Is there a better way? How about if you could come with a local team of players you know. Perhaps the team of four that you use to play the Grand National Teams. What if other such "serious" players register online as a team, and specify their typical availability (weekends? weekdays? weeknights?). You could private-message them, set up a match and play.
The closest analogy would be an Inter-city league or classified ads for team matches.
A couple of objections raise themselves. How do you know the other team is any good? Here, being part of a social circle where people use their real names is ideal, and Bridge Winners provides one for serious bridge players.
So, here's the way it works:
- Register your team online. Essentially, you provide your BBO and Bridge Winners user names. You also specify your availability and self-rate how good you are.
- Look at the list of teams who are registered and choose a team that is around your level. To do this, look at their self-rating, the Bridge Winners name of the team captain and the best team that they have beaten in the past. Send the captain a private message on Bridge Winners suggesting a match within the next week.
- Plan out when you are going to play, how many boards and the format (Board-a-match? IMPs? ACBL GCC?). Swap convention cards using Bridge Winners. Do all of this over email. Also swap the list of BBO user names so that one of the captains can create a Team Match on BBO.
- After the match (or in the case of a no-show), the winner should report the results of the match. This goes to update the Team List. Essentially, people looking to schedule future matches can learn when the team was last active (I will periodically delete teams that haven't been active for 3 months), whether their scheduling is reliable and whether their self-rating is accurate.
A couple of caveats:
- It's mostly on the honor system, but I hope that it will work and be of use. Obviously, if people start reporting bogus matches, the ratings cease to be of much use but it will probably still function well as a classified ad service.
- I created the system because I have been wanting to learn the Google Apps API, and this was a small enough task. There is one glaring problem that I hope someone familiar with the Google Apps API can help me with. If there is a problem with a registration or match result (such as if the user specifies a team that doesn't exist), I ignore their submission. I obviously need to alert them that they gave me a wrong team-name, but the documentation warns that "user-interface elements are visible only to an editor who opens the form to modify it, not to a user who opens the form to respond." and sure enough, it doesn't seem to be possible to display an error dialog to the user submitting the information. So, how can the user be told his request did not go through? Gah! Until some kind person can tell me how to do this, wrong submissions will be silently ignored.