Silicon Valley Youth Bridge (SiVY) sponsored 24 youth players at this past Youth NABC in Washington DC this summer. In 2015 we had sent 14 youth players, and this year we planned on budgeting for at most 20 youth players. But the enthusiasm of our SiVY participants meant we had even more demand for sponsorship this year, and the generosity in funding from a previous Bridge Winners article meant we were able to increase our budget to meet the demand and send 24 youth participants (see also the wrap-up article from that effort).
Our Youth NABC sponsorship involved a $500 stipend, but also involved a lot more than that including: help finding partners who were going, 6 special exclusive training sessions and lessons, suggestions of other bridge events to practice and other SiVY programs to take advantage of, volunteer hosts each day of the Youth NABC, and more. District 21 has a stipend-matching program where youth bridge players can apply to have sponsorship stipends from units or youth organizations matched by the district up to $500 per youth player. In 2015, 11 of the 14 members applied for and received $500 matching stipends from District 21. This year, we had 19 of our 24 apply for stipends. District 21 has a budget for up to $10,000 a year in youth stipends, and needed to change this year from a $500 to $400 max match to stay close to budget, They still went over due to 19 grants from SiVY + 4 from Reno Youth Bridge + 3 from San Francisco's Center for Bridge Education + 1 from a unit in District 21 - so 27 total youth with District 21 stipend matches. If you add the 5 others we sent with no match there were 32 overall going to a YNABC on the other side of the country. It is great to see so many different sources of young players in our district going to these national events.
The special training sessions took place in May, June, and July and were a variety of different forms. Here's a photo of one of these training sessions which involved playing in a monthly unit game with a special post-game review of the hands just for YNABC players (and interested parents) shown below:
One other benefit of the program was the special recognizable SiVY YNABC T-shirts that are shown in the group photo from DC shown below.
Turning to the events themselves, the players had a lot of fun, and had a fair amount of success.
Kevin Huang and Brent Xiao ended up the winners of the Baron Barclay National Youth Open Pairs. The prize for this involved masterpoints, a shared $2000 scholarship, and the trophies pictured below.
In the Bridge Base Online (BBO) National Youth Swiss Teams event there were 35 teams from all over the world. The winners were a team from China, but a young SiVY team of Rory Xiao, Arthur Zhou, Michael Hu, and Suzanne Campbell finished a strong 3rd overall. This team was getting some practice in before heading to represent the US in the 2016 World Youth Team Championships U16 event, in Salsomaggiore Terme, Italy, right after the YNABC event. In that international event, the USA team, which was this team plus Cooper Smith and Kunal Vohra, finished in 6th out of the 14 teams.
Also finishing in the overalls for the BBO National Youth Swiss event were a SiVY team of Sarah Youngquist, Jonathon Youngquist, Olivia d’Arezzo, Arika Britt d’Arezzo who were 7th. All 4 are from Palo Alto, and Sarah and Olivia were part of the Palo Alto high school team which earlier this year also won the 2016 Bay Area High School Championship.
Overall, the 24 SiVY players also had success in non-YNABC events as well. The Saturday midnight Zip KO was a very popular additional event, but SiVY players played in many events including side pairs, 299er Pairs, 0-1500 Young Pairs, 0-1500 mini-Spingold, 10K Pairs, A/X Swiss teams, BCD Swiss teams, Gold Rush Pairs, Compact KO, and even a Bracket 1 regional KO. All together the 24 youth pairs won over 260 masterpoints at the Washington DC NABC and YNABC.
In addition to attracting more than 200 youth players from all over the world, the YNABC also received some press coverage including an article in Sports Illustrated Kids magazine which you can read here. The YNABC was also covered in the October ACBL Bridge Bulletin in this article.
