My “story” is one that I am confident has never happened before, but may now happen again soon enough. I am a 55 year old attorney who lives in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and I learned rudimentary bridge from my parents back in my teenage years, but never played it outside the home or more than a dozen times with them.
Now, jump ahead 40 years to 2018. While visiting my recently widowed father in Boca Raton, who had taken up duplicate bridge himself with more energy after my mom passed away, I offered to join him and play duplicate bridge at a popular club down there. We did fine, and I got the bug/itch to play more. My busy schedule up north was not very conducive to active in-person bridge play. I started playing on BBO online, basically every night after my family went to bed. Over the past two years, I have accumulated about 300 ACBL points through BBO, but they were almost exclusively just “online points.” In turn, I became a Junior Master very quickly, but was not in any position to gain greater master rankings without in-person matches.
One Saturday, after playing for about 6 months, I contacted the folks at Valley Forge Bridge Club and asked if they could find me a decent playing partner if I showed up for a Saturday afternoon game. Unfortunately, the only unattached person with whom they could pair me was a rather elderly gentlemen who had not played himself in decades and who was admittedly not that great way back when. He was understandably awful in bidding and card play, but we were also playing at a very low level at the club. About a third of the way through the hands, I realized what was happening and changed approaches, jumping ahead into what seemed the best contracts. Amazingly, we ended up winning the match with 1 1 1 across. I mention the details only for one reason – it tainted my view of trying to continue my rare local efforts at any in-person bridge.
Whenever I returned to Florida, though, to visit my father – which I did for a weekend about every 3 or 4 months for the past 2 years, we would play that Saturday at Jourdan’s Bridge Club, or another club down there more recently. It was not that often, and Jourdan’s never provided ACBL with the points earned from my matches. They were not much, but they would have allowed me to reach Club Master level sooner. I recognized the absence of such black club points recently, and shared it in emails with Jourdan’s and ACBL, but nothing has come of it.
At the end of all of this, I just figured that I would forever be stuck as a Junior Master despite 300 ACBL points (with more on the way) because I only play online. BUT, along comes COVID19, and the only good thing to come from COVID19 for me is that ACBL started recognizing certain tournaments online as black points to support the game and support local clubs. Through such more open policy, I was able to gather up almost 17 black points in the past 2 months while in the “comfort” of my pajamas (figuratively or literally, depending on the day).
I love the game, and I enjoy the additional interpersonal and social aspects at in-person matches, but my schedule just does not allow me to actively join any local club events. The lack of a local partner does not help as well. I expect this to change as my professional career crests and my family responsibilities change (and my remaining teenage daughter at home moves on to college), but for now I will continue to enjoy the game on-line every day.
This is the long story to the brief comment above as to my “unique” journey. I suspect I am amongst the first players (if not the very first player) to earn Club Master online, and I am grateful to the ACBL for the way it has addressed the COVID19 situation to give me this opportunity.
Thanks for reaching out. Hopefully, ACBL will stay the course and its many players will in the near future be back at tables both in person and online enjoying the game.