Paul Cronin

So many experts!

Was playing recently with an “expert” on BBO, and it turned out that “expert” has different meanings in different parts of the world. This one didn’t know Stayman or Blackwood, thought the weaker hand should set the contract, and used 2NT over a 2S opener to show 5-5 in the minors. So…the question is….what exactly should the term “expert” mean? Since BBOers come from all over the world, is a workable universal definition possible?


Richard WilleyApril 16th, 2012 at 10:26 pm


paul croninApril 16th, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Thanks for the input, Richard – much appreciated!

John D'ErricoApril 17th, 2012 at 1:23 am

BBO expert – someone who is good enough to only rarely revoke when playing online bridge.

Part of me wants a test to exist, if you pass the test, then you get an expert rating. Would there be those who would cheat? Of course.

So failing that, then use a system like Lehman ratings. Except, there will be those who game the system.

So, sadly, I don’t think there is a good definition of an expert, unless you want to use a phrase derived from a Potter Stewart line – “I know one when I see one”.

Judy Kay-WolffApril 17th, 2012 at 5:26 pm

To the average player, experts mean different things. I have been on the scene over fifty-five years, kibitzed hundreds of nationals and dozens of world championships. I have seen the best of the best and on the other hand some pretty pathetic players who have gotten in the back door. Masterpoints are not a way of adjudicating brilliance or talent — especially with the back door entry of professionalism.

In the same vein, BBO commentators (volunteers, I know) apply. Some are world class experts and others are run of the mill whose analyses could be much improved upon.

It all boils down to one word — EGO!

Steven GaynorApril 17th, 2012 at 5:32 pm

I was playing at an ‘expert’ table (all the participants bragged that they had over 1000 MP’s). They asked if I could handle playing with 3 other ‘experts’ (I labled myself as ‘advanced’ having about 6000 MP’s at the time). My partner said he played 2/1 GF. I asked about 1D/2C and he said all 2/1 is GF! So on the 2nd hand I picked up 16 HCP with 6 spades. I opened 1S he bid 2C. I re-bid 2S. All pass, making 5. I asked again about 2/1 and he said ‘around here we treat that sequence as invitational’. OK, then. Suddenly I remembered that I promised to clean the bathroom and had to log off.

Robert E. HarrisApril 18th, 2012 at 4:20 am

I have some over 1000 MP and I call myself “Intermediate” on BBO. I think that is an ok description, as I never yet have made an insufficient bid there. An occasional super sufficient bid, yes, and sometimes unintentional.

Ig NieuwenhuisApril 18th, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I don’t think a workable definition is possible, but BBO has already included a guideline that players can use. (see below where I copied it). This will, of course, not prevent people from over- or underestimating their own skill-levels.
However, I am convinced number of masterpoints will not be a good indication either, as it refelcts your performance over your entire play-career. A rating-system like the EOL-rating in chess might be better. Online results might then, for instance, be weighted differently than live-results. Our dutch bridge-association has introduced such a rating-system a few years back. It rates performance over the results of yhe last 5 years, where the most recent years count heavier than earlier achievements. In my experience it tends to favour people who plat a lot, but then: one might argue that playing a lot offers more increase in skill 🙂

This indicates you do not wish a skill level to be displayed when people view your profile information.
Someone who recently learnt to play bridge
Someone who has played bridge for less than one year
Someone who is comparable in skill to most other members of Bridge Base Online
Someone who has been consistently successful in clubs or minor tournaments
Someone who as enjoyed success in major national tournaments
World Class
Someone who has represented their country in World Championships

Judy Kay-WolffApril 18th, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Sorry, Ig, but I disagree with your last category. Just because someone has represented their country in World Championships (because of Professionalism) does not qualify them to consider themselves’ world class). I can name you dozens of players over the years who paid their way onto a team (and didn’t have to play half the time) who emerged victorious because of their five teammates. Everything is not that meets the eye.

Richard WilleyApril 18th, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Hi Paul
Since you would seem to prefer a more length explanation:

Providing a system to rate online bridge players suffers from any number of problems.
Self-rating systems are prone to failure because relatively few people are able to accurately evaluate their own performance. I suspect that the major problem is inertia / laziness. People don’t bother to familiarize themselves with the definitions being used and fill in whatever the see fit. Worse yet, my gut says that the worst players are the one’s most likely to mis-rank their ability.

“Objective” rating systems like the Lehman system are even more problematic:

1. In my experience, most players will strongly reject any rating system that says that they are below average

2. Players also dislike any rating system that they don’t understand and most bridge player’s are numerically illiterate. There are exceptions… I see John D’Errico posting on this very thread. However, I wouldn’t want to try to explain the inner workings of a Kalman filter or a boosted decision tree to the BBO membership.

From my own perspective, I think that there are a couple valid ways in which a rating system might be created. The first is modeled after the way that online dating sites work.

Create a series of bridge puzzles, modeled after Fred Gitelman’s “Bridge Master”.
Have a large number of people try to solve said puzzles.
Analyze the results of the puzzles and segment the audience into different clustered.
Identify a small number of puzzles (or a sequence of puzzles) that do the best job discriminating users into different groups.

The second option is based on network theory. Allow players to upvote or downvote other players on two different categories. The first is skill at bridge. The second is whether you trust their judgement at rating other people. Use a modified version of the page rank algorithm to rate players.

Pay me enough money and I’d be happy to implement either system…

Howard Bigot-JohnsonApril 19th, 2012 at 11:16 am

HBJ : An expert amongst all his/her many skills and talents is a player who not only sees what mere mortals can’t , but can find answers to even the most difficult problems they encounter.
Winning a trophy may suggest a decent grasp of the game and a great deal of good fortune , but experts…… who are far more likely to make less mistakes than anyone else…… will prefer to judge their performances against their own standards of perfection……not silverware.

Cong HuyApril 19th, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Thanks for nice entry

LakApril 20th, 2012 at 2:30 am

Has anyone tried It seems quite reasonable: they seem to look at the past month of play.

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