The Little (Bridge) Team that Won: CMC team will travel to The Big Easy for ACBL National Collegiate Tournament

In the middle of February, four CMC seniors pulled it offbeating the Princeton, NYU, and Dartmouth bridge teams to advance to the two day final of the American Contract Bridge League’s National Collegiate Tournament scheduled July 24-25 in New Orleans.

It was an impressive victory, not only given the competition, but the fact that last year’s CMC teamin their first-ever attempt at team playbarely failed to qualify. “It was a devastating loss,” recalls team captain Ryan Wessels ’10. (More on that match in a minute.)

In the meantime, this year’s playersRaghav Dhawan, Matthew Meyer, Nik Miller, and Wesselsall of whom will graduate at the end of Mayare celebrating their recent win, and counting the days until the collegiate tournament this summer. “We’d been training pretty intensely for up to 12 hours a week in recent weeks, and have been at it since the start of school last fall,” says Miller. “It’s very satisfying to see that work and practice pay off, and even more so because of the caliber of teams that both qualified and didn’t qualify.”

It was on Feb. 13 that CMC’s bridge team qualified to compete in the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) National Collegiate Tournament in New Orleans. In hands played online, CMC advanced to the quarterfinal tournament by blanking Princeton (20-0) and New York University (20-0), and allowing Dartmouth just one point in another lopsided victory (19-1).

The ACBL Tournament in New Orleans will be live, face-to-face playa round-robin between eight teams, with the top four teams advancing to the semifinals and, eventually, the final.

“There are a lot of really talented teams that have been playing and practicing bridge a lot longer than we have,” adds Dhawan. “But I think if we have a good tournament, we have a chance to do well.”

The elite company in the Big Easy will include Harvard, Yale, Stanford, UPenn, and the University of North Carolina. “I’m not sure how we stack up against each other team, but I know the Stanford team is very good and likely favored to win,” Miller says. “But we’ll continue our training and practice for the remainder of the year and are excited to see how we will do.”

It was Stanford that had a hand in CMC’s loss in 2009. “Last year,” Wessels recalls, “the top two teams from each bracket went to nationalsfour brackets of six teams based on the region. This year, the top team from each bracket of four qualified.”

In 2009, CMC beat UCLA, U.C. Berkeley, Cal Tech, and the University of Oklahoma before losing to Stanford, the eventual national champion. Stanford finished 5-0, CMC 4-1, and UCLA 3-2. Wessels says that teams advanced based on a point differential system and although CMC had a better record than UCLAand beat them in head to head competitionthe school narrowly lost the point differential by a single point.

Trumping the other qualifiers in New Orleans would be big, but in no way easy, Wessels says. “Half the CMC bridge team graduated last semester so we had to teach two new players how to play in only six months.”

Teammate Matt Meyer concurs. “As far as CMC’s chances in the tournament,” he says, “I don’t know. I’m not sure about the level of competition from the other teams, but they’re from great schools and have probably been playing together longer than we have. The tournament isn’t just for undergraduates; Stanford’s winning team consisted of graduate students as well.

“I’m just really excited to be put to the test this July and, hopefully, we’ll have a good showing,” Meyer adds.

The CMC Bridge Team trains five days a week in Fawcett Lounge. If CMC wins in New Orleans, each team member will receive $500 towards tuition or student loans. The ACBL pays for airfare, hotels, and tournament entry fees.

“I really like the challenge of bridge, as well as the team aspect,” Meyer says. “Each hand poses individual challenges and the team’s ability to handle difficult hands is really vital if CMC wants to do well.”