It is easy for adult bridge players to talk about the value of bridge and why youth should play bridge and how playing in YNABC helps you meet lots of friends and have lots of fun, but it is more powerful coming from the youth themselves. Here's how some of the participants would describe their experience in their own words:
Stella Wan, another Palo Alto High School Student and SiVY player, shared:
Before I went to DC, I never knew there are so many youth players around the world. I made so many new friends there. On our last night there, I, Olivia, Britt and several other youth players played in the midnight zip knockout and after that we ate food, played split bridge and chatted until almost three in the morning, it was an amazing experience. A lot of the youth players are from China and I made friends with them through WeChat. I have been chatting with a few of them almost every single day to keep up with their lives. We send each other interesting bridge hands we played or read recently and ask each other how we would have played it. Another favorite thing about the NABC is that I made a beer play, my partner still owes me a beer...It's definitely the best experience I had with bridge. When you walk in the hotel or go to dinner down the street, you can see all these people holding hand records talking to people near them about the hands they played. I also saw some really expert players (some I have seen play on BBO vugraph) in the lobby. It's very nice to meet all these people that share the same interest as you.
Here's a picture of Stella Wan and Olivia d'Arezzo from the SiVY August pizza party, which took place shortly after YNABC.
Kevin Huang shared that his favorite part was:
I loved meeting all the people there. I saw a lot of familiar faces and made lots of new friends...It is such a great learning experience, but more importantly, you get to meet lots of different people from all over the world.
Emphasizing the importance of fun was Jonathon Yongquist who shared:
I learned how much fun bridge can be when there is a large group of youth players together...I would describe Youth NABC as a very fun event, where lots of youth bridge players get together to play and have fun.
Other quotes about their favorite part include "Meeting new people and taking about hands with them afterwards" and "meeting and getting to know new people" and "I really enjoyed the YNABC pairs event as it allowed me to compete with other bridge players my age" and "the evening snacks, meeting lots of players of my age" and "Meeting friends from other states" and "Playing bridge with other kids". Other quotes about how they'd describe YNABC to their friends who haven't gone yet were: "The YNABC is a great place to discover that you are not the only young person that enjoys bridge" and "A great place to meet other youth and have a fun time. The competition is fun too." and "It's just a bunch of youth bridge players getting together and playing bridge. Imagine a SiVY pizza party but bigger." and "It's a great experience, even if you don't do well, you still meet a lot of new people".
We also asked the parents or guardians for their thoughts on the YNABC and heard quotes like, "It was a very good experience for Michael. He got to play bridge for 8 days intensively. He certainly learned a lot through the event and had lots of fun hanging around with his peers" and "This is a great experience. Lucas has had a great time playing Youth NABC in Washington DC" and "Yes! For any youth serious about the game, YNABC is a must. And there are so much fun" and "This is a great experience for the kids and me" and "Overall, this was a fabulous experience for my kids. It increased their enthusiasm for the game, improved their relationship with each other, increased my son's self-confidence, and it was a lot of fun". There were a couple of comments from parents comparing Washington YNABC to other past YNABC with "Yes, this was an excellent experience! So many more teams worldwide participated in this competition in DC, compare to last summer in Chicago. All the young players I know (including Kevin) learned a lot and had so much fun!" and "It is a good experience. It is the 3rd YNABC for Michael and good practice opportunity for his U16 team right before the world championship." and "This was a great experience for them. Since they went to Chicago last year they really looked forward to this year as they knew the routine and they saw some of the same players from last year. They enjoyed representing SiVY and they said that they also learned a lot". Several of the parents commented on the importance of the stipends to enable them and their kids to travel to the YNABC.
While most of the feedback was good, there was a fairly common and persistent complaint from both the participants and their parents. About half of our participants noted negatively that the events as a whole were not organized to be the appropriately serious and competitive events they'd expect. Some of this came out in a Bridge Winners thread right after the event. The current structure of the event has a "card rooks" event for more beginning players, and then the more serious events. But the serious events had structural problems like too few boards in the event, no seeding or randomizing of the starting assignments (so if a clump of "good" pairs sign up they face each other and then when a clump of "bad" pairs sign up they face each other), too much carry over in the Swiss event for the number of boards and rounds in play, and other similar concerns.
For length of play the pairs events were only playing 18 boards a session, instead of the more normal 24-27. The Swiss team events were 4 matches of 4 boards in the qualifying session. Then when they cut to the top 60% of the field the carryover was more than a full match despite there only being 4 matches in the final (compared to 1.5 matches when there are 8 full matches. 30/160 is much smaller than 21/80).
One suggestion from some of the participants and parents was for there to be a middle level more serious than card rooks, but not the main championship (played at the sort of level these events were played at) with the pairs and Swiss teams made a more serious event similar to what you'd expect of the other limited national events like the 0-1500 LM, mini-Spingold, NAP C, or NLM Pair events.
In the past SiVY has always made it a condition of our stipends that youth play at least 4 of the 6 sessions (and generally everyone plays all 6), but the feedback from several of the participants and parents is they are not interested in playing if the events stay structured the same at a lower level of seriousness. It is a little awkward when the national events are less serious than unit games, sectionals, regionals, or several of the local SiVY only events we play. The players who are complaining about the seriousness of the event are not professional full-time players, and in most cases aren't Life Masters, but they are still serious bridge players who do want to play real bridge events - especially real bridge events that are with their peers and fun but are still serious bridge events.
Hopefully the ACBL will consider that feedback in advance of the Toronto YNABC in 2017 and produce top-quality youth national events. We still plan to support sending young players to Toronto and will have applications for that at the start of the new year, but we will be keeping our eye out for any indication of the format of the events. We may end up needing to reconsider our playing policy going forward in light of the feedback from the participants.
Here's a final photo from one of our training sessions, the July 10 unit Swiss game, where mentors kibitzed the youth pairs for the full session and then reviewed all the deals after the session.
The Bridge Winners article from Steve Weinstein was sparked from his Saratoga Sectional experience around 6 months ago. On October 22nd, the sectional was again in Saratoga, and we had a corresponding SiVY pizza party and SiVY youth players participating in various aspects of the sectional with much success. All together 44 SiVY players played some part of the event, with 37 playing some part of an official ACBL sectional event.
The sectional scheduled a special 0-20 pairs section which had 9 youth pairs, 3 parent-child pairs, and 5 older newcomer pairs. One of the parents hadn't played bridge since his own high school days in China, and another parent was a mom playing in her first duplicate to try and learn what her husband and daughter loved about bridge. These sort of paths show that while often it is parents or grandparents bringing youth in to the ACBL, it can and does also go the other way, where the youth players bring their parents to duplicate bridge.
Kevin Huang and Brent Xiao also had success here winning 1st with over 63% in an open side-game pairs with 19 pairs.
Another exciting result was David Zheng, a high school freshman, who won 1st overall in the 21-table 2-session open pairs. David had a 56.2% morning session and a 63.52% afternoon session for the win. David was playing with SiVY mentor Li-Chung Chen. Although normally Li-Chung mentors a different SiVY player, they matched up for success at this event. David only started playing bridge at a SiVY casual Friday event in the winter of 2015, so winning 20.97 silver MP is a testament to his rapid development. Li-Chung said of his partner "David played well. He bid aggressively at the right times and had solid card play. He took his time on difficult decisions and usually took winning actions. Multiple opponents remarked that they know him from club games and like him". See below for a picture of the winning pair reviewing hands:
For more on this event see the SiVY sectional report.
In general, for more information on SiVY please visit our website at http://www.siliconvalleyyouthbridge.org/index.html. We have many upcoming events, including a pizza party on November 13th and a parent-child duplicate on November 19th.
We also have an electronic newsletter that comes out three times a year with information on our programs and results. You can see the complete latest newsletter here. My personal favorite article is the one here covering the many young SiVY players having success in the various District 21 mini-McKenney masterpoint races. You can also visit the sign-up page to sign up for electronic delivery of this newsletter, or even just to browse the archives of the last three years of newsletters.
In closing, I'd like to again thank everyone from the Bridge Winners community who helped with the donations that enabled us to send all 24 youth to nationals. For anyone else who'd like to support SiVY with donations the link is here, and also for anyone in the area who wishes to volunteer we'd love to hear from you.
Plus... it's free!