Bridge Base Inc. was incorporated in 1990 by Fred Gitelman and Sheri Winestock in Toronto. BBI’s focus was on bridge-related educational software.
Bridge Base set up their first booth at an NABC in 1990 to show their software to the world. Shortly after opening, Bob Hamman watched their demo and purchased the product. Fred clearly remembers thinking, “This is a good sign – we are going somewhere with this.” Bridge Master, a program sold on floppy disks for DOS computers, was their first commercial success.
During the last week of 2000, the first version of what became BBO was created – largely the result of an unrelated programming experiment by Gitelman. At that time, the existing online bridge services were either pay sites or low-quality. Winestock and Gitelman believed that a high-quality free site was important to the future of bridge.
The first version of BBO was officially released in 2001. That summer, Fred and Sheri approached Uday Ivatury at the NABC to solicit technical assistance. Because Uday believed in the concept of BBO and wanted to help, he voluntarily rewrote much of the existing code. Impressed by Ivatury’s work, Fred and Sheri offered to make Uday a partner in their new venture. At the time, the company wasn’t much more than a labor of love that had no means of generating income and no plans to do so; nonetheless, Ivatury accepted the offer.
As the site continued to grow and expenses began to mount, BBO needed to start generating income. In 2004, BBO launched its first ACBL-sanctioned game. Around that same time, Bridge Base Online, Ltd. was founded in Nevada, where Fred and Sheri had relocated.
In 2007, Bill Gates, Sharon Osberg and Dave Smith became partners in BBO by investing in the company. Although they are not actively involved in day-to-day affairs, their wisdom and friendship has greatly benefitted BBO over the years.
BBO’s first web-based client software was released in 2018. That same year, the company acquired GIB, Matthew Ginsberg’s bridge-playing robot software. That acquisition has led to the development of several popular formats of robot tournaments and the never-ending challenge of improving GIB.
BBO continues to grow and make bridge accessible to the masses. The company has expanded its staff to 20 active bridge players, some of whom Fred, Sheri and Uday have never met in person. With offerings including ACBL-sanctioned robot tournaments, arcade games (free, simple, anonymous bridge variants intended for less serious players), vugraph presentations of championships worldwide and the ability to access the site from mobile and desktop devices, BBO hosts more than 150,000 players daily. From rank beginners to the best of the best, BBO users come from all corners of the globe.