Join Bridge Winners
My Journey in Bridge
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September 13, 2015 appeared to be a mundane Sunday. Little did I know that it was the day that I found a new direction in life. I had planned on indulging myself on video games for the entire day like I usually do, until my mom mentioned something about a bridge pizza party hosted by some youth bridge organization called SiVY. I felt averse toward the idea of spending my precious free time to play a game that I had already built up a negative prenotion as a game for old and bland people. My mom finally managed to persuade me to go by mentioning there was going to be free pizza and cake.

I planned on just grabbing pizza and sitting there by myself with my phone. But when I walked in, I was immediately greeted with smiles and joy by the volunteers working there, and I was taken in hand by Debbie Rosenberg, the founder of SiVY, who taught me the rules of the game. Any thoughts of my phone soon went out the window as I became enraptured with the endless possibilities and strategies. Debbie patiently repeated any rules I forgot and introduced me to interesting techniques and concepts.

That three-hour session was the first strike on the match. My life continued without bridge. Then the next pizza party came along. This time, I willingly went. I played in my first duplicate competition with a pick-up partner and managed to win 1st place. Complementing the delicious cake at the end was my 1st-place prize, an autographed book by Louis Sachar, my favorite author, titled “The Cardturner”. Cool!

I occasionally went to more pizza parties. I read “The Cardturner”, and when it described something called an NABC, I didn’t really care. What did it have to do with me? I wasn’t a bridge player.

At some point, I began to attend a weekly SiVY event called Casual Fridays, a 3-hour casual game with food provided. Managed by Randy Ryals and Will Watson (my club’s director), the event soon became the highlight of my week. It was there that I met another Rosenberg, Kevin Rosenberg, Debbie’s son. Despite being busy with college, he would find time to come to SiVY events. One Casual Friday, he agreed to partner with me. Agreeing to partner with me might be one of the greatest testaments to his patience, as he was a rising star and expert while I was a guy who did not know squat. I asked a lot of questions, and Kevin patiently answered them.

By now, there was a slight trace of smoke on the match. With the aid of Debbie, who found partners for me, I began to play at some club games. Now and then, I would drop by for a session, but I still didn’t consider myself a true bridge player. Eventually, Debbie informed me about the annual summer YNABC, with the next YNABC being held at Toronto. She said that SiVY will reimburse me at least $500 if I went, and my parents were like “Why not?”. Debbie then introduced me to the USBFJ (United States Bridge Federation Junior) training program, a free training program spearheaded by Michael Rosenberg (the final Rosenberg) where volunteers mentor youth players. Through Debbie, I also got a personal mentor and access to Bridge Master 2000 for free. Feeling prepared, I boarded the plane to go to Toronto.

The match had the faint hint of a flame. At Toronto, I got to meet Michael in person. He explained to me how to play A9x-KJxxxx for one loser, and he helped me realize my mistake after I ran the Q with Q10987 facing Axxxx when I tried to pick up the suit for 1 loser. It was during this time that I began to view myself as a bridge player.

I was always curious when it came to bridge. There was a lot that I did not know, and I despised being so ignorant. After Toronto, I became a demon. I absolutely bombarded Michael Rosenberg with questions. Of the 600 emails between Michael and me, I estimate 500 of them were bridge questions. I always follow up with more questions to his responses. The number of emails is still growing rapidly.

A month after Toronto, while playing at a club game, I was approached by Debbie who informed me about a 3-man team that was looking for a fourth to play at the USBFJ Trials to compete to become the U16 team representing America at the World Youth Team Championships in China. I accepted their invitation.

At the Trials, after each session, I would seek out mentors to ask questions on the hands I played. Many of the players there would obliged. Joe Stokes, one of the organizers of the event, once stayed with me till midnight to answer all of my questions.

As Max Schireson has once described, once a plane has reached a certain point, it can’t stop and must attempt to fly. This analogy literally and figuratively described my experience. I could not go back anymore; I felt too imbedded into the bridge world. Perhaps after Toronto I could still disconnect myself from bridge. But after the Trials, there was no way to deny: I WAS a bridge player. This epiphany excited me.   

Though my team did not win the Trials, I was later accepted into the 5-man team that won. Debbie connected me with many mentors to play at games. She offered me and my U16 teammates a free defense class. Defense has always been my weak point, and that class shone a light into my dark and blind world. I began to play at more at my club, and Will Watson would helpfully go through his resources to find a partner for me.

Then came China and the World Youth Championships. Similar to the Trials, after each match, I would emerge with many questions. Even though the older USA players were all competing themselves, they would find time to answer my questions.

As a community, we tend to blame the higher-ups and the lack of success they’ve had with youth promotion.

But I want to remind everyone that you can and must take responsibility into your own hand. Be like the Rosenbergs; take initiative, and BE the change. This could be starting or supporting a youth bridge program at your club, or perhaps something less drastic like mentioning the game to your friend, deciding to be a mentor, or even something seemingly trivial like smiling and making a youth player feel at home. When compounded, small actions will have a profound impact.

Take me as an example. I am the proof that in order to keep the game alive, it is necessary for people to take charge and decide they want to make a change. If it was not for Debbie Rosenberg and SiVY, I would never have had the chance of getting into the game. And if it was not for Michael Rosenberg and the USBFJ training program, I would never have improved and I would not continued to play a game that I’m bad at and don’t understand.

While the Rosenbergs’ actions are incredible, the “smaller” actions of the other volunteers are important as well. Though they cannot do as much as the Rosenbergs do, the volunteers and donors in SiVY and USBFJ have made a huge impact for many youth players. I encourage all of you to think about how you can contribute to keeping the game alive through helping younger players.

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