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Turnout trumps expectations for first Orillia Regional bridge tournament

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

Hundreds looked to have the right cards in their hands during the first Orillia Regional bridge tournament, held from Sept. 12-17 at Barnfield Point Recreation Centre.

Hundreds looked to have the right cards in their hands during the first Orillia Regional bridge tournament, held from Sept. 12-17 at Barnfield Point Recreation Centre.

The Orillia Curling Club was filled to the brim this weekend, but there was no ice on the floor just yet.

Rather, hundreds of duplicate bridge players converged on the city, as Orillia hosted its first ever regional bridge tournament.

Tournament organizers were pleasantly surprised by the turnout.

“We started on Tuesday and it ends tomorrow,” said Linda Lord, president of the Trent Valley Bridge Association Unit 246, in an interview Saturday. “Our turnout has been better than we expected. There's not the same people every single day; some people do play every day, others will play a few. But we've had more than 500 people.”

Lord couldn't have been that surprised; she'd be the first to tell you that “bridge is a fantastic game,” and one with a cross-generational appeal. However, a look around the curling club Saturday showed a room full of the sport's elder states people. Bridge's benefit to that demographic in particular is something Lord was quick to stress.

“You can never know everything there is to know about bridge; you are constantly learning,” she said. “The event is constantly changing – conventions change and grow – so, consequently, you grow with the game.”

The players keep getting better, although she quipped they don't always believe so.

One of the participants was Jonathan Steinberg, a Toronto resident who is the second-ranked duplicate bridge player in the entire country. He and his partner were having a great run at the tables set up in the curling club, adding on 20,000 master points he's amassed.

For him, it's a game anyone can play and play well to their skill level, from those just starting to his peers at the top of the rankings.

“Bridge is a very addictive game and people who love it play it their whole lives,” he said. “I've been playing now for 40 years. I learned from watching my parents... when I was in my 20s, I met a couple when we were vacationing who owned a bridge club in New York, and they told me there's this thing called duplicate bridge and (I) would love it.”

It should be pointed out that kitchen bridge and duplicate bridge – also known as contract bridge – are two very distinctive things.

“Duplicate bridge has a book called The Laws of Duplicate Bridge,” Lord said. “The tournament directors run the tournament based on those laws (and) the players have to play within those laws.”

The rule book comes in handy as the bridge gets more competitive, particularly as more people travel to one tournament from around the province, country or even continent.

There are more than 165,000 members of the American Contract Bridge League, which encompasses Canada, Mexico and the United States. When national tournaments are held, the most popular spots are Las Vegas and Toronto, Steinberg said.

The Orillia Bridge Club meets four times a week at the Masonic Lodge. For more information, visit orilliabridge.com.

pbales@postmedia.com

@patrickbales



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