Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Vugraph Commentary … something for everybody (or nobody)

Most commentary these days is done online and provided by a large group of volunteers.  There is also some commentary done live at world championships and possibly other locations which have in recent days been hosted by Barry Rigal.  There is commentary done in Chinese on their own site.  I did once try to look at it but the installation at the time was very complex and I have never tried since. since.  Other tournaments and countries may have commentary as well but I am not familiar with it.

The live commentary hosted by Barry Rigal is done quite professionally.  It is accurate and there are often some interesting insights into bidding or play.  They are usually familiar with the bidding systems of the players.  There are often expert guest commentators there especially in the latter stages when some teams have been knockout of the competition.  It is good, competent but often lacks the joie d’vivre of the old days.  But maybe we all look back and remember things with rosy glasses.

The online commentary varies a lot depending on who is doing it.  All of the commentators are decent players but not all are really world class (including your humbler writer).  Some times some very good commentators join in like Michael Rosenberg or Larry Cohen.  Some times especially in lesser events you can get some pretty run of the mill people.  I am a better analyst then some and I can usually provide pretty decent commentary about play and defense although still not as good as the aforementioned.  But it is hard to do really accurate commentary even if you are modestly competent.  Back to that in a bit.

What is the purpose of the commentary?  The online audience varies from beginners to experts.  The beginners want a fair bit of explanation about what is happening.  I get lots of questions from them about why somebody bid something for example.  Some of the audience are experts who primarily want to know the details of the players bidding system or isn’t some complex line of play fractionally better or what inference players can draw from a bid or even a hesitation.  Most are probably in the middle.  They do need some explanation of what is happening and why during the bidding and play.  But I see Vugraph as being primarily entertainment.  I like it best when players tell stories, make jokes, give insights into the players and so on.

From the point of view of the commentators it is often impossible to know the details of the players system.  Even if you have access to their card it often doesn’t contain the details you need.  Even when I actually know the players and have played against them frequently they can enter parts of the system I don’t know quite easily.  Some times this is remedied by the players themselves who explain their system and the operator can let us all know.  Another problem I find is that I can make mistakes like talking about a slam when the hand is off two aces.  Yes, I have done that.  I just am not concentrating as much as I should, I type too fast (typing is much slower than talking).  I also can’t always coordinate my comments with others because  we are both entering our response at the same time and this lag causes my comment to come up before I have seen theirs.  I also have people walk into my office and distract me.  They don’t always see commentary as a job that cannot be interrupted.

My biggest problem however is one of style.  Some commentators and viewers resent the fact that I am explaining too much (“you don’t have to chatter” and “how do I turn you off”) when I am trying to explain things after several request from intermediate players.   Some just don’t like any jokes at all.  Some commentators are quick on the analysis which is either double dummy or just plain wrong.

The rewards are very small.  Once or twice I have received formal invitations to attend tournaments in far off places.  Some times people say thank you.  Some times I feel that I have done a good job and I feel proud.  Mostly I get to watch very good bridge and just enjoy the match (which I could of course also do as a spectator but this time I put it in my calendar and set the time aside).

So I would miss it if I stopped.  I would probably “shudder” write more blogs about bridge hands.  I love the beauty of some complex hands.  Bidding is okay but it is the intricacies of the play and defense that draw me.  It is also the psychology of the match.  The ups and downs of the momentum.

So I will persist as long as they will have me.

Yes I miss the old days of talented commentators but you could never fill all the huge number of slots of games shown on BBO with top talent.  There has to be some journeymen who fill in the gaps.  And if you don’t like what I have to say then do as I recently told a spectator who complained … put me on ignore.


Dave Memphis MOJOAugust 10th, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Excellent post – thank you.

Peter GillAugust 11th, 2010 at 5:24 am

I can hardly believe that anyone wouldn’t want to listen to what you Linda say and write. I guess there are all types of people out there. I like your commentary, Linda. Very much so.

Rewards for commentating? I’m convinced that commentating improves my game. I accepted Roland Wald’s email today asking for commentators for Hong Kong, because there’s a big Australian tournament next week so I need to sharpen my mind up by doing some commentating in advance.

Cam FrenchAugust 11th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

I know what you mean Linda.

I complained to Roland after doing several modest events (Estonia/Australia/various seniors/juniors, Turkish/Polish/Swedish events and then no invite for the big enchilada – like the Spingold.

Unlike you (or Larry/Kit/Micheal R) I don’t pretend to forsee the impending compound squeeze nor do I explain the bidding, typically Al Holland does the system explanations.

I like to add humour, the perspective of a non-elite player (which many of us are) and I downloaded a series of VG quotes by Edgar, some are just priceless.

We are lucky that Fred and BBO offer such services and we can be grateful for them. Sometimes, I prefer to watch, from a distance, just taking it all in. I think we all owe Fred and Roland and VG commentators a debt of gratitude.

Thanks for sharing.


Howard Bigot-JohnsonAugust 11th, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Dear Linda, I shall be doing a short piece on the Art of Good Bridge Commentaries, which I hope will be of real benefit and insight to all. Yours HBJ.

Leave a comment

Your comment