Fun, in spades: Bridge lovers flock to tournament in Vancouver

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Trump this for a week of concentration, competition and camaraderie.

Some 1,000 players from as far away as Hawaii and Alberta, Canada, were in Vancouver to match wits at the challenging game of contract bridge.

They took up the whole ballroom at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

Lynda Hirst of Vancouver was scoring points toward her goal of being a Silver Life Master with the American Contract Bridge League.

“I always say we’re playing for glory,” Hirst said. She is a retired prepress worker at a Portland print shop. Today, she is president of the Vancouver Bridge Club.

And her passion takes her places.

“My biggest win last year was 60 points in Las Vegas,” she said. “I go to about six tournaments a year.”

What’s the draw?

“It’s a challenge, You’re always learning,” she said. “You develop a large social circle. You can travel to places and find new friends,” she said.

She was teaming up this week with players from Burlington, Portland and Valencia and San Jose, Calif.

What happens to players new to bridge?

“You’re overwhelmed, but you grow through many levels of skill,” Hirst said.

John Ashton of Portland was running the week’s competition, called The Oregon Trail Regional. He knows about bridge, having been a professional tournament director for 36 years. He is retiring March 31.

The regional competition ended Sunday.

“It’s a mental game,” Ashton said. “I was hopeless at sports but I am very good at bridge.”

In fact, he is a Gold Life Master, which takes 5,000 points. The highest rank is Grand Master, which takes 10,000 points and a national championship.

Ashton said players can win as little as a percentage of a point at a tournament.

Bridge sessions take about 3 hours, Ashton said. And, he added, many players compete on the computer.

“To me, there’s no comparison,” he said, referring to the thrills at a card table.

As for Vancouver’s Hirst, she is called a Life Master with 875 points, all won at tournaments. She’s been at the game since 2000 and she’ll happily stay at the table for “the excitement of the competition.”