Teaching Is Fun

I’ve been teaching Handz in a San Francisco school classroom of 3rd to 8th graders. They’re having a lot of fun trying to take LOTS OF TRICKS! I hear comments like: “I’ll bet we can take more tricks than our opponents!” or “they can’t possibly take as many as they say they can, so let’s DOUBLE them!”

I use the vocabulary “Super Suit” or “No Super Suit” instead of “Trump” or “No Trump.” I think this makes it more exciting and also more accessible. It’ll be easy to introduce the word trump when they get to bridge or a higher Handz level.

Another thing the kids like is the description of how to arrange their cards after tricks are won or lost: standing up if we won (we are so proud) or lying down if we lost (we are so sad). Fun for the teacher too! The kids catch on in a nano-second.

The New Generation

We are thrilled to have so many people requesting Handz to teach their grandchildren, from ages 8 to late high school. We hope that these new players will use the game to start bridge (Handz) clubs in college, as was once a common, competitive pastime.

In previous years, several of our bridge students joined college teams after leaving our high school programs. One player, Kendrick Chow, has two North American Collegiate victories earned during his attending the University of Pennsylvania. We plan that a new generation of CBE players will take their experience with Handz to college, jump starting bridge where no club currently exists.

A Feather for Introducing Bridge in Schools

In Washington, D.C., at the NABC, a star player from CBE’s first year introducing bridge in Galileo High School, Edmund Wu, assembled a team to compete in the Mini-Spingold (0-5000) week-long tournament. The 5-member team, which included two San Francisco junior players, Jess Chao and William Zhu (Lowell High), took top honors in the elimination event, winning the finals on Saturday, July 30.ZiR2i

Edmund is the smiling dude on the left, Jess on the right. William Zhu had to leave the team before the finals because of another commitment to play in the Roth team event with partner Ilan Tadmor and teammate Samuel Kuang, also from Galileo High School.

Edmund, William, and Samuel will all be NYC residents as of September of this year. They will all be missed.

Edmund will direct his last SF Unit 506 game on August 13, 2016. We hope he returns to visit us often. In New York City, Edmund has several bridge clients to keep him occupied and well fed. Bridge will be his profession. Could we be more proud?…probably not.


Lauren Friedman’s article on page 28 of the July 2016 issue of The Bulletin has generated lots of interest in Handz by persons who want to introduce the game into their children or grandchildren. Some plan to introduce Handz in local schools. CBE has been filling requests for copies of Handz as quickly as we can. Some have downloaded the files we post to the Handz pages of this web site, which is perfectly adequate.

Feedback has been entirely positive. Especially gratifying has been the reports that young children have found this method easy to follow and fun to play.

Some bridge-playing friends have used Handz to introduce adult nonbridge-players to the game. They report that it is easier to explain to newbies how to make successful deductions by keeping close track of the high-card points played out of each hand.

It is more convincing than ever, that Handz is a valuable way to prepare bridge students to bidding—by first knowing the information that bidding conveys and understanding the goals of the auction. Also, bidding makes more sense to players who know how each contract is scored.

Well done Lauren!

Handz Tested at The Foundry

This week a group of five top junior players met at a game bar called “The Foundry” in the rapidly changing south of Market district in San Francisco, which once housed a thousand light industries. One steel and stone structure now throbs with both music and a vaguely musical cacophony that emanates from countless computer games. A dozen giant screens broadcast myriad  gamers’ progress, whether chasing sinister bipedal aliens or matching guitar and drum karaoke to Aerosmith or Metallica. This is where we set up a table for beer and Handz.

Handz players

From left to right, Kendrick Chow, Anant Rathi, Samuel Kuang, and Jesse Chao. —Photo by Edmund Wu

Our purpose was to test the soundness of the most advanced level of Handz before the first players learning the game get to this level. It went well. Everyone thought that the game was more complex than it first appears. The players had lots of great ideas.

To create a game that eliminates six months of bidding lessons, Handz has a special call we have named “reveal,” in which a player may write on a “fact sheet,” for all to see, the number of high card points and suit distribution in his or her hand, which provides the information a partner needs to establish the ideal contract. Since revealing that information can give the opponents a road map to the best bid or line of play, players use bidding agreements (suggested by the game) to communicate with bidding instead of revealing—like bridge—to avoid excessive use of the fact sheets revealing one’s shape and strength.

We all seem convinced that Handz is a game that will interest people by itself, not simply as a means of learning bridge.

A Family Game

This week we tried out Handz at the home of former CBE President Jen Fong. The game included her two children and their parents. The session was brief, but to the game’s designer, it was a positive experience.

First, though each person playing had a different amount of bridge experience, from none to an acquaintance with Stayman, all were playing within 10 minutes. It takes little time to feel comfortable with the rules.

Second, there were things to be learned on each hand, but not so much as to take away from the sense of competition that all games must achieve. When playing Handz at the lower levels, each player is challenged to notice the distribution and high card point arrangements. To an experienced bridge player, the road to success seems laid out by the fact sheets, but to new players, often bewildered by the inclusion of a dummy, counting the suits and high cards while deciding what to do next is anything but obvious.

Young children lack the interest to play 26 hands of bridge, but with such simple rules, an occasional game of 8 hands may lead to a life-time of early card skill. Since there are no lessons, the pace of advancement can be synchronized with the participants’s interest.

Our next plan is to have a public game with a small group of duplicate bridge players trying out the highest level of Handz against each other. More on that in my next blog entry.

Progress of the Handz Project

Last fall (2015) the board of CBE had a brief demonstration of Handz, a mere concept of how teaching bridge to youngsters might be made more effective. The board quickly put its unanimous support behind the project. I want to now report that progress has been steady and encouraging. In the following weeks I hope to use this blog to keep CBE supporters up-to-date.

In December, at a cocktail party, hosted by a student of board member Deborah Murphy who gave the party to celebrate his becoming a US citizen, I met a couple from Marin who expressed an interest in bridge. I quickly sent them a copy of the program, such as it was at the time, and they have played it several times with another Sausilito couple. They have been great about providing feedback. It proved that Handz is a program where people from teens to adults can learn to play bridge hands without the need for an instructor or giant bridge tomes.

That was just the beginning.

Former President Jen Fong reflects on CBE

In the past two weeks, I have reconnected with two CBE alumni, Kendrick Chow and Samuel Kuang.  After many positive teaching experiences in the bridge world, both are considering jobs as tutors and teachers in the SF school district.  When CBE entered my life 9 years ago, I didn’t realize how long our relationship would be.  When I chaperoned Kendrick and Samuel, (Edmund and Jason) to DC for the Youth NABC, who knew that they would become so hooked on bridge and on giving back to their community?  CBE continues to support youth to learn the game of bridge.  I hope you will consider a financial contribution or volunteering your passion to introduce more young people to this wonderful game.