Bridge Base Inc.
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (October 2008)|
Bridge Base Incorporated is a company founded in 1990 by Fred Gitelman, President, and Sheri Winestock, Vice-President and based in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Though its first two products, BASE II (1990) and BASE III (1991), were analytical tools designed for serious students of bridge, it is now most famous for offering free online contract bridge through its website Bridge Base Online (BBO), with which it has become synonymous. As of October 2007, it is owned by Gitelman, along with Uday Ivatury, Bill Gates, Sharon Osberg, and David Smith.
Bridge Base Online
Bridge Base Online (BBO) is a website, owned by Bridge Base Inc and launched on April 23, 2001, offering free online multiplayer bridge play, and has since become synonymous with the company itself. Since anyone can register and play for free, it is common to find thousands of players. Because the language of bridge bidding and play uses only 15 words and because all selections are done via mouseclick, people from any country and people who speak many languages can play together. In addition, BBO has support for a number of languages which allows player and observer ("kibitzer") chat at tables and other "rooms". Records of all hands played are kept, and publicly accessible, enabling comparisons with other players of the same hand.
In addition to bridge rooms, the site also includes free instruction about bidding and play, a free downloadable demonstration of "BridgeMaster", rooms to practice bidding and rooms to practice play with a partner. Many of the tables can be observed by anyone. A friendly atmosphere is maintained by a complaint line which is provided and closely watched. A player who uses offensive language or infringes on other player's enjoyment can be blocked from the site temporarily or permanently. There are many "helper" players denoted by their yellow background in the lobby whose job it is to help newer players find their feet.
The "Deal of the week" and past "Deals of the Week" are articles which examine world class player's thinking as they play a hand, as an aide to intermediate and advanced players. There are many tournaments every day, for individuals, pairs or teams to compete in; some are free, many of the rest cost $1.00 or equivalent. In addition, the site sponsors "money bridge"; players compete toward earning BBO dollars which can be used for tournaments or to purchase software. Normally, a $10.00 authorization via credit card buys a player 10 BBO dollars which can be spent on anything BBO offers.
Robots in BBO
Ginsberg's Intelligent Bridgeplayer (GIB) is an Artificial intelligence (AI) program presented as a robot (or "bot") that can be rented on BBO for a small fee. It plays the 2/1 game forcing system and be used to fill the seats of one or more players, or simply provide advice. Promotionally, it has also been made available free for a day from time to time. GIB is well regarded as a bridge program, though, like many other computer bridge simulators, its actions are prone to the occasional error.
American Contract Bridge League
In conjunction with the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL), Bridge Base sponsors ACBL sanctioned tournaments on its website. These award online masterpoints. These colorless masterpoints awarded for online play can be combined toward the masterpoint rankings established by the ACBL. Together, they also distribute a "Learn to Play Bridge" computer program. Included in the program, Gitelman has also provided a simplified bidding system which he calls Bridgebase basic. It is based on a modern Standard American bridge bidding system and allows unfamiliar parters to bid effectively together.
The BBO software provides pictures of cards and a chat window, and has become the dominant user of the Vugraph system of relaying real-life hands online. Through use of its internet technology, BBO transmits many world class tournaments live so that any interested BBO user can watch hands being played at a world class tournament in near real time. In these tournaments there is someone with a computer clicking the cards that they see the competitors play so that everyone on BBO can watch. In these tournaments, commentary is often provided by recognized bridge experts.