Kiwi Kibber #2: Schooled
Posted by Nick Jacob on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 18:54
Bridge administrators around the world continue
to ponder how to connect with more young people. Particularly in the
Anglosphere, the majority of new players are adults rather than children or
teenagers. It seems we have resigned ourselves to the fact that young people
are too gripped by social media and swayed by the abundance of alternative
hobbies to be absorbed by the challenging and frustrating but ultimately
beautiful game we play.
It isn't like this at all. If you have not read
Justin Lall's blog (archived, but still full of wonderful information) then I
direct you to his interpretation of bridge as a teenager.
Young people, believe it or not, aren't zombies that go lifeless without a
phone. The ability to concentrate hasn't disappeared in the age of instant
access to content. The same qualities that attracted Ish and Ash, Justin Howard,
and the Edgttons to the game as kids still interest young people today.
Most young people play bridge with family
members when they start out. Many of the top players, like Denis Bilde from
Denmark, come from strong bridge-playing families. But equally, there are
others who are introduced to the game by family members but kept here by
friends and mentors they acquire through bridge. Look at Michael Whibley and
Liam Milne, for instance; both top Australian players who started young but
didn't need family mentoring to get to this level. They graduated the hard way:
building a sphere of positive influences in the scene while living and dreaming
But how do we reach across the divide to
connect with young people? I've heard it said that families don't play cards
any more. Maybe this is true; maybe we can go a step further and say that board
games are also a thing of the past. Regardless of any truth or falsity to these
claims, one thing that is true is that kids and teenagers still enjoy puzzles, solving
problems and connecting with people. The kids who used to play euchre are now
playing Minecraft; the teenagers who used to play chess are now playing DotA
(both computer games). The social element is there, the logic element is there,
but the form has changed. To market bridge to the youth, the youth in the scene
need to be the draw.
Take Finn Rennie, for instance. Everyone has
seen him at the ANC, even if he isn't always known by name. Such is the effect
that the young have upon the bridge scene. They are refreshing, and people take
notice. Finn's the 11-year old who has been tearing it up for the Victorian
youth team. He can usually be seen cracking jokes aroung Pete Hollands, Laura
Ginnan and Justin Howard, all of whom he plays with most weeks. His mother,
Jane, introduced him to the game and brings him along to events, but he is
immersed in the social scene, not just participating in tournaments. That's
what keeps youth in the game. Most of our friends are bridge players. Many of
these bridge players live across different towns, states and countries. That
doesn't mean we grow into travelling, bridge-playing vagabonds (I don't speak
for myself here!) but it does mean we become invested in the general bridge
scene. And that's the challenge not just for bridge administrators, but for the
So, it was an easy to decision to sit behind
Finn yesterday and see him in action in Round 5. His partner would be Victoria's
Laura Ginnan who, aside from being about to represent Australia in Turkey,
achieved something even more noteworthy this year: getting married! A passing
of the baton, perhaps? Their opponents would be Kandice Ng and Edward Young,
representing South Australia for the first time. Both learned at school three
years ago, and if their chatter about the hands is any indication, have been
playing bridge with zeal during this time. Kandice studies engineering while
Edward studies health science.
Clockwise from left: Edward, Finn, Kandice and Laura.
Board 8 created some waves across the field,
and this match was caught in the wake.
The board before this, Edward and Kandice had
had a misunderstanding about a 2♣ overcall, Edward thinking that it was any
strong hand. So when I looked at Kandice's hand, only to see that Edward had
started with 2♣, I felt for sure that Edward had generalised this rule a
little too freely. Kandice showed immense trust in her partner, however. Her
2NT was strong, 3♠ and 4♦ were natural, and Edward's 6♠ leap had me
tingling. Surely Kandice would bid 7NT now? Nope, she knew what to expect and,
after considerable thought, passed.
Over to Finn. What would you lead from his
cards? A heart looks right to me. It pays to attack when they have had a strong
auction based on long suits, even though holding ten-fifth of diamonds suggests
this suit won't run. Finn tabled the heart seven, and I mentally fist-bumped
him. Edward drew trumps (Finn correctly keeping his diamond length) and tried
to cash diamonds - no dice. Next he cashed the club ace and ran all of his
trumps before conceding the last trick. One down was good enough for a flat
Laura showed her experience on board 16.
The young South Australian pair had a tough
auction to a tricky contract. Finn presented a heart, so Laura fired three
rounds into declarer. Edward started to work on trumps, however Laura took
dummy's king with her ace to continue the heart attack. Edward stuck in the
♠8, which was good enough to hold the trick. However, now Laura was a trump
ahead of him, so his attempt to draw trumps was unsuccessful. One down was
worth 12 IMPs when the Victorian pair reached 3NT.
Finn was perceptive and admiring - that's when
you know you've done well as a partner! "You made him trump so that your trumps
would win... smart."
However, Kandice and Edward would have their
revenge. Board 2 hit the table, and the endurance of the twenty board match was
starting to take its toll.
Finn's overcall had the effect of bumping the
auction to an uncomfortable level, and I thought he showed excellent judgment
in doubling the optimistic university students. However, if he was ruthless in
the auction, he was reckless on his lead. The ♥4 could have worked a treat
against a 5-2 fit with potentially poor hearts in the 1NT opener. Instead it
was Edward who enjoyed the treat, winning Laura's king with the ace to fire one
back. This picked up the heart suit, and Edward scampered for home on the red
suits. Ten tricks was worth +650 and 11 IMPs to South Australia: an expensive
lesson to the kid sitting North.
The match was relatively tame by youth
standards, with only 98 IMPs being exchanged. South Australia came out on top
by 54 to 44 and it was a pleasure to see the match played in great spirit. The
three newcomers showed their enthusiasm and skill and we will be seeing a lot
of them in the future.