Bridge needs directors

12 tables in play at the BridgeMojo game

Twelve tables in play at the BridgeMojo game

Morris Jones

Directing is fascinating

When I first noticed bridge, of course the game was fascinating. The detail and the multi-level depth of the game continue to enthrall.

When I first started playing duplicate bridge and visiting tournaments, I found another fascination in the organization of the game itself — the movements of boards and players, the many ways of scoring that would shift the play strategy.

Early on I realized that I could play team games at home with nothing more than two or three tables of players, some score cards, and a few duplicate boards. My first directing was done at my house or others' houses exactly that way.

I've done it long enough that I've seen a matchpoint game scored by hand. I even own a pad of the big spreadsheet used to tally every pair's matchpoints in a game. It's rare now to find someone who could score a duplicate game if the game computer went down.

It's not just table rulings

Many players mainly see the director as someone who acts as umpire or referee at a tournament, but that turns out to be a tiny part of the job. Great respect is earned by a director who can organize a movement, run a smooth game, and smooth ruffled feathers — while never letting the coffee pot get empty.

Part of the mission statement of the BridgeMojo game is to train and prepare new directors for the next generation of bridge clubs and tournaments. There are employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in bridge for individuals who share the interest and the aptitude to direct a bridge game.

The entrance requirements for becoming a bridge director are probably both higher and lower than you might expect.

But I'm not a bridge expert

First of all, it's not necessary to be a great bridge player! Certainly you have to know how to play the game, and have some tournaments under your belt. It helps to have at least a passing knowledge of common and not-so-common bidding systems and conventions. But there's no set achievement level in bridge required to be a qualified and successful bridge director.

I took the director test and began directing club games in San Jose when I had about 100 masterpoints. It was an amazing thrill for me when I realized that I had actually awarded masterpoints to a player in my own game.

(One Flight C player in this year's North American Pairs tournament protested that a tournament director was playing in the Flight C (non-Life Master) event. I had to assure them that this player was eligible for Flight C because he was, in fact, not a Life Master.)

That said, the amount of study and practice required to be a capable director almost rivals the game of bridge itself. But not quite. (Hey, if you can master the Lebensohl convention, you can master directing.)

There is a credential

Yes there is a test, and the amount of study for the test is not small. This page on the ACBL web site, Becoming a Club Director, has a list of the materials you will need to study. Along with the things you expect, like the Laws of Duplicate Bridge, there are the practical logistics of a bridge game, the tools and the software used to run and score games.

If, instead of studying the material on your own, you'd be more interested in a classroom setting, there is a course for the Club Director certification held near the start of every North American Bridge Championship, three times a year. It's a fairly intense three-day course, but it might be enough to get a passing mark on the test. They even administer the test at the end of the course.

Like so many things in life, getting the credential is really just a license to start truly learning the skill. It's pretty much an apprenticeship situation, where you can have opportunities to practice, make mistakes, and learn to fix them.

Bridge needs those apprentices now. There are opportunities at clubs all over the country, entrepreneurial opportunities to start your own club, cruises and golf clubs that need bridge directors, and employment opportunities with the ACBL as part-time and full-time tournament directors.

Turn a hobby into a real avocation

Speaking personally, I'm now a club manager who has hired only myself to direct bridge games. I have plans to take vacations and direct on cruises. I'd like to keep my club open while I'm away!

I can't help but feel like bridge is entering a growth phase right now. Players of all ages are discovering the game and looking for guidance and places to play.

So besides preparing capable players for the area clubs and tournaments, I want to feed the game new directors. I'm here and ready to mentor, coach, supervise, and proctor the exam. My game is the most technically sophisticated in the area, and it's here for you to learn from.

Think about it. Let's talk.