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Why is it so hard to find a new partner?

I have often heard people joke that it would be easier to find a new spouse than a new bridge partner.  Some how the joke just isn't as funny when you find out that it's true.  


Ten years ago when my significant other and I split up after 16 years together, it only took me a year to make a significant upgrade (not meant as an insult to my ex with whom I am still good friends, only that my new paramour and I were a much better personality fit).  For 5 years now I have been looking to add a 3rd bridge partner to my rotation, with shockingly little to show for it.  The similarity though between dating and finding a new bridge partner is at times both scary and sad.


My regular partner and I have played bridge together for 40 years - since we were 13! (I also have another partner with whom I have played with in a couple tournaments a year for the past 30 years.)  Obviously, there have been numerous breaks where we had to concentrate on career and family, and I have played with dozens of other people in between, but only a couple seriously.


Both my regular partners are good players, and the partner I play with most often and I have placed in various national events, including Open ones.  But for the most part, my partners are content to play in sectionals and the top brackets at Regionals and to occasionally win those.  I am a little hungrier than that, and would like to win an Open National Championship. I don't know whether it is possible given the limited amount of time I have to devote to bridge, but I would certainly like to give it a serious try. I know I can't be as good as players who can devote full time to bridge, but I do have hope that I could someday make a run at a secondary event while a big team event is going on.  Both my partners are also in different Districts than I, so I have never been able to play in any of the grass roots events in my District 25.


So 5 years ago, I embarked upon a plan to find a local partner and/or a partner to play with at Nationals.  I had read many times about bridge players that had had better players mentor them, but I had never been lucky enough to have that happen to me.  So I figured I needed to put myself out there more.  I started asking players I liked and respected of similar strength to me, most a little stronger, but some equivalent or somewhat weaker than I, to play.  Everyone was polite, and I got a few "dates", but nothing that turned into a romance.  Most of the time when I asked them to play, they said I'll let you know, and that was the end of it.  I'm sure there were many reasons - many were no doubt already booked, some may have thought I wasn't a strong enough player for them, some may not have liked me, etc.  In general I am extremely professional at the table, but of course when you are in 30+ year partnerships on occasion you do act like an old married couple. :)


It wasn't all fruitless - I did play with one gentleman who was an excellent card player and the only time we played we almost won the Open Pairs at a Regional. But he had a regular partner he played with at Nationals and he also lived in a different District so it didn't seem to make sense to pursue.


The frustrations have been many and varied - I'll share just a few to give you the gist.  I volunteered to help a top player with his writings, thinking that perhaps that might lead to meeting other players of my skill level - what did I know?  After working for them for 2 to 3 years and giving this person much helpful feedback and suggestions, I hadn't met anyone, so I asked if the pro would play 1 hour of speedball on BBO with me.  I told them that it would be a dream come true for me, as I had never (at least at that time) played with a player of their caliber.  I was shocked that after giving more than 50 hours of my time to this person, they shot me down cold with a form email that basically said - not kidding here - that the answer was no and that if I didn't like it they could easily replace me!  Which I let them do......


Then there was a full-time player who has finished in the top 500 a bunch recently whom I thought would be fun to play with, and this person said yes and agreed to call to discuss system.  The appointed date and time went by without a call, and instead the next day I got an email saying they had changed their minds.  I mentioned this to a person who had played against us both a bunch of times, and he told me that in his opinion I was the much stronger player, so not to worry about it. But how could I not?  I mean, I understood when the stronger players did it, but now I was even being blown off by weaker players! :)


I've tried online partnership desks and BBO, and without boring you with the details, those efforts have also crashed and burned, and then fallen over into the swamp and sank (if you don't get that last reference, please immediately stop wasting your time reading this post and rush out and get a copy of Monty Python & the Holy Grail from Netflix).


I happened to get a few minutes alone between rounds in either the Life Master Pairs or the Blue Ribbons - it was so long ago, I don't remember - with one of the all-time greats, and I asked him why I so rarely saw him play any more.  His response shocked me - "I can't find a partner".  I told him, if you can't find a partner, what hope is there for the rest of us mere mortals?


This is not a woe is me story, I'm not looking for sympathy here. I've been lucky enough to find 2 great partners, and if I never find another one, so be it - I've mightily enjoyed my bridge "career".  It's just that in my time on Bridge Winners, I have not seen this topic discussed.  I searched, but could not find a similar article.  If this has been discussed in depth previously, I apologize.  But I would be interested to hear other people's thoughts and amusing (or otherwise) stories on trying to find people to play with and thoughts on why it is sometimes so difficult - misery does enjoy company, after all. :)



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