Bridge attracting more families, youths as way to unplug


EVENT PREVIEW

Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference regional tournament

Tuesday through Monday. Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia hotel, 4355 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. www.mabcbridge.org.

Jackson Moncure peered intently at the array of cards spread before him.

He studied his opponents carefully, then proceeded to play.

Jackson was among about a dozen youngsters who were playing bridge Saturday at the Bridge Club of Atlanta on Roswell Road. He loves the game.

It’s slowly carving out more time that the 8-year-old Oakhurst youth used to spend watching television, on his computer or playing outside.

“It makes me think a lot and it’s improved my math skills,” said Jackson, who followed an older brother into the game and has since taken home trophies in several tournaments.

He’s among a growing number of young people and families who are playing bridge, a card game once considered an activity mostly for seniors.

This weekend, more than 1,000 bridge aficionados will meet in Atlanta for the Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference regional tournament, which will be held Tuesday through Monday at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia hotel in Dunwoody.

“It goes in cycles,” said Jack Feagin, chairman of the tournament and a longtime player. When he started playing four decades ago, Feagin said there were a lot of people in their 20s and 30s in the game. But as time went on, “they turned to other activities like games on their computers, Trivial Pursuit at clubs and bars and other various things.”

In metro Atlanta, though, the number of bridge players “is growing rapidly.”

His two grandchildren recently attended a bridge camp this summer, and he and his wife are looking forward to playing with them and helping them develop their games.

They would be in good company. Business titans Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are fans of the game.

People today are looking for something more social, said Patty Tucker, president of Atlanta Junior Bridge. “I think people are a little bored just watching TV or computers,” she said.

Deblina Datta was at the Atlanta club on Saturday with her daughters, Alia, 14, and Asha Adler, 9.

Datta grew up in India, where bridge is “crazy popular.”

Her grandparents played, so did her aunts and uncles, who would have all-night sessions.

Datta, though, didn’t learn how to play until very recently. She learned along with her daughters. Her family back in India is thrilled and can’t wait for her to come home to play.

“For us, it’s something to do as a family,” Datta said. For her daughters, she said, it helps their math and strategy-building skills “in a fun way. It’s not like, ‘sit down and do your homework.’ “

Nationally, there more than 3,200 bridge clubs across North America, said Bryan Delfs, education program manager for the American Contract Bridge League. And the number of people playing bridge is growing about 2 percent annually.

“It’s a card game but it’s hard and challenging,” Asha said. “Obviously, my favorite part is winning,” added her sister, Alia.