News & Comment

Online Player Gets First Live Bridge Experience

Lily Steck is playing bridge in person for the first time ever at the Youth NABC after learning on BridgeWhiz last fall. The 13-year-old from Bethlehem, PA, entered the program at her grandmother’s suggestion.

“At first I was unsure, but I knew my grandma really liked it, so I thought I’d give it a try,” Lily said. “And then I found out I really liked it.” It took her about three weeks to get to that point.

BridgeWhiz is the ACBL Educational Foundation’s nationwide online youth teaching program. Lily was in a class taught by Bernie Simkin over Zoom and Shark Bridge with about 40 kids from all over.

Before starting BridgeWhiz, Lily had experience with another trick-taking game – euchre.

“Everyone in my family plays euchre,” she said. “I feel like that helped. I’ve been playing euchre a very long time,” since she was 6 or 7.

Grandmother Grace Sutherland learned that game from her parents and passed it on to her children and grandchildren. She and Lily often partner in their family games.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/blog-news/Grace-Sutherland-Lily-Steck-900w.jpg“She really loves to beat her dad,” Sutherland said.

“I love to beat anyone,” Lily corrected.

Sutherland noticed Lily making sophisticated plays at euchre and realized she was witnessing a budding bridge player. When she saw the ad for BridgeWhiz in the Bridge Bulletin, she took a picture and texted it to Lily, but she got no response.

“I asked her mom if that meant she wasn’t interested,” Sutherland said, and they decided she should try again. The second time it worked.

“I love the game,” Sutherland said. “I’m not a fantastic player. If I had started when I was 13, I think that would be a huge advantage to me.”

Sutherland began learning bridge in January 2009, a month after Lily was born, taking a class at a community college. She still plays party bridge with the people from that class, but she started playing duplicate in 2014. She’s playing in Gold Rush events in Providence with a pickup partner.

The BridgeWhiz program includes two tournaments, one in the middle and one at the end of the 12-week class. Lily wasn’t able to participate in the final, but she won the midterm event, scoring a 74% with first-time partner Max Sullivan of Olathe, KS.

“(BridgeWhiz teachers) Al Bender and Bernie Simkin wrote glowing emails about her,” Sutherland said.

Since her BridgeWhiz class ended, Lily hasn’t played much. Sometimes she plays with Sutherland, sometimes she plays on the FunBridge app. She jumped at the chance when Sutherland asked her to come to Providence. It’s not just her first face-to-face bridge experience but her second tournament of any kind. She came without a partner and got matched with Dora Jiang of Oakville, ON.

“I was so excited,” she said. “It’s so much fun playing bridge with other kids in Rhode Island. There’s nothing you can do with other kids in Pennsylvania, not in person anyway. I feel like clicking a button and staring at a screen for an hour is not really as much fun. It’s still fun, but not the same.”

Hours earlier she was on the fence about in-person bridge, but after two sessions of it the verdict was in: “I like it more.”

Lily plans on taking additional BridgeWhiz classes, starting with intermediate next year. She hopes more of euchre-playing family will learn the game.

“I think my youngest cousin wants to do bridge,” she said. “I think she wants to come to tournaments with me and Grandma.”

By Chip Dombrowski

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