Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The future of bridge is here

Bridge gets a bum rap as a game for old people in retirement homes. Young people play video games, not bridge. Bridge is a game for old foggies, right?

Not so fast. Bridge has begun to be popular with the younger crowd. In December of 2005, a headline in the USA Today newspaper announced that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were donating $1 million as seed money to explore how to make bridge more appealing to youth. The seeds grew and are starting to bear fruit. There are now bridge classes as enrichment activities in schools across the U.S. and Canada.

Lewis Geist and Lauren Chinn, both graduating seniors at Balboa High School in San Francisco, show the trophy they won at the Bay Area Interscholastic Bridge Tournament held last May. No, they are not geeks -- they are an example of the new breed of young bridge players. Both are attractive, well-rounded, play sports and are into many other activiities besides bridge. Geist was student body president last year. He is actively involved in charity work. Chinn is a SF Giants baseball fan and attends about 25 game each season. She teaches piano lessons to earn spending money. Both are now freshmen in college.

In today's world, bridge has no boundaries. Youth bridge teams can now play others from around the world via the Internet. I reported in the July 2007 issue of the Bridge Bulletin about a match between an Atlanta team and another from Friztlar, Germany. The competition was held on Bridge Base Online.

Last month, the first Youth NABC (North American Bridge Championship) was held in Atlanta. This was the brainchild of Patty Tucker, a passionate youth bridge organizer. Participants had to be 19 years old or younger (and have less than 5000 masterpoints). Nearly 200 youngsters from Canada and more than 20 U.S. states (including as far away as Hawaii) came and played. You can visit the Youth NABC web site by clicking here. Another is planned next July in Washington, D.C., in conjuction with the regular NABC.

Youth NABC logo -- Don't you love it? This was done by Rossin, a famous artist, who donated it. Rossin is best known for portraits, but does other artwork. (Patty Tucker is the bridge teacher of Rossin's agent.)

In Atlanta, the kids played bridge for four days. A sportsmanship trophy (that included a $1000 college scholarship) was donated by famous poker player Phil Gordon. Gordon is also an avid bridge player who went to college in Atlanta (Georgia Tech).

The Bridge Bulletin, the monthly magazine of the ACBL, has a feature story on the Youth NABC in its September issue.

In many areas, adult bridge players became involved. They were generous with donations to help with the cost of the trip. Here in Memphis, members of the bridge club gave money to support these four local youth who played:

Students from the (Memphis) Lamplighter Montessori School attended the first Youth NABC in Atlanta. Pictured are (from left) Eric Rodriguez, Brianna Boone, Piper Ziebarth and Nassem Yousef, along with their teacher Carolyn Bredosky. (Photo courtesy of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.)

One of the most encouraging things about the Youth NABC is the report that the kids had fun! That's the right attitude -- it looks like the future of bridge is here and in good hands.

Links of interest:
Patty Tucker expresses her feelings about youth bridge and you can read about them here.

You can read about Canadian youth bridge here.

The school bridge league is worth checking out.

You can read about the Atlanta junior bridge progam by clicking here.

The San Francisco Bay area has a youth web site and newsletters here.

The ACBL has its own web site for youth called Bridge is Cool.

The Youth NABC had a Daily Bulletin. You can see the Sunday issue here.

EDIT: Since posting this, I read an interesting piece (in a blog called Double Squeeze) from a young lady who has some views on what she thinks the ACBL should do to promote bridge among youth.

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