October 12, 2015

College bridge team wins national championship

The Bridge Club made University history by winning its first national collegiate championship last month at the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL)’s Summer Nationals in Chicago. The prize was a $20,000 scholarship to be distributed among six team members.

The team members were fourth-year Julian Manasse-Boetani AB '16, third-year Kelly Mao AB '16, fourth-year Ruth Ng AB '15, second-year Alexander Okamoto AB '18, second-year Aaron Song AB '18, and captain, third-year Oren Kriegel AB ’16, taking down University of California-Berkeley in the semifinals and defeating Stanford in the finals.

Bridge is a card game played by two competing teams using a standard 52-card deck. A high level of coordination between partners is essential to winning, according to Oren Kriegel, former president and Bridge Club’s sole professional player. ACBL, the largest contract bridge organization in North America, hosts the national collegiate game annually. Last year, Bob Chen AB ’15, Manasse-Boetani, Kelly Mao, and Ruth Ng won third place in Las Vegas, and took second at Washington D.C. in 2009, losing to Stanford in the championship round.

This year, though, the UChicago team was better prepared. “…Our partnerships functioned much more smoothly than Stanford's. Stanford had some costly miscommunications, while we had no major disasters,” Kriegel said.

“We didn't have the best player at the tournament, but it didn't matter because our entire lineup was solid,” Mao said. He believes that this year’s team was much stronger than last year’s. “I know that I personally have improved quite a bit between last year and this year, and I suspect that my teammates have as well,” he said.

The Bridge Club, founded in 2008, holds weekly games on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. in Reynolds Club. Players of all levels are welcome; less experienced players are mentored by Eldad Ginossar, a professional bridge player living in Hyde Park. Some members also attend local tournaments during weekends.

“I hope to bring more beginners into the club as currently we focus more on training older players than recruiting new ones,” new president of the club Alexander Okamoto said.

Next year’s Collegiate Bridge Bowl team will includes Jihong Song AB ’18, Manasse-Boetani, Mao, and captain Alexander Okamoto. With online qualifying games already underway, the new squad has improved UChicago’s record once again, shutting out Davidson College 113 to 0 last Friday. The Bridge Club will face off against MIT later this month.

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