La Jolla Unit teaches bridge at La Jolla High (2010)

Twice as many students as last year; many in the bridge community supported effort.
Randy Fadem teaching. Assistant teachers (top): Rick Simpson, Matthew Kidd, Kianoosh Radsan, Janet Ansfield. Assistant teachers (bottom): John Sack, Ron Ignelzi, Judy Rimer.
Randy Fadem explains the value of tricks in each denomination Rick Simpson Matthew Kidd Kianoosh Radsan Janet Ansfield
John Sack Ron Ignelzi Judy Rimer Charlotte Blum
Matthew Kidd
June 8, 2010
Smiling student holding a bridge hand

The La Jolla Unit returned to La Jolla High in May to teach bridge for the second year. The teaching effort expanded from last year’s two class periods and one host teacher to four class periods and two host teachers. Board member Randy Fadem led the effort, rising early every day for more than three weeks. He was assisted by many members of the greater San Diego bridge community. Edgwin “Rick” Simpson and John Sack from the San Diego unit, Ron Ignelzi and Matthew Kidd from the La Jolla unit, and Kianoosh Radsan each helped for several days, getting to know the classes well. Janet Ansfield, Charlotte Blum, Anita Burgis, Mike Crawford, Jackie Ives, Nancy Kingman, Gail McBeth, Otto Newman, and Judy Rimer also assisted.

This year unit president Ron Ignelzi arranged excellent press coverage. The La Jolla High bridge teaching was mentioned in both a San Diego Union-Tribune article and a La Jolla Light article. The former article also covered Bill Grant’s ongoing bridge teaching effort at Chula Vista High which is now in its tenth year.

The host teachers were Mr. Gregory Kinsel, who helped us get started last year, and Ms. Jessica Wills. Both teach AP Statistics, primarily to seniors and have “downtime” at the end of the academic year after the students have taken their AP exams. The amount of time is almost perfect for the 16 hour ACBL course, Bidding in the 21st Century, the first in a series of five courses. Mr. Kinsel, decided to make the bridge course a class requirement this year worth 25% of the student’s grade.

Insofar as we have a captive audience rather than adults deciding to learn bridge, we chose to emphasize the enjoyment of bridge over exercises and homework. We simply let the students play in a supervised setting after a minimal introduction to the mechanics of bidding and play, counting high card points, the importance of game contracts and 8+ card fits (“golden fit”) in a trump suit, the ~26 hcp recommendation for game, and other basics. Nevertheless, each student received a free copy of the Bidding in the 21st Century book and Mr. Fadem tried to go over the key points of each chapter for five or ten minutes at the start of each class. Lessons were followed by a combination of the canned exercise hands and real world shuffle-deal-and-play hands. The students really seem to get into the game and it is easy to imagine that ten percent will eventually go on to become serious tournament players, whether in their college years or later in life.

Many assistant teachers also briefly discussed aspects of the game. Rick Simpson talked about opener’s second bid and also the extra trick taking power of distributional hands. Judy Rimer explained bidding as a conversation. Charlotte Blum discussed partnership issues and OKbridge and offered to mentor interested students. Matthew Kidd once again educated and entertained with his half hour Art of Being Lucky lecture PDF icon PDF icon covering topics such as the mathematical basis of the "eight ever; nine never" maxim in choosing whether or not to finesse. Ms. Wills appreciated the lecture, noting it touched upon important material covered in the AP statistics class. This year, the lecture included followup homework PDF icon Microsoft Word icon on the mathematics of restricted choice. Stumped readers can consult the answer key PDF icon Microsoft Word icon.

The high level of participation from the local bridge community was instrumental in getting the students up speed to quickly. From the beginning the teaching was oriented towards tournament play. Skipping the rubber bridge background, we launched straight into NV matchpoint scoring and handed out duplicate boards and score slips so students could practice matchpoint scoring mechanics. By the second week students had experienced team play and IMP scoring. The competition got the students fired up. Even a single imp victory meant something.

Each class participated in a tournament during the last two days, playing either pairs or teams according the class preference. Winners received a trophy and a copy of Bill Root’s How to Play a Bridge Hand.

All students received bridge T-shirts. Students interested in taking the game further were given a student ACBL membership application.

Rick Simpson took the initiative in starting a summer bridge club at La Jolla High. The principal allocated a room and at least 10 students have expressed interest.