2009-06-20 / Top News

Mackinac Island Bridge Players Put Emphasis on Fun, Not Winning

By Jane Alexander

Grand Hotel's Grand Pavilion room was filled with people playing cards last week as the hotel hosted its annual bridge tournament. More than 100 guests from across the country came to play at Grand Hotel Sunday, May 31, to Wednesday, June 3.

Hotel owner Amelia Musser, an avid bridge player, started the tournament 16 years ago.

"We've always had bridge on the Island, and we just thought it would be something nice to have here when we needed to fill rooms," Mrs. Musser said.

The intent of the tournament is to be less competitive than other bridge events, said tournament director Rene McFall.

"There are bridge players who would much rather win than have fun," Mrs. McFall said. "They're very hard core bridge players. Those aren't the people we want here. We have a wonderful group of people who want to enjoy playing bridge, and if you get these people that are so competitive, sometimes it's not as much fun."

Mrs. Musser is also a member of the Bike and Buggy Bridge League here. The group plays six games throughout the summer and has a final playoff at Grand Hotel.

Bike and Buggy Bridge member Howard Burdett said he returns to the tournament every year because of its more relaxed atmosphere.

"It's a very congenial tournament," Mr. Burdett said. "You can play a lot of bridge here, but it's not so serious."

Many bridge enthusiasts play for points recognized by the American Contract Bridge League. Members earn "master points" in league-sanctioned tournaments that go toward their overall ranking.

"It's kind of a milestone," Mrs. McFall said. "A lot of bridge players strive for it. You've made it as a bridge player then, and it's not easy. You have to have all kinds of points, gold points, red points, black points, which means you have to play at tournaments. You can't just do 30 years of club games and win, you have to go to tournaments and get special points."

The tournament at Grand Hotel was sanctioned by the American Contract Bridge League five years ago.

It also offers types of bridge not often found in tournaments, such as the more informal Rubber Bridge, a version in which points are added after each hand and deals are not replayed. The Duplicate Bridge used in most tournaments features at least two tables playing identical deals of cards and scoring is done separately after each individual deal.

New to the tournament this year are hand records, recounting the cards dealt in each round after a game is over. These make it easier to recall and assess the circumstances of the game.

Bridge does not have a strong following with young people today, Mrs. McFall believes.

"There are young people in bridge," she said, "and when they play it, they're usually very good, but the thing is to get them interested. Some schools, usually high schools and colleges, try to get clubs together to interest kids, because it is a fascinating game. People who like math tend to be very interested in it because it's a lot of numbers and puzzles. So if you can get young people interested, they will do very well at it, but there's video games and television and all this other stuff going on."

The main thing that distinguishes Grand Hotel's tourna- ment from others, Mrs. Musser said, is people do not necessarily come here to win.

"I think it's companionship," she said. "We want to play good bridge and we want to be able to concentrate for two whole days and nights. It's a great luxury and we're all just so thrilled to have the opportunity to do it, and we just enjoy being with each other because it's such a nicely run game and we have such pleasant people."

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