So I’m standing at the corner of a card table, my laptop perched precariously on a stack of four dining chairs, my feet sweating in a pair of heels that are too high.

I am a vugraph operator for Bridge Base Online for the Australian National Championships in Fremantle WA.

Correction.  I am a virgin vugraph operator and this is my first official match.

It is the Womens’ teams finals and it’s WA versus Victoria.  For the first time Alida Clarke is playing in the womens’ team.  It has given the whole team a lift.  They know they can win it if they keep cool.

The team is made up of Annabelle Booth, Leonie Shiels, Jill Del Piccolo, Kate Smith, Alida Clark and Leone Fuller.

At my table Alida is sitting North, Leone South and EW are Mary Elson and Diana Jacobs.

So my boards are loaded, they seem to be in order, we begin.

Now at this point let me tell you what I’m trying to do.  As the players bid and then play the cards I’m supposed to follow the action using a mouse and clicking on the card they play as they play it.  Bidding isn’t so hard.  They use bidding cards, they bid slowly, I don’t have to move the mouse around much.  Easy peasy.  Unless…

Unless you miss a crucial pass bid from dealer and then the whole auction is with the wrong pairs.  Yes.  So then as they are about to play their first card, you are (or rather I am) rapidly undoing the last 15 bids and then remembering the bidding (as best you can) so that you can get to the right auction and get the opening lead…

My shoes are a little slipperier, and I thirst for water.

The first board was a lively 6H by South.  Leone plays what seems to be perfectly good cardplay and claims.  Well she claims conceding a trick for one off but I didn’t see that until I was onto the next board.  So a mistake on my first board.  I went back and fixed it manually, apologised to the watching crowd and prepared for the second.

The second board was straight-forward and I managed to follow quite nicely thanks to some deliberate cardplay by the ladies.

The third board was a mess as previously described.

So now my hand is aching.  Carpel tunnel must be a risk for vugraph operators! My heels put me at just the wrong height for my four chairs but I can’t take them off because that would leave me barefoot and someone has just complained about a junior player kicking off his shoes because he finds it more comfortable to play with bare feet, and besides, my feet have been sweating so much I’m not entirely confident they wouldn’t stink.  Also, after a litre of water I need the bathroom… but they’re bidding again.

Three hands pass and I manage – just – to keep up. At worst, it kind of goes, first trick – yep.  Second trick – was that a King she played??? Must be.  Third trick – yep. Fourth trick – ahhhh losing it.  Fifth trick – lets see what she makes at the end.  Claim.

Around Board 7, and the Open Room have their scores in for Board 1.  5Dx – off 4 for 800.  But something’s wrong.  The lovely and very kind (to what must seem to her a chaotic vugraph operator) commentator suggests I have a look at the score.

So now I’m trying to keep up with the bidding, the cardplay and work out why there is a problem with the score.

I decide to wait til it’s over as it looks okay to me.

Finally we’re on the final board.  It looks pretty straightforward. I let the young girl standing next to me have a go (she can hardly do worse) and she aquits herself nicely.  The team leaves the table.

Anyway turns out the teams were all sitting in the wrong seats – so that’s why the score looked funny to the commentator.  Victoria won 13:30.

Round Two.

Oh did I mention that while I’m typing in these bids and plays, scores of people are watching in from around the world?  Just a little added pressure.

So we go back in the room for the second round.  This time I have my Victorian friends back again sitting N/S and Annabelle Booth and Leonie Shiels sitting E/W.  It’s lovely putting faces to all these names and seeing how they sort their cards and how they like to sit while they play… Leone for example never sorts the cards in her suits – although she does put her suits together…  Mary likes to tuck her legs up on her chair while she plays…

I feel like an insider.

So round two.  I load up the first deal.  It bears absolutely no resemblance to the cards I see Mary and Annabelle holding. Panic!

It is discovered that the wrong deals have been loaded in the machine.  This is a problem.  We abandon the vugraph and my little helper goes off to bed.

Nick from BBO Australia reckons he can get the deals somehow and goes off to do some computer magic.  We wait on the sidelines to see if we are needed to continue.

By the time the girls are on their third board we are back on… but most of our audience has gone.  Just 25 of the 125 are left – bless them.  Still it’s all good practice and I’m rostered on again tomorrow.

This session goes off without a hitch.  I practice back stretches between boards to loosen the lower lumber strained by my odd set-up.  I’m now more able to keep up with the cardplay and can actually enjoy the bridge.

WA are ahead after the second ground, making up for the loss in the first. The score 54:43. [view scores]

Afterward I go into the other room to watch the Open teams finish their match.  The ANC has set up a projector and has a couple of commentators describing the action and telling tall tales between boards so that people can see what was going on.  A bit scary to think that they might view my vugraph stumbles… 🙂

Still I survived and tomorrow is another day.  See you back at the tables after lunch.

UPDATE:  WA won!  Yay!!