Bidders Challenge Update

Thank you for being a loyal participant of the monthly Bidders Challenge. It’s been great to see the friendly competition and to hear from those of you who’ve had fun and learned a lot by taking part. It’s certainly grown in popularity since it started a few years ago, and this popularity is in large part down to the enthusiasm of players like you.

Even though the challenge has grown, there’s still room for improvement. As such we’ve decided to pause the competition for a while to make some changes. We’re going to make a challenge which is better for different levels of player and one that delivers faster feedback to help make it more exciting and better able to assist with learning bidding techniques.

We also want to take your views and ideas into account.  Please let us know how you think it should be improved. Whether they're general ideas, or ideas about specific features you’d like to see, please add them to the comments below.

The BBO Team

80 comments on “Bidders Challenge Update”

  1. Two comments
    1) The area on (eg) where one can enter comments should be at the top of the page - not many screenfuls down at the bottom of the page.
    2) I would like to see my bids AND best bid on same screen. This will greatly improve my learning ie on (eg) pls include participant bids.
    Tx for the fun quizzes.
    Merry Xmas and a happy New Year

  2. I find the Bidders Challenge to hard to store on my computer.
    1. There should be a button on the website which copies ALL of the hands for that month, so that I can first copy it into my graphics program to save to a folder on my computer.
    2. After I submit my answers, which I'm NOT going to remember for a month, there should be a button on your website that copies ALL the answers that I submitted.

    Then I can save these to images (unanswered & answered) until the results come out for comparison.

  3. Hi. One way to improve the results presentation could be to mix, on a single link, a “my bids”reminder with the experts bids . For each deal a simple graph with the various possible bids, their associated marks, my bid as well as the competitors bids repartition in %. I am an occasional and humble participant but always appreciate this monthly exercice. All the best

  4. (1) Make South the bidder.
    (2) Some clarification of what doubles mean.
    Say, three categories. One. Takeout. Two.
    Values, probable stopper. Three. Penalty

    RD 2/12/23


  6. Problems should be judgement options and not a poll of system agreements. All American experts bid something other than 3D with their big hand which obviously they don't play as forcing. If 3D was forcing this is NOT a problem. European experts play 3D as forcing so it scored 100. A footnote re: 3D should have been included with problem 1 in November's contest.
    1C-(2S)-X-(P) your call with AXX-void-AQXX-AQ10XXX.

    1. I am laughing because I bid 3D my only ten: amongst my worse months of the year. I think that the bidding current system should be included on the page of the reference hands page. I get logged off each time I refer to it.

  7. I look forward to BBO bidding challenge every month, thanks to excellent work done by Marc, Hanoi, BBO team and world class panelists. Also been a regular participant in the Bridge World's MSC contest for many years.

    Based on my experience, I see the following benefits at the individual and partnership level
    a) Improve your bidding judgement - low/high road, speed up/slow down auction, take cash/try to maximize your gains. consult partner / take punt, identify closest approximation when there is no perfect answer. Here, my primary objective is check if my judgement matches with at least significant no of world class panelists (score of at least 7/8 out of 10 indicates that judgement is reasonably good) and to improve it further after reading comments/checking votes of panel/host.
    b) Situations for partnerships to discuss - meaning of various bids, typically in high level competitive and slam bidding sequences. Here, we can learn from experts, but can also improvise at partnership level and my parimary objective is to discuss these situations with my regular partner and develop/evolve our agreements after consolidating views of panel/host. I am less concerned about my score for these problems since it is more important to be in sync with partner.

    My view is that MSC problems provide more of the former (a) and BBO bidding contest more of latter (b). If the above categorisation is right, BBO bidding contest (in its current avatar) is more useful for advance+/expert category of players, whereas MSC could be more useful for intermediate+/advanced players. Of course both contests have a few problems in the other category.

    Finally, I also send my comments/thought process (after contest is closed for the previous month and just before results are out) for both MSC (thoughts more useful since folks need to subscribe to magazine) and BBO bidding contest,, to private group of friends in my city. Here, I identify various bids considered by me and pros/cons for each of them and bidding principles used to chose my vote and ranking of bids. Essentially try to explain how my mind works to arrive at the final bid. Many in our private group seem to find this process useful.

    Overall, I hope Marc and rest of BBO bidding team will listen to all feedback and come back stronger at the earliest.

    Thanks for the all the good work so far!!

  8. Bidding contests are a waste of time without clear understanding of partnership agreements. Sometimes the experts don't agree on what certain bids mean so how are we supposed to do it? Either describe the partnership agreements or don't bother bringing it back.

    1. The System used is on the Challenge Homepage.
      You assume that you're playing that system with an expert, having not agreed anything else beforehand.

      1. The System page is completely unused by the experts, and they regularly make bids which contradict it. On one hand, it specifically said 2NT would be artificial, so I bid 3NT - the top score was a natural 2NT! I don't know why the system page is there at all.

    2. Most are IMPS scoring, but some are MPs like in duplicate.
      The hands are submitted by members of the panel and others - ones that they struggled with, to see what others would do in their place.
      You want the feedback/best bids/answers immediately before many other players have entered?! You'll get lots of 80/80s if you do that!

    3. I can't think of any top class tournament players who don't play various types of cue bids. If you want to play simple systems that is your choice, but don't expect to reach as many slams or games as them.
      If you want a good book on cue bids then try Cue Bidding to Slams (Master Bridge Series) by Ron Klinger or Cue Bidding at Bridge: A Modern Approach by Ken Rexford - a much more comprehensive work.

  9. When setting these things up you have to provide all the information availiable. On hand 3, a lead problem, with J 10 of spades you did not tell what card partner or declarer played. Playing UDCA or standard this can be of great importance.

  10. Bidding should be duplicate scoring not IMPs as would think most of us play that rather than teams
    Hands shouldn't be so extreme - most of us need help navigating complex decisions in everyday hands, not once-in-a-blue-moon competitive auctions with both sides bidding slams etc.
    Would it be possible to get the expert feedback as soon as you enter your bid? Much better learning that way. The winners can still be tallied at the end of the month.
    Should be from south perspective as someone else has said

  11. The scoring needs changing - sometimes I've bid things where I can bid again - so I might be looking for a slam and I make a bid which is forcing or I know I am going to get another bid - I once passed with a 23 count with the intention of bidding 3NT next...RHO had made a bid which LHO could not pass - but this would give me more information in the play of the cards - but I scored a zero when the "correct" bid was 3NT. Nobody else even saw the pass bid was a viable alternative.

  12. I'm very disappointed to hear that the bidders challenge is taking a pause and not continuing in its present form. Yes, the problems are challenging and experts bids don't always seem "understandable" to beginning and intermediate players. Perhaps adding a different bidding challenge that is designed for beginners/intermediates with more simple concepts would be instructive for this group of players. However, as an advanced/expert player I find the format perfect. Marc does a great job of collating the experts answers and his writing style is quite readable and informative.

    I don't play "live bridge" very often anymore. I log into BBO almost everyday for my bridge enjoyment. Please reconsider the decision to pause the challenge while BBO figures out a different format for non expert or players that want a simpler challenge. BBO is a great platform so keep it great for all levels of players! Thank you

  13. Make it possible to view and/or print the new problems without submitting them. This facilitates discussion with you regular partner prior to submitting the answers.

    1. The ability to view/print the new problem set has been available for some time now.
      For example go to the "Hands" tab on the home page of the Challenge and there is a link you can click on to download a PDF files of all the hands - this does not commit you to doing the problem set at that time - here is the text from the currently running problem set for December:

      Click the Start bidding button below to submit your bids. If you'd prefer to mull over your responses in advance (as we know some of you do), you can download this PDF to see all the hands together on one page before submitting your bids.

  14. Please do NOT force the panel to use a standard BBO system (or whatever standard system). I would like to learn from the experts, not to learn how to use standard BBO.
    More explanation from the experts why they made a specific bid would be appreciated.

  15. I think a format where 3 experts have settled on a intermediate to complete a table, and they agree to alert BBO style all their bids would be very educational and also result in fewer poor bids based on misunderstood opponents and partner bids.

  16. Your panel composition is usually top players. The Players in the challenge are world wide from beginner to world class. I think the existing format does not recognize the limitations of the players. I started playing in the early sixties but today’s game bears no relation to that time period. Perhaps you should consider stratified as in your tournaments as opposed to one melting pot for all the players. Your panel members make bids I would never expect. Reviewing them is interesting but not conducive to learning bidding techniques.

  17. Cue bids are ridiculous especially later in the bidding. I do best minor, transfers, 2nt but some don’t make any sense what’s so ever

  18. For the most part I think the current way of running the challenge is fine, Marc Smith does a great job with it. Those who want their scores 'immediately' forget that if you do that before the deadline for submissions, you can tell your friends your scores (good or bad) and they will "know" to avoid bids that get bad scores and "agree" with your good-scoring bids... I would also like to see better explanations of bids (many have been lost/confused by this) so that everybody "knows" them. Love all the stats... even more would be better! Early on Mark usually told us how many entries there were, now not so much (I guess you can find out by counting how many entries there are in the "find my bids" section, but why not just tell us the number ALL the time?)

  19. Sometimes I don’t use a particular system with my partners so I enter what we use and get a poor score even though we are heading to a similar spot. Usually cue bidding and such We don’t splinter. I suppose it is impossible to accommodate this although maybe you can with the new rating for different player levels. Always a fun challenge

  20. The bidders challenge is a great idea. I would like the experts to play out the hands after bidding to decide which was the best bid.

  21. I would like a couple of things
    - would like to be South
    - would like an explanation of my partner’s bid
    - would like the results with my answers sooner

  22. I'd like to see a conclusion email that was personalized showing what I bid on each hand instead of having to go back to find out what call I made a month ago.

  23. There are many treatments which are not "standard" or popular. It might be nice to select 1 hand from each set to offer for open comments on special bidding agreements. My favorite agreement is "Inverted Major Suit Raises", with the benefit of gaining 1 round below the 3 level to explore the fit. The forcing 1NT allows for minimum raises with 3-card support. How many hands occur worth a limit raise, that the final call is a blind guess?, and game is good or bad based on the fit?

  24. This is by far the best bidding competition of all the ones I’ve used, including Its Your Call and Master Solvers. I learn so much each month. I also like to see the actual hand, even though I know it’s not relevant to the bidding decisions.

  25. I love the bidders challenged but am frequently even further challenged by the experts answers. Perhaps there could be further information and links to explain the systems they are using and the equivalent for local use ( which for me would be English ACOL).

  26. I am a relatively new player and enjoy the difficulty level. I wouldn't want it to be easier, I appreciate having access to something a bit out of my league but enjoyable.

    However, the learning experience could be improved by explaining better the choices and their impact in the solutions. From the bidding you should know/deduce A about partner, B about opponents.
    If you did X1, X2..., it would mean Y1, Y2... so it's good/not good because Z1, Z2... I know sometimes such an explanation is given, but it's rarely as thorough and complete. Most of the time the experts' comments are "obviously 5◇, what else?". Well, excuse us for not following, I don't even have a diamond; care to explain? Haha

    I find many books on bridge, bridge columns, and other places like this challenge have a tendency to include those types of comments like "obviously" or "any moron would understand" or "any player worth their salt would know...". I find them condescending and make me want to stop reading when I'm trying to understand and learn. I'm happy you know you're smart, how about lifting people up with you instead? This would be the only improvement I'd suggest to make it beginner-friendly: be literally friendly to beginners, please!

    Despite this, I still came back every month and loved the challenge as it was. I would simply appreciate a more thorough run through after the fact. Thank you for hosting it and opening yourselves up to comments. It won't be easy to read them all and make everyone happy though I hope it will be helpful 🙂

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. I might add the fact that I do not compete on the same level as the 2/1 adherents because what I believe to be perfectly understandable approaches are not even in the 2/1 book at all. The results you descry are the same for me.

  27. I love the bidders challenge but I would love to know the answers immediately. Maybe have the experts answer first then ask other players? Thank you for taking my opinion into account!

    1. I agree, as a newer player I have not figured out what date the answers come out
      and how to find the answers at a later date. Thanks.

  28. There is quite a difference between the sorts of questions which will be helpful for a learner (choice of two - how do the experts choose?) and the sorts of questions that are very difficult at any level (experts disagree, multiple high scoring answers). I think it is good to tackle both and it might be worth specifically having four questions in each vein each month.

    Understanding what is "common expert practice" is tricky, and some examples of uncovering that are scattered through these questions, and - with no other avenue to learn this - these are very useful. Perhaps more of these?

  29. I like very much the Challenge as it is, with a focus on judgement of tangent competitive situations.
    I think non-competitive bidding depends too much on local systems (sayc ? polish ? french ? etc etc). And players will find a lot of local resources on this.
    Same for the first stages of competitive bidding, which are also style depending.

    Maybe the Challenge could include some more common competitive decisions (eg "should I bid 5 / pass / double ?")
    But if the decision is too obvious, I think there exists already a lot of resources.

    Maybe make 2 Challenges for different levels, like BridgeMaster (which is very well done) ?

    I really like the present Challenge, and would be disappointed if it becomes less challenging. Many thanks for this interesting resource.

  30. challenge # and month are sort of confusing.
    when results come out resend the hands and if possible resend the submitted bids.
    current format may work for Experts.
    Doing well in the challenge is a competitive thing
    Being on the same page with your partner is a different beast.
    faster feedback and commentary for lesser mortals i.e. 1-2 weeks
    Technical fix needed - hands do not display in Firefox with AdBlocker Ultimate.
    Note: I use windows 10 laptop with firefox for playing, it works fine. I use firefox for email, it works fine. Clicking on links to the challenge (either place) fails to bring up the hands.
    What is needed to use FireFox for the challenge hands to display?

  31. The number of points doesn't tell me how well I did compared to other mortals. Add the PERCENTILE (e.g. 70th percentile).
    Provide a SHORT SUMMARY for the reasoning behind the top choice.
    My answers should be visible on the same display as the scoring table.
    Provide an option for established partners to easily compare and discuss their individual answers against the results. Answers of each should be visible on the same display as the scoring table. One option is to add a 'make my answers public' checkbox. If checked, any other bidder can enter that bidder bbo id to see their answers as well.
    Use email to send a more detailed report, visible in the email message. I already sent BBO an offer to donate my software and time to make this (and other useful reports) possible via email. I haven't received a response.

  32. Could you add what an Advanced Robot would have bid? We know the Robot system (GIB), this will provide a benchmark. Experts may also bid higher than most players because they can play the cards better; the Robot bid will be closer to the skills of most bidders.

  33. Twink haven’t done bidders challenge for awhile do the solutions include recommended opening lead ? That would be helpful tried to register but Canada was not there we haven’t fallen off the earth!

  34. There are really three parts to a bidding challenge:

    1) What do the bids made so far suggest about the hands (partner's, yours, opponents')?
    2) What are remaining questions? Where should you be looking to go on this board?
    3) What is the best bid to make to gather needed information and choose among options?

    The expert comments often answer mostly the last question and often revolve around "I play this", which should not be the focus. A bid is not better for a general player because there is a gadget that makes it a perfect bid. Sometimes the scoring gets to this a bit by giving reasonable scores to multiple bids that seem headed the same direction, but this can be problematic if (for example) different people might play 4NT as quantitative or blackwood in a particular auction, potentially making the same bid better or worse depending on the intent.

    So, suggestions:

    1) Flesh out the bidding system a bit and have people avoid making out of system conventional bids unless fairly standard.
    2) Ask questions that relate to all of the above parts (how many spades has partner shown? What is his range? Where is the hand going?)
    3) Ask experts to explain in this sort of format and try to distill the key issue of the hand from their answers ("Everyone agrees that partner is 6-5 in the minors and we want to be in slam as long as he doesn't have two low hearts")

  35. I never know if I’ve already submitted my bids for the month. Afraid to do it again as I will be disqualified if I make a mistakes.

    When you send results, you should include results from previous months for comparison

  36. I think it's neigh-impossible to make a bidding challenge interesting for different levels. So just be honest and clear up-front what level this is intended for.

    I would suggest to have the experts comment (and the scores) set before the competition runs, so you get instant feedback, rather than have to wait for a month. It would mean it's no longer a 'competition', but it would still be a 'challenge'.

  37. I think it's very good as is. Some UX improvements:
    * Interpolate the user's bids (if they're logged in) on the results screen, so you can see what you bid and scored without going back and forth
    * Have a designated live discussion results thread on BBO, clearly linked from the results screen, where we can all loudly complain about how little the experts know 😛
    * Make it easier to save progress. Going through 8 hands in competition-level detail can take a long time, so it would be nice to be able to input something, close the tab, navigate back later, and have our input still be there.
    * Related to the previous, allow the user to make notes that need only be visible to themself, so when you log back in to continue you can justify your earlier lunacy to yourself (though it does raise some interesting possibilities about sharing them with others and perhaps having some automated filtering to look for common themes not discussed by the experts)
    * Make it more obvious when you've submitted your bids - eg a JS text update when you enter your email address saying 'this email has already submitted scores for the month'. This is partly because a couple of times the system has glitched and not recorded them, but even when it's functioning smoothly, sometimes us absent-minded users can just forget, get an email reminder from BBO, and not be sure whether there's anything to respond to without delving through our emails

    1. I agree totally with this post. I want something that says "yes, you bid these hands and here's what you bid". This response was thoughtful and complete and thank you for paying attention!!

  38. I suggest that when you send out results that it shows your picks by hand with your associated scores and the rank of preferred bids adjacent

  39. Get those suit icons a bit smaller?
    I don't want as an Acol player to have to retreat and find out the meaning of a highlit apparent conventional bid.
    Align answers with selected bid to ease comparison
    Improve scoring presentation somehow(!)
    Speedup timeline
    Best wishes for superb site from NZ

    1. I would like an automatic reply at the end of the month telling me how I did as I cannot remember my bidding so can never learn

  40. You don't seem to have grasped the idea of a bidding CHALLENGE! It is supposed to be tough for everyone, with even the experts (authors, grand-masters and champions) often disagreeing wildly over what is the best bid. Everyone of any ability can have a try and try to get a better score than the expert panelists. I really have NO idea what you mean by faster feedback in your email?! There's thousands of entrants and you get your score emailed to you within a few days - not 3 months as is mentioned in Bridge Winners! And the panelists thoughts are shared along with their bids and the marking scheme. Hanoi Rondon does an excellent video each month with Marc, where they discuss the current problems and Marc narrows it down to the most likely options, so everyone should have some idea and get some points for every problem.
    The Challenge is incredibly well run by Marc Smith and I'm not sure that anyone could do any better, as he takes great pains to score it fairly and to explain the logic behind his scoring matrix. Any changes will likely leave it a shadow of what it once was! If you want something more suited to just beginners or intermediates then maybe just do something separate for them?
    If it ain't broke, then don't fix it and don't ruin the pleasure of thousands by changing or cancelling it!

  41. As a relatively new Bridge player (3 years) I gave up doing the Bidders challenge because half the time the explanation of why a particular bid won left out some vital information about what some of the conventions meant or what the thought process was.. So a little more explanation would be very helpful!

  42. I agree with the comment about conventional bids (though I think they may be alerted) but some info about system would be helpful. There are usually two or three possibilities for a bid but quite often the meaning of one of them might be systematically unclear or reliant on general Bridge knowledge (e.g. in some contexts 4NT is two places to play but in any particular case, it might not be clear without a system note).

  43. All good = presentation fine to me !
    I enjoy the challenge and always read at least some of the panels deliberations plus the tables of %s which I appreciate.
    Could you provide somewhere some pointers about the difference between bidding for imps scored and total points scored games which I regard as my current weakness.

  44. Could you have an acol challenge as well as SAYC? And expert opinion is fascinating, but most of us aren't experts. Perhaps just "normal" advanced ratings and explanations?!

  45. The numbers are too large to add user comments, so don't. If you have a divisions set-up, will it have a free choice mechanism or a promotion after one or more series (and degradation of course). Think about it

  46. I enjoy the Challenge.
    It is very difficult.
    Iin the latest one despite playing it over and over I was unable to score over 60%.
    And 60% would place you about 220,000th.
    Some get 100% playing it once only !!
    So, breaking it into divisions might work but with so many players...?...?
    In any case, I enjoy it.
    Best regards

  47. Each month it tells me I have entered before when I haven’t- you do send me another link but frankly if I can’t just log on I don’t life is too short,

  48. Hi , I thought that it would be a good idea to explain the conventional bids as I have had to guess for many of the bids. I am sure that this has negatively impacted on my scores to some extent....but then it's only a bit of fun.


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