenty or thirty master points.  What they want is your password, as many people (wrongly) use the same password for many different web sites.   This change means that we will no longer be able to assist members who forget or lose their passwords.   Instead, there is an email mechanism which automates the password replacement process.  If you do not wish to divulge your email address to us you must use an anonymous email facility (we will provide guidance) or a friends email; otherwise your members area will not be accessible to you.   For those that worry about these things, if you provide us with your email address but do not want to receive emails from us, you can set an appropriate indicator in your own members area.  It is worth noting that your current password, as far as you are concerned, remains unchanged.

Another change coming soon, is an addition to NGS that will allow us to grade some team games, Multiple Teams to start, and Swiss Teams when we get the changes we need to Bridgemate software.   Full details of the changes will be made available when we are ready to launch.

Those of you who play in EBU events will know that we have started to use Pianola to report our own tournament results.  We will be deepening our integration with Pianola during the next twelve months to improve our results service further.

One of the most gratifying things that we have seen in 2013 is the relatively high growth of new and returning clubs.  We have a net growth of 14 clubs so far this year, with another starting their re-affiliation to us in January, and with more clubs working through the process as well and likely to join next year.

During this year we have also increased our online presence, with new EBU licensed games taking place on BBO and full master point awards.  We have also been running a trial "online" knockout competition to get people used to that way of playing and we hope that this may encourage teams in the more remote parts of the country to participate in knockout events, which they may not do now because of the expense and time required in travelling.  Full details of these games may be found on our web site.

This year has also seen us publish English Bridge online, which is slowly being used by our members.  During the next year we hope to extend the online presence of the magazine by making it available on various tablet devices.   We have also started archiving some of our oldest papers and magazines, so that we can save these items for posterity, and at the same time make them accessible in a manner that has not previously been the case.   The eagle eyed among you may have seen a few of our oldest available magazines are now available to be read online - more will come in the next twelve months.

With the holiday season almost upon us, on behalf of all of my staff, I would like to wish you a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Blog 61 - Not been on for a while...

Like most organisations, changes happen from time to time.  In ours, we have just gone through a change of Chairman and Vice Chairman and we in Aylesbury are getting used to a different set of “bosses”.  All pretty well known to us though, so not too difficult for either side, I hope!

I would like to address the very unfortunate delay in the delivery of our diaries.  We ordered our diaries in very good time for delivery with the October magazine, at roughly the middle of September.  During the journey from China the ship had an on board fire – something that no person can predict.  Fortunately, no one on the ship nor our diaries were hurt or damaged, and after repairs the ship arrived in the UK in early October, well after the magazines were delivered.  Clearly, this was an unwanted problem for us, and very unsatisfactory for those of our members who use the EBU diary heavily.  We considered sending the diaries out directly to members, but the cost would have been hugely prohibitive.  Each diary, packed in an envelope that would prevent damage to the diary, would have cost £1.10 per diary, plus staff costs.  With well over 40,000 being delivered it is easy arithmetic to see why this was a non starter.   Although lightning rarely strikes twice, we are taking action to attempt to prevent any delays next year. The diaries will be delivered to us a month earlier.

As a footnote, we purchased our diaries from Collins-Debden, one of the largest providers of diaries in the UK.  They have their own company in China and the vast majority of their diaries are printed there.

We have just about reached the point where we will be switching off our old website for good.  We are also working on ensuring that we have an electronic archive of our results, as far back as we can.  Alert members will have noted that we have added more very old EBU publications to the web site, something that we will be continuing to do into the future.  As many of you will be aware, we are now providing access to the latest magazines as well, but only via your member’s area.  We are also investigating allowing the magazine to be downloaded to tablets, such as the IPAD and Nexus 7.

We have some good news on the affiliation front; this year has seen a number of clubs join for the first time or rejoin since they left prior to Universal Membership.  We are hoping for a few more in the near future as well.

Peter Stockdale, our new Communications Officer started a few weeks ago and he is always anxious to help with publicity if it is in our power to do so.   He can be contacted by email at

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Blog 60 - A new website (yes, at last)

I am pleased to say that after a long wait, and a lot of work, our new website will be hitting the streets fairly soon.

The new site has been designed using a content management system, called DRUPAL (  for those that want to know.  This type of facility places updating more in the hands of the people that are best able to deal with the detail.

