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Bridge From The Apocalypse

For those of you who have not visited Australia during the Southern Hemisphere's summer, you have missed out --at least until this year.  

Australia features two terrific bridge tournaments during the American winter.  February's Goldcoast tournament in Queensland is the best tournament I have ever attended.  However, the national tournament being currently held in Canberra is not shabby.  Alas, a dark cloud (almost literally) hangs over the tournament this year.  The bushfires, that have been devastated Australia over the past 6 weeks have caused a tragic loss of both human life and animal life.  The extent of the fires is such that a permanent haze in the Capitol city has been present during my week here.  I was an incredible optimist when I packed my tennis rackets for the trip.  It appears quite unhealthy to get significant outdoor exercise.  It is not uncommon to spot masks on pedestrians.

While bridge seems trivial compared to the current fire emergency, the extent of the crisis hit home in the first event I played -- the Senior Teams.  Bizarrely, our team was going to consist of between 4 to 7 members and we were unsure as to the exact number until the last minute.  Seven!?!?!  How is that possible?  One of our prospective team members, Peter Fordham, has been fighting a courageous fight against cancer and was unsure if he could play.  We had two other potential team members whose homes were in potential peril.  Those two members had to deal with two issues:  Could they find a passable route from their homes and did they even want to leave if they could reasonably stay and help fight the fires.  At the last minute, those two members decided to come to Canberra. Peter became our non-playing captain, to the relief of his physician.

As to the bridge itself, playing in Australia is refreshing on many fronts.  

1) As some know, I have been fighting to get Multi 2 diamond openers to get reinstated in ACBL National Open events over the past decade to no avail.  I am happy so many employ Multi here -- even the 90-year old LOLs have no problem playing it or defending against it.  I hope that does not reflect on the relative intelligence of Americans compared to Aussies.

2) All teams play the same boards in team events.  It makes for much more stimulating dinner conversation.

3) In team events, there is a pairs datum.  Did you really get dumped by your idiot teammates?  The pairs datum will weigh in.  Playing on a 6-person team with sensitive egos?  The pairs datum could become your de facto,  non-playing captain.

4) In Canberra, there are two large screens on opposite walls.  They show your opponents for each match.  As I detail later, table assignments are unnecessary (Clever, those Aussies!!)

5) On these screens, during each match, they show the number of boards completed in each match.  If your table is behind, timewise, your completed number of boards is highlighted in red.  

6) Australians and Kiwis tend to be pretty friendly.


On a comparative basis, the ACBL seems to be in the stone age.


There is only one element that I find somewhat off putting.  Let's say you commence the event as the #10 seed.  Your North-South pair will always sit at Table #10.  While the majority of the teams are not seeded in the event, each team is preassigned a team number.  Table assignments for each match are rendered moot.  Here is the weirdness:  Suppose you, as the #10 seed, are playing against the #9 or #11 seed.  Your teammates are at the adjacent table!!  I have still not totally gotten used to that.


As passionate as we all are about bridge, my trip has helped give me some added perspective on the "bigger pitcture."  While Aussies have always had some issues with bushfires, the severity of this year's outbreak is troubling.  In California, our fire season used to end in the middle part of October.  In recent years, the California fire season has extended several critical weeks each year.

The most haunting picture I have seen of the current crisis is that of a koala bear surrounded by a ring of fire.  So, if you have some extra dollars, my suggestion is that you consider making a charitable contribution to help with crisis relief or to the organizations which are proactive in trying to curb global warming.

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