In normal times, we would all be getting together around now to welcome in the new bridge season after the summer break. Obviously, these are not normal times, and getting together in any numbers is not possible. However, we would like to outline the plans for the 2020/21 bridge season, and to keep all members up-to-date on developments.

Like all other activities, the bridge community faces challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the most obvious being that in-person bridge has been closed since mid-March, and all our games have been online.

As we write, many clubs are preparing for business-as-usual for the new season, with calendars issued and subscriptions being sought. In the main, they are planning to play online for now, but a few are aiming to open up imminently for in-person bridge, having undertaken all the necessary health precautions; it looks as though the ABCD Bridge Centre in Drogheda will be the first out of the traps. We have also seen a return to in-person bridge classes via Michael O’Loughlin’s beginners week in Westport; a number of other teachers have taken up the challenge and moved online. If you know someone looking for bridge classes, you’ll find details of the online tuition here. And if you’re a bridge teacher would who like to explore moving online, please let us know.

In relation to the new 2020/21 season, your representatives on the Management Committee and the Standing Committee (the latter acting on behalf of, and as mandated by, the Governing Council) have authorised the following actions:

  • The annual affiliation fee will be €10 per member for clubs submitting their affiliations before 30 November 2020. Thereafter, the fee will revert to €12.50 per member. If contacting individual members is difficult for a club, we will accept an estimated affiliation payment based on last year’s numbers, and will give credit for any overpayments next season.
  • Membership cards and start-of-season packs with all the usual club reports will be distributed via the regional committees, or, as a last resort if that is not possible, by post.
  • We will not be producing diaries this season. Note that all the ancillary information usually contained within the diary is available on our website. If you manage to find anything that isn’t there, please let us know.
  • Thus far, the Association has made no charge in respect of the activities of the online virtual clubs, even though we incur costs in licensing and administering them. From 1 September 2020, the CBAI will withhold a small percentage of the BBO revenues to defray these costs – typically, it will be 5% of the gross revenues.
  • Our newsletter this season will be a virtual one, emailed to members and uploaded to our website.

Turning to the calendar, we have a number of competitions already scheduled as virtual events on BBO. In particular, we can confirm the two simultaneous pairs weeks, taking  place online within the clubs. The IBU simultaneous pairs will run over the week of 2 November, and the CBAI simultaneous pairs over the week of 1 February 2021. Arrangements should be made via CBAI headquarters as usual; we will be in touch with clubs that have played previously closer to the date to confirm their participation. If your club has NOT participated in the simultaneous pairs previously, but would like to this year, please contact us as soon as possible. A number of congresses have indicated their intention to operate on a virtual basis this year, and we are also planning to run some virtual CBAI tournaments online, starting with the Duais An Uachtarain on 26/27 September – see the calendar section of this site for full details. These virtual competitions will be essentially recreational events; Masterpoints will be awarded, but national titles (where relevant) and monetary prizes will not.

We now have more than 150 virtual clubs playing online on BBO. If your club is not among them, and would like to give it a try, please contact us. We can approve a licence for you with BBO, and can provide initial tuition for those who will be running your games. If you think your club is too small to run its own online games, we may be able to pair you up with another club or clubs for this purpose. And if you are intending to award Masterpoints for your online games, please calculate them as usual in accordance with the CBAI scheme, and ignore the figures proferred by BBO and/or Bridgewebs which are calculated differently.

If you club is considering a return to in-person bridge, then we would refer you to the risk assessment template developed by the Association, which will provide you with guidance on the necessary health precautions. This assessment is based on current government guidelines (as of 14 September), and will need to be kept under regular review. One important point worth noting is that we have been advised by the public health authorities that bridge falls within the “sporting and cultural” category for the purposes of permitted numbers, so that the maximum attendance in a single room remains at 50, assuming that suitable physical distancing can be maintained. (Update: Since its move to Level 3 status within the public health plan on 18 September, this no longer applies to County Dublin, where organised indoor gatherings are not permitted currently.) The decision on whether a club should reopen is one for the local club committee in light of the specific club circumstances; likewise, each individual player who comes back to the physical table assumes the risk of this action, so please give it careful consideration. Some players will quite understandably be cautious, and no-one should be pressurised into returning.

Earlier in the summer, we informed participating clubs that the CBAI Public Liability Scheme cover had been extended from 22 May to 1 September, without charge, and that the current renewal rate of €105 would be maintained. Our agents, Don Reddan & Co Insurances, have worked with the insurers to arrive at a reasonable apportionment for  clubs not playing in-person for the full year. The arrangement they have agreed is that if a club joins between 1 September and 28 February, they will pay €105; if the club joins after 28 February they will pay €60 (in effect this is 50% of the premium plus a small fixed fee). If a club does not pay the premium, they have no insurance cover. And of course, clubs should also maintain any cover they have on club property or equipment.

Even if you are not expecting to play much bridge this season, we would appreciate your paying your affiliation fee via your club if you can. Even in the absence of in-person bridge your Association has been as busy, if not busier, than ever, and we continue to have costs that need to be met. €10 (or even €12.50!) is not a lot to pay to try to make sure that the game we love comes through the current difficult circumstances in good shape for a revival when things get back to normal, whenever that may be. And a reminder that anyone playing online in one of the CBAI virtual clubs or events must be an affiliated member of the Association, with the only exceptions being charity or other special open events.