About 3 years ago, a group of volunteers, led by President Debbie Rosenberg, formed a group called Silicon Valley Youth Bridge (SiVY). The original mission of the group was to hold after-school bridge classes at local middle schools and monthly bridge and pizza parties to give young bridge players a chance to practice their skills and make friends with other young players. These events have been highly successful, but it was always clear that getting players started was insufficient. SiVY needed to encourage them to continue.
So, as many of the middle school players entered high schools, SiVY encouraged them to form high school bridge clubs. Unlike formal classes, these clubs are led by the students themselves, but SiVY provides mentors and coaches, equipment, and general encouragement. To give the students incentives to practice and improve, SiVY joined with the Center for Bridge Education in San Francisco and District 21 of the ACBL to hold an annual Bay Area High School Championship. The HS Championship offers winners a chance to earn a large trophy for their school. Players who finish in the top three also earn individual replicas of the trophy and gift cards valued at up to $200 per player.
The first HS Championship, in 2015, attracted four teams for an event consisting of a morning round robin to qualify two teams for the Championship Final. Players who didn’t qualify for the final were joined by other interested players for a four-table pair event held concurrently with the team final. The afternoon Pair Event also offered small trophies for high finishes, as well as gift cards valued at up to $125 per player.
This year, for the 2nd Annual Championship, team attendance increased by 50%, for a total of six teams, including one team that traveled all the way from Reno, NV, to participate. Attendance at the afternoon pair event increased by 100%, to eight tables. A total of 42 young players participated in at least one session of the championship.
Round robin action: Emma Miller of McQueen HS, Reno, NV vs. Lucas Huang of Gunn HS, Palo Alto, CA. Your reporter kibitzing.
The leaders after the team round-robin were the team from Gunn High School, in Palo Alto, CA. The second place team represented Palo Alto High School (called “Paly” in this area). These two teams continued in the second session, for an all-Palo Alto final. Last year’s winning team, Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, CA, finished behind Paly in the round robin by less than 1 victory point, and had to settle for third place.
After the first twelve boards of the final match, Paly led Gunn 37 IMPs to 4. The Paly margin was mainly attributable to winning decisions about how many spades to bid on two boards. For example, consider Board 9.
Claire Duffie and Olivia d’Arezzo, North-South for Paly, were permitted to play 4♥ on the auction shown above. In the other room, Paly’s East-West competed to 4♠, and Gunn’s North-South sensibly took the push to 5♥. Unfortunately for them, the ♥Q was offside, and that was 10 IMPs to the leaders.
The final board of the first half increased Paly’s lead.
When Paly was North-South, East-West bid as shown, with no competition, and missed the good slam. In the other room, the Gunn North made a light 1♠ overcall after West’s 1♥ opening bid. After spirited competition by both sides, North-South ended in 5♠ doubled and lost 800 points for an 8 IMP gain for the leaders.
The second half was much closer, but Paly eventually picked up another 11 imps for an 80 to 36 IMP victory. One highlight for Paly was Board 17, on which Claire Duffie and Olivia d’Arezzo were the only pair in the field (including the players in the Pair Event) to bid slam.
Claire pitched a diamond on the opening spade lead, drew trump, ruffed two clubs in dummy, and eventually lost a diamond to make 12 tricks. Impressively, two pairs in the Pair Event actually made 13 tricks, perhaps by setting up the fifth spade.
2016 Bay Area High School Bridge Team Champions Palo Alto High School from left: Claire Duffie, Olivia d'Arezzo,Cornelius Duffie, Sarah Youngquist
The Paly team, which finished second last year, worked hard to prepare for this event. In addition to participating in their high school bridge club, Cornelius Duffie said that the team members had met often to play bridge after school, and they had tried to attend Casual Friday SiVY events at the Palo Alto Bridge Center as often as possible. Casual Friday gives players a chance not only to play, but also to be coached by adult mentors in an informal atmosphere.
In the afternoon Pair Event, last year’s runners up also claimed victory. Samuel Perlow and Brent Xiao, experienced players (for this age range), won narrowly over Stella Wan and Michael Zheng. Two pairs from Reno finished third and fourth, with Sarah MacHarg and Matt Oakley finishing just 3.5 matchpoints ahead of their teammates, Emma Miller and Sidney Inouye. Sierra Lu and Sarah Ku claimed the prize for top newcomers over three other pairs who had also just started playing bridge this school year.
2016 Bay Area High School Bridge Pair Champions Brent Xiao and Samuel Perlow
View all the photos from the HS Championship: https://goo.gl/photos/Mu3q3omA87D7TB8w7
The HS Championship would not have been possible without generous donations from the bridge community. If you would like to learn more about the HS Championship and other SiVY programs, or make a donation to support continued efforts to inspire the next generation of bridge players, please visit the SiVY website (siliconvalleyyouthbridge.org), Like SiVY's Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SiliconValleyYouthBridge/) and check out Steve Weinstein's recent article http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bridge-the-next-generation/.
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