On a few occasions, some of my fellow bridge players who know that I teach bridge to youth at schools will ask me, “have you spotted the next ‘Grossack’?”. (Adam and Zach Grossack are local bridge experts and national champions who have represented the US in U26 international competitions.) “No”, I have replied, “I have not even yet found the next 'Lehman'”. (A much less ambitious task.)
Next time, I am asked that question, I think I will have to change my answer to “yes”.
The 3rd-5th grade kids are now playing mini-bridge (bridge without bidding). In free play time, the kids use a published table that determines the final mini-bridge contract based solely upon the number of HCP each pair holds. (We use the table to try to retain interest among the defenders, who are otherwise bored by taking fewer tricks than the declarer; by using the table to determine the contract, they are rewarded with a plus score whenever they can defeat a high level contract.) Meanwhile, the students are taught during the lesson time about techniques for developing extra winners. Yesterday’s lesson was about developing extra winners by “establishment of length”. In the lesson plan, I show a 26 card layout with a contract of 3NT. Dummy has a long club suit and the point of the lesson plan is how to develop small cards in the club suit into extra winners by “establishment of length”.
A star student Andrey not only sees how to develop the club suit to make 3NT, he also notices that the contract is 3NT even though the hands have fewer than 25 combined HCP for 3NT that is shown in the mini-bridge table. “How can that be?”, he asks. I am not sure how I answered this surprisingly insightful question. But I know that I should have answered by telling him that at a (much) later date, the students will learn how to evaluate a hand not only by counting high card points but also by adding points for long suits.
Meanwhile, I am thinking of Andrey as Little Adam and I told Adam I am going to start calling him Big Andrey.
Plus... it's free!