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shaun
18-01-2004, 10:12 PM
Over the years a number of strong Australian chess players have given up the game and taken up Bridge instead. Ron Klinger (Aus Junior Champion in the 50's) and IM Bela Berger are 2 that spring to mind. Michael Courtney, one of this countries leading bridge players, once told me that Bridge draws players from two main areas. People who's parents played Bridge, and chessplayers. So, to find out whether Bridge was populated by defecting chessplayers I paid a visit to the Summer Festival of Bridge, which is held in Canberra every year in January.
The main venue for the event is the Rydges Hotel, where the 2000/2001 Australian Open was held. However, the event is so large events are also held at the Hyatt Hotel and the Canberra Convention Centre. The specific event I went to spectate was the Walk-In Pairs, which was one of the more minor events held as part of the festival. Despite it being a fairly low-key event I estimated the field as being 120+ players. I don't know whether this was above or below organiser expectaions, but it seemed consistent with the numbers attending other events.
I saw the crosstables for the Australian Womens Teams Championship, and noted the entry was 200+. Sure beats the dozen or so players that the Australian Womens Chess Championships struggles to attract. But given the social nature of bridge this hardly suprises me.
The curiously named South-West Pacific Teams events had a capped entry of 80 teams (320+ players) while other major events seem to be attracting the same sought of numbers.
So, does it reflect badly on chess that we cannot attract those numbers to our championship evcents? Probably not.
Another Chess/Bridge player, Richard Hills, observed that most people who play bridge will at some stage play it competitively. The same cannot be said of chess, where I would estimate at least 5,000,000 Australians know how to play chess, but only 1 in 500 would play seriously enough to get on the ratings list.
Secondly, I guessing that Bridge numbers will drop over the next 20 years due to the mortality rates in the Australian population (A cruel observation I know). I would guess that I, at the age of 37, was younger than 90% of the players playing in the pairs event. If it were a chess tournament I would expect at least 75% of the players to be younger than me. In Bridge they do not have "Junior" events, instead holding "Youth" events where the upper age limit is 26 years old, and the size of the field would be less than the Australian Junior.
As for the hordes of defecting chess players, I was suprised to see that I did not know anyone playing in the pairs (either chessplayers, or anyone else in fact), although that may say more about me than the sort of people who do play Bridge.
And finally, Bridge players can be just as unkempt and slovenly as your typical chess player, and sometimes even more so.

Rincewind
19-01-2004, 12:44 AM
Thanks for the observations Shaun. One of the best posts I've read on here for a while. I guess I'm an odd sort of fish who plays comp chess but never comp bridge although have spent hundreds of hours playing bridge socially (mostly on trains between Wollongong and Sydney).

I think if I had a keen bridge partner I might consider taking up competitive play. On my own, I'll stick with chess.