11:24 26 March 2015 Elk Point, South Dakota by GS Jade Barrett CsbNews.org correspondent
«There’s more pressure playing a four diamond contract than playing in front of 2,000 people» – Colin Greenwood of Radiohead
You think that’s tough, Colin, try playing a four diamond contract in front of 2,000 bridge athletes.
Having just returned from the 2500+ mile (4000+ km) road trip that included the ten days of intense competition of the Spring North American Bridge Championships held in New Orleans, Louisiana, I find myself contemplating the future of bridge in America.
The game at the highest levels is getting younger, as more people around the world are exposed at an earlier age. Many of the players our Team Heifer USA met as opponents were in their twenties and thirties, revealing the success of their home nations efforts in developing high level competitors. Poland, Turkey, Sweden, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Japan, China and the list goes on. South America is showing signs of strong growth as well, with many fine young people taking up the sport. To a great extent, we have two people to thank for that.
Fred Gitelman and Sheri Winestock changed the face of the game with the development of BridgeBase’s Base II and Base III (which I proudly still have on the shelf in my office!) analytic software back in the early 1990’s. The BridgeMaster declarer play program that came next was immediately adopted by our USA JR TEAM coaching staff as a critical training tool, and it would be difficult to overstate its positive impact on the powerhouse USA teams of that era. Our Great American Bridge Tour players continue to use it regularly to maintain their skill level and improve their declarer play «muscle memory».
In 2001, the launch ofBridge Base Onlinebrought the opportunity to teach, coach and train the teams that included players from all over the vast expanse of North America at virtually any time of day and quickly expanded to include athletes the world over. This provided access to the game’s strongest practitioners through viewgraphs and the ability to kibitz these greats as they practiced. The level of competition therefore immediately improved throughout the whole of the bridge world, and provided new opportunities for the youth of the game to participate on their schedule with limited disruption to their education and work.
At first there was concern that the online games would negatively impact the clubs that host real time games, but if anything, the desire to compete face to face continues to grow. Bridge athletes always want to test the their game against the best the world has to offer and now with the tens of thousands of viewers who look on as the Finals of all the Majors are broadcast live, the pressure of every hand increases.