You will notice quite a lot of changes, especially in how the screen is organised.  We have carried across some of the more modern aspects, including the members area, but there are many other very welcome changes, especially with searching, which will actually deliver meaningful search results now!

Once the new web pages are made live the full  migration will still take a considerable time, as we have very many pages of information  to migrate from our current web site, and even a previous iteration.  We will provide links direct from our new website to the old one, but access will continue to be via the usual URL -

It is likely that we will have some errors, particularly with broken links; if you find any please let us know, NOT by telephone, but by sending an email to  If a link is broken and your enquiry is urgent, I would suggest that you simply link to the old website from the link on the home page of the new one.

Please be patient, migrating a website is a very long winded process, which we will do as quickly and efficiently as possible.   Keep a look out on this website (the old one) for notice of the exact date we will change over!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Blog 59 - Another NGS Update

A while ago I updated you on some changes that we were going to make.  As the time is now approaching a further update is worthwhile, especially as we have added something additional. After three years of grading sessions for the National Grading System, a number of changes are being introduced at the beginning of April this year.

The most significant is that the maximum number of boards used to calculate your grade will increase from 1000 to 2000 (around 80 typical sessions).  This will reduce the effect that any single session has on your grade and will mean that your grade will have smaller fluctuations.

Green pointed events, and other EBU or national events, currently are weighted triple compared to other events of the same number of boards.  Since these events typically mix players from different clubs and areas, the extra weight helps the standardization of grades across the whole of the EBU, very important in the early years of NGS.  It is now appropriate to reduce this extra weight from triple to double.  All other events will have the normal single weighting.

The NGS has always intended to include only events that took place within the last three years in calculating your grade. Since the first graded events were in April 2010, these old events will start to be excluded from your grade from April 2013 even if you have played less than 2000 boards in the last three years.

Your grade will continue to be regarded as "Mature" if you have played over 1000 boards in the last three years and "Evolving" if you have played between 300 and 999 boards in the period.  If you have played fewer than 300 graded boards in the last three years, your tentative grade is not published.

The additional change mentioned above concerns the 15% of EBU members who play as a pair nearly all their graded games with each other.  We are adding a mechanism to pull the grades of such pairs closer to each other.  This is a gradual mechanism which will take typically another 2000 boards to have a significant effect, so don't expect any sudden change.  It will have no effect on you unless you and your regular partner have both played over 85% of the boards contributing to your grades with each other.

For more details on these changes, we will add to the NGS FAQ on the website and to the 'further reading' document in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Blog 58 - Good things are happening!

It is almost three years since Universal Membership for EBU clubs came into force - April 1st 2010 will forever be etched into my brain...

One of the principal reasons for UM was to reinvigorate our bridge clubs and this, by all accounts, is happening in many places.   There are more people playing club bridge than there were in the year 2010-2011; indeed the numbers have gone up each year.  This we know for sure, as we now have a growing and comprehensive database of all games played at our clubs and our various events, whether at county or national level.  We will soon have details about league games as well, especially when the results are submitted using our League Management System, which came into use for the current "league season".

This past few months has seen a number clubs either return to affiliation or become affiliated for the first time and we are delighted to welcome the following clubs -
  1. Manchester University affiliated 25/09/1012
  2. Thistleworth Lawn Tennis BC 11/10/2012
  3. Rugby BC 16/11/2012
  4. 10CC  BC 18/12/2012
  5. Haslemere and Grayswood 01/04/2013 ( i.e. in the new year commencing from April 1st)
We also have six more clubs in the process of decision making about affiliating with us. RAC Pall Mall intend to affiliate soon.

During the past couple of years we have trained well over 200 club based teachers and loads of club tournament directors, taking advantage of the development schemes we have in place for our affiliated clubs.

Our regional and national club committees are now firmly established and they are getting involved and consulted about the policies and development of our clubs.

So please make the most of your affiliation, and if you are reading this and your club isn't affiliated, please get in touch with Andrew Urbanski our Club Liaison Officer  ( who will be able to take you through all the benefits including security for your club players through our regulation and mediation services, corporate governance assistance through our model club constitution and many great offers and discounts at the EBU shop – providing all you need to play bridge and more.

A lot has changed since this all started!