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Highly recommend attending a screening of "Double Dummy"

In February 2018, I had the good fortune of receiving an invitation to a screening of “Double Dummy” at Vinegar Hill Theatre in Charlottesville, Virginia. Having known the film’s producer, John McAllister, since our days at boarding school together, I certainly did not want to miss the opportunity to see my friend’s first film and the project that John had poured his heart and soul into over the prior several years. I vaguely knew that “Double Dummy” focused on the competitive world of youth bridge; so just as I was about to leave my house for the screening, I casually asked my eleven-year-old son, Henry, if he would like to go with me to a movie screening (despite it being a school night). Henry jumped at the chance of going to see a movie. Little did I know that this spur of the moment invitation to my son would open the door to my family’s pursuit of learning the game of bridge.

Once the screening began, Henry and I grabbed our bag of popcorn and quickly became engrossed in the many storylines of the documentary: how the game of bridge works, how the game has evolved as a means of entertainment within the United States’ culture, how young people in the U.S. and around the world are introduced to bridge, and how youth train for and advance in international competitions. For Henry and I, who had no previous knowledge about the game of bridge, “Double Dummy” was an outstanding introduction to the game; but I could also see people who are deeply familiar with the game of bridge truly appreciating the film’s deep dive into the world of international competitions and the strategies deployed by highly skilled players. The film appeals to viewers of all ages (particularly pre-teens and teens who can easily identify with the main characters in the film) and especially to bridge players from novice to experienced skill levels.

At the conclusion of the screening, John McAllister provided a brief history about the making of “Double Dummy” and then participated in a “question-and-answer” session. During the Q&A session, John introduced an audience member who was one of his first bridge instructors. The woman spoke about playing with John back in the day before John became a top international player, and then she announced that she would soon be offering an eight-week “intro to bridge” class. My son, Henry, immediately looked at me and asked, “Dad, can I take that class? I really want to learn to play bridge.” My son’s burst of enthusiasm quickly led to our enrollment in the “intro to bridge” class --- and Henry’s grandmother, Susu, also joined us in the class.

Over the next eight weeks, Henry, Susu and I began to learn how to play bridge. Henry was consistently the youngest person in the class, which offered a wonderful opportunity for him to interact with adults. The rules and strategy to the game came much quicker to him than to his dad and his grandmother, and he was always eager for Monday night bridge class. Through the class, Henry became an ACBL member; and as the year went along, he began to attend playing sessions by himself. Either his mother or I would drop Henry off at a local inn on Sunday afternoons, and Henry would play for three or four hours with all adults. Henry also volunteered to caddy for a local bridge tournament, which he absolutely loved because he was surrounded by avid bridge players, and he ended up getting paid and receiving tips for his eight hours of service. Though he loved caddying for the tournament, his first statement after counting his money from the day was, “Dad, though I loved caddying and making money, I really hope that I am good enough in bridge one year from now so that I can actually be playing in the tournament versus caddying.” And this desire to get better at bridge also recently led to Henry signing up for a BridgeBase account so he can play online at his convenience. Henry’s love and enthusiasm for the game of bridge has blossomed over the past eleven months, and I would attribute the screening of “Double Dummy” as the springboard to the world of bridge and this new form of entertainment.

For those who love the game of bridge or for those who just have a curiosity about the game, I recommend that you go --- and please take your children, your grandchildren or your friends --- and enjoy a screening of “Double Dummy;” it just might end up unlocking a new life experience, like it did for my family.

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