On-Line Masterpoints? What Does The Future Hold?

The ACBL Executive Committee met on August 25, 1998 and approved major changes to our existing on-line masterpoint policy. Here are the official minutes from that meeting. My comments will follow:

On-Line Masterpoint Policy: Following discussion of a proposed on-line masterpoint policy, it was moved and seconded that management be directed to implement an on-line masterpoints policy that adheres to the principles below. This motion requires ratification at the next Board meeting.

  1. All previously established sanctioning fees and criteria remain in force unchanged.

  2. All previous masterpoint criteria for on-line play in sanctioned games are amended to comply with the following rules and guidelines:

    1. The total number of masterpoints available to be awarded in a sanctioned on-line club game shall be the same as in a comparably sized face-to-face club game. No more than 1.5 points may be awarded for first place.

    2. Subject to (A), Management is authorized to narrow the point degradation in on-line VS face-to-face play, provided that no points may be awarded to players finishing below the top 40%.

    3. No more than 1/3 of the points required to achieve established ACBL status levels may be won from on-line play. Thus, as of this date, no more than 100 points of the 300 required to make Life Master may come from on-line play. This supersedes the previous yearly and lifetime maximum of 10 and 100 points respectively.

    4. No on-line points will be credited toward any of the established annual point races, although Management may choose to establish an on-line ACBL member masterpoints race.

    5. In all other respects awarding masterpoints on-line shall be the same as for face-to-face play at clubs (not units or districts).

    6. There shall be no binding long-term agreements signed with any on-line services relating to any of the above without going back to the Board for it's approval. There shall be no exclusivity; any agreement(s) arrived at will be offered to all qualifying on-line services.

  3. The executive Committee extends its thanks to the Computer Committee and particularly Al Levy for their early pioneering work in thinking about on-line and more recently for advising members of the Board and Executive Committee.
I have serious concerns about the proposed changes. On-line bridge is an environment that has no controls on unethical behaviour. It is a simple matter to be watching all four hands or even talking to your partner while playing on-line. There is no way to stop players who wish to bend or evade the normal rules that apply in face-to-face tournament play.

An unofficial survey of my District 2 members who play extensively on OK Bridge revealed a surprisingly uniform opinion. The young players, middle-aged, urban and rural - all were of like mind. The bottom line: "Netpoints" should be completely separate from ACBL masterpoints.

People can live with the current restrictions; i.e. a maximum award of .75/session; 10 points/year; 100 lifetime. Unfortunately, what was approved by the ACBL Executive Committee, IF ratified by the full Board in November, would remove those restrictions.

Such a move would lead to a tremendous devaluation of our existing masterpoint system. Huge amounts of new "Netpoints" would be recorded. In my opinion, this would be a major error. As one former ACBL Board member wrote me: "The ability to cheat, with no possible way to discover it, and earn masterpoints along the way, is a new low for ACBL."

My understanding is that Microsoft has been negotiating with ACBL management and wishes to move into the on-line bridge market in a major way. Microsoft wants the yearly/lifetime restrictions on the number of masterpoints won to be removed and also wants to build into their programs a convertibility factor for "Netpoints" and masterpoints. They wish to do the same with other NCBO's around the world.

Should we allow Microsoft to set the new standards for bridge "currency" and allow gross devaluation of our existing masterpoints? Should "Netpoints" replace masterpoints as the standard for bridge recognition and achievement?

If the ACBL approves the proposal above, we will have thrown the doors wide-open. There will be no going back.

While I believe that on-line bridge is great for:

I also believe that on-line bridge is NOT appropriate for: This issue will be discussed and voted upon at the Fall ACBL meetings in Orlando. If you share my concern that lifting our current restrictions for awarding on-line masterpoints would be a grave error, NOW is the time to let your voice be heard.

Please write, fax, or e-mail ACBL Management and the Board of Directors with your comments. Our CEO is David Silber. You can e-mail him at: ceo@acbl.org

If you wish the ACBL Board of Directors to see your submission, please copy Kelley McGuire: kmcguire@acbl.org with your request. She will forward your views to the ACBL Board of Directors.

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