At the beginning of every month the Regional Director, Mark Aquino, sends out congratulatory emails to New England bridge players who have advanced in rank during the previous month. Some of them send responses, and Mark selects a few of the most interesting ones to be posted on NEBridge.org. Below are a few memorable ones from players who achieved a new rank during February of 2022.
Thanks for your email letting me know I achieved Regional Master Rank. I worked for a long time to get the last silver point in January! Like many others of my age, (77), I loved playing bridge in high school and college, but soon after graduation, I married, had four children and a full-time teaching job so bridge took a back seat to those activities. After retiring in 2000, I went back to bridge, took some lessons with three friends and played quite regularly about two to three times a week. I began to try Duplicate about 10 years ago, and really enjoyed it, because luck was less of an element in winning.. I do not live near any clubs, so it was difficult to travel an hour or so to play Duplicate.
When Covid came along, I discovered BBO and it has made my isolation enjoyable by giving me goals and structure. I really like the limited games as it is too discouraging to play against Life Masters. I play with three friends with whom I used to play in person. It brings variety and friendship to my days as we discuss the hands afterwards to try and improve. Currently I play with Hartford Bridge Club, 7NTworld, and BranMad. By mistake I played in an Open game the other day, and it made me realize just how far I have to go in this fascinating game! I have tried to teach some of my children to play, as my mother was my first teacher, but so far, no luck.
I think ACBL does a wonderful job, and I love Bridge Bulletin. Thank you to everyone who works so hard to bring us our games, both online and in person.
Sincerely, Deborah Butler
Thank you for your nice note. I love the game of bridge, and when online bridge started up, my friends that liked the game as much as I did, began playing online. I have been able to continue playing all year with summer friends, have met new friends through others and continue to play with old friends. I could acquire the silver points I needed without traveling.
My husband and I came to duplicate in 2006, after 25 years of marriage and social bridge, who could never get enough bridge. My cravings were finally satisfied by playing several times a week at the Bridge Spot, area tournaments and Bridge Base Online. Along the way, I made new friends, learned a heck of a lot about bridge, and found a way to connect with my husband in our empty nest phase.
Here's how I made the transition from social to duplicate player over several years.
1. I played the 299er game Wednesday nights at The Bridge Spot for several years under Dean Panagapolous' tutelage. Dean offered a mini-lesson before the game and advice during and after the play. A mini-lesson was just enough to grasp and retain the concept. Next, my husband and I developed a strong partnership. YES we manage to play bridge together. Here's the key: He understands all mistakes are his, not mine. HA HA HA! Seriously, we both love the game and love each, and remember this is a game. We are playing for FUN. Sometimes it gets testy, but our strong partnership was a stepping stone to becoming a life master.
2. Dean used to offer a Saturday afternoon game where a life master would volunteer to babysit a table and offer suggestions. When we progressed to open games, friendly opposing players offered valuable insight after playing a hand and waiting to move to the next table. These side tips were appreciated and still resonate in my game.
3. To get over the hump of gold points, we partnered with a pair with slightly more points and played knockouts. I had to practice mental toughness and let go of the worry, "I can't let my teammates down!" Playing knockouts with higher-skilled teammates pushed us over the top for gold points. Later, we paid the favor forward and helped another pair achieve the same goal. Along the way, we had a lot of fun.
4. I became a fan of BBO back in 2007 and online points boosted me toward life master and bronze. More than points, I LOVE BBO for the 24/7 availability for a "fix," and for how much I've learned from opponents and expert pickup partners. Besides free casual play anytime, the next BEST feature on BBO is the ability to go to HISTORY for any hand you've misplayed, and look at how others bid and played the hand. Sometimes the reason I didn't make it is just bad luck -- the opponents made the right lead to set. Maybe I bid too aggressively or didn't describe my hand accurately. Whatever the reason, the HISTORY feature is an excellent learning tool for individuals and partnerships.
5. We had to get serious about defense. When stuck at a certain point level, we studied Eddie Kantar’s book on defense and took a few classes on it. Eddie Kantar is funny and it takes time and focus to absorb his strategy. We started signaling with more clarity instead of just throwing off cards we didn't need. You're on defense at least half the time and it is way more difficult than being declarer. Becoming better defenders got us back on track to win points. I still struggle with defense, the hardest part of the game.
6. The Bidding Box in the ACBL magazine is another practical tool to use with your regular partner[s] to sharpen your team's bidding. There are advantages to living with my partner, although after 13 years of playing together, I took a break and Bob expanded to other partners.
7. Reading some good books helped, too, like Barbara Seagrams' 25 Conventions and her defense book. She keeps it simple. We play as few conventions as possible. On the way to play a club game or tournament, we'd warm up in the car by reading aloud a few of Marty Bergen's short and sweet suggestions in Points Schmoints or his other books. The bidding is outdated in Carolyn Sydnor's books and decks, yet the card plays have not changed. I like being able to deal up the hands. Before a paid tournament on BBO, we play a few pickup hands to get warmed up.
Bridge provided a valuable source of entertainment when I broke my back and had to take it easy for a year. I anticipate that as we age, lose physical ability, and hopefully retain mental acuity, bridge will provide unlimited fun. I encourage people to learn bridge, especially young people, to keep the game alive. I might start teaching beginner and intermediate bridge again to share the joy of the game. Teaching even basic bridge helps sharpen my game and remember the basics. I tell people Bridge is like learning a language or playing an instrument -- you can do it at many different levels and still have fun at any skill level after learning four basic bids and card plays. We all need to be bridge ambassadors. We taught our four children and look forward to teaching the grandkids, too.
Bridge has everything -- psychology, risk, logic, math, partnership, bluffing, the thrill of winning, memory, cunning, treachery, deceit and more. It's the world's best game, whether I'm bronze life master, or not. Thanks to my formal teacher, Dean, who we also called our marriage counselor to resolve partnership disagreements! And thanks to all of the informal teachers who gave us tips along the way to becoming a life master, and just a better bridge player. The stronger I play, the more I enjoy the game.
Actually I'm embarrassed that it took this long to earn Gold. There's not much to say other than "thanks" to all my partners. Although bridge can be as frustrating as all get out, they make it fun and keep me coming back for more.