2020: A Bridge Odyssey : How the Big Scare Pushed us Over the Top

By Jerry and Terry Neuman, 
Life Masters, 
Unit 356, 
April 2021. 

We each learned bridge as teenagers although neither of us would ever categorize it as a significant part of our youth.  As a young married couple, bridge was an inexpensive way to socialize with friends when we didn’t have the resources to do much of anything else.

Our first attempt at competitive bridge came when we lived within close proximity of an ACBL sanctioned club in Los Angeles.  We joined the ACBL and, after a few visits, garnered a few fractions of a masterpoint.  Then came the big scare.  One evening, we were playing at the club when a visibly angry woman ran into the room screaming, charged the table directly next to ours, grabbed a player, and accused her of having an affair with her husband.  Fearing for our safety, that was the end of our sanctioned bridge playing for the next 41 years.

When Jerry retired, and our lives were less frenetic, we decided it was time to give organized bridge another try.  We rejoined the ACBL and started from scratch.   We had success in the 499er games, but playing in the open was a humbling and sometimes humiliating experience.   Despite our damaged egos, we enjoyed the games and learned from our opponents.  We were thrilled every few weeks or so when we were able to collect fractions of masterpoints.  However, at this rate, we would have to live well past 100 to earn enough points to achieve life master status.

Then came the “Big Scare” of 2020: COVID: 19.  However, this time, rather than pushing us out, it drew us in.  The lockdown gave us more free time and BBO offered games several times a day.  Despite the loss of the social contact that had originally attracted us to bridge (we couldn’t even be in the same room with each other), we played, and we played, and we played.  Sometimes we played as many as ten games a week, all in the comfort of our pajamas and in the safety of different rooms in our own home (no angry women breaking in here).  After all, what else did we have to do?

Because we played in the limit games with players on our own level, we actually began earning master points. Because we played in a larger field, the number of points earned per game increased.  We were making progress.  Then, after several tries over a long (and expensive) weekend, we had one very strong game at an online tournament that pushed us over the top.  We no longer had to rely on longevity to reach life master status.  We made it with 25 years to spare and all it took was a global pandemic.