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OWU