09:24 5 March 2015 Alcester South Dakota USA by GS Jade Barrett; CsbNews.org correspondent

Bela Karolyi
Bela Karolyi

«A good 80 percent of the vault is still physical and another percentage of it, 20, 25 percent is mental. Mental is always the mental strength, the confidence building up to that contest or repetition, practice, practice, and practice» – Bela Karolyi

The off season of bridge in the USA – such as it is – stretches from a few days before Christmas until the Spring North American Bridge Championships. Of course for a few of us that same time span is only about five minutes as we begin immediately competing on the 26th of December and essentially never stop.

Downtime does not actually exist for our team, as we use this time to modify our system and cement our methods through untold hours of online practice, with the hope and faith that through these grueling sessions that we will limit our errors and improve our stamina.

'I think you need to work on your frontal lobes.'

The mental gymnastics that are required to solve the exceptionally complex problems provided by the game that each of us face are difficult enough without the added adversity of active opponents, we just wish the would be silent once in a while.

Then again, these same opponents are vital components of the game, and that desired silence could in fact impede our ability to achieve our best result. I guess they just have to go ahead and do their best, too – just not against us.

So begins another calendar year of competitions, another year of long journeys and thousands of hours of sitting at the table, balanced by the benefits of great adventures among the company of great people.

Each and every year brings new challengers, new faces, styles and conventions. Unfortunately, they also bring a few sadnesses as we bid farewell to friends and family. While I can speak about the too many people we lost, these two stand out to me and our company very personally:

Jeff Johnston
Jeff Johnston

Jeff Johnston, essentially fulfilled every conceivable role as an amazing human being, overseeing the operations of the North American Bridge Championships and about a thousand other things for the ACBL. His exceptional ability to act as an advocate for Tournament Directors, ACBL staff members and the bridge athletes is made all the more impressive given that he himself was not a player. Having worked with him many times, I can personally testify to Jeff’s tireless commitment to the promotion of our beloved game on a virtually daily basis. Our community’s loss is nothing short of monumental.

Ernesto d'Orsi
Ernesto d’Orsi

Ernesto D’Orsi is best described as a true icon of the game, culminating in the reception of the World Bridge Federation’s Gold Medal in 2005 and the International Bridge Press award designating him Personality of the Year. During one of my more difficult periods as an advocate for Junior Bridge, Ernesto provided sage advice: «be patient, work hard, live well». It was the beginning of a long mentoring relationship that I valued highly. His impact on the world of bridge was beyond calculation, his loss to South America is immeasurable.

We best serve the memory of these two greats and all the other members of our society that have contributed so much to all of us and the game we love by following their examples of service and respect to all.