Why Masterpoints Deserve Care

Principles of Masterpoint Administration

Teams Versus Pairs
Changing the massive discrepancy between team and pair events

Building a Better Formula
Criteria for a good formula, problems with the current formulas, and a better formula.

What You Can Do

Other Information

Messageboard, email

Distorting Participation

Ideally, masterpoint awards would be proportional to merit. Then players who want masterpoints would play at the clubs they enjoy most and enter the tournament events that they enjoy most. Or maybe a player is better at one event than another, say IMPs over matchpoints. That player could enter the events he or she is good at.

But to the extent that players are interested in masterpoints, and to the extent that they can perceive inequities, players will tend to participate at club and tournament events that award the most masterpoints. These of course will not necessarily be the clubs and events that they enjoy most. Apparently players are not very sensitive to small inequities. But the current inequities are huge.

The "Popularity" of Team Events

One regional happened to offer a Swiss Teams and an Open Pairs on the same day. 92 players played in the Open Pairs; 212 played in the Swiss Teams. From this data alone, we cannot say if the players preferred the Swiss because it was more enjoyable or because it offered more masterpoints per person. However, if Swiss teams are so popular with players, why aren't they offered more often in club games? In club games, Swiss Teams do not award more masterpoints per person.

There is also an issue of variety and progress. For team events, the board-a-match has been joined by Swiss teams and knockouts. In pair games, the trend is to a decreased variety being offered over the last 40 years. In the online pairs tournaments I see, IMP scoring is more popular than matchpoints. Why isn't IMP pairs offered in sectionals and regionals? We can't know for sure, but one plausible culprit is that there is not that much interest in developing new pairs events. The only new event I see is the Senior Pairs.

The Deceased Individual (Event)

Or what about the individual? The standard belief, as far as I know, is that the individual died because it was unpopular. But it offered only half as many masterpoints per person as a pairs event, which means only 1/4 the masterpoints of a team game. I think the lack of masterpoints killed the individual. As evidence, I will point to its existence outside ACBL-land.

Frankly, I would like to play in an individual. I don't need to play in one every day. But I haven't played in one in 35 years. I also think that a lot could be done to develop them. For example, techniques have been developed for ad hoc partnerships to play on line together, and those techniques are adaptable to invitationals. If masterpoint reform ever occurred, and individuals awarded as many masterpoints per person as team games, I would probably try to stir up interest in an individual. But with the masterpoint differential the way it is now, that would be a waste of my time.

Size of Field

As noted, the tournament formula apparently rewards a small field, at least for overall awards. This is probably the reason for the "popularity" of knock-out events. The field is divided into smaller parts, making it easier to win gold points.

The club formula, on the other hand, rewards fields for being close to 15 tables. When attendence is larger than that, the field can be split into two sections. But when it is smaller, fewer masterpoint per person are awarded.

So the question is, do ACBL members prefer larger clubs to smaller clubs because the larger clubs offer more masterpoints per person? At this moment, I am actively pursuing masterpoints on a limited budget, so as a matter of strategy I do not attend the small night games at the local club. I suspect that other players do the same, though I could not say how to document it. Does the ACBL really want to punish small clubs? I would think that small clubs could turn into big clubs and the last thing the ACBL would want to do is discourage people from attending small clubs.


Some players become consciously aware that the events or locations they would prefer to play in do not offer as many masterpoints as other events or locations. They can choose to play in the locations and events that give more masterpoints. These players will be dissatisfied with the ACBL policy. Others will play in the locations and events that they like but earn fewer masterpoints when they do well. They too will be dissatisfied with the ACBL.

So, bottom line, perceived inequities in masterpoints generate dissatisfaction. (For example, see the letters to the Editor of the ACBL Bulletin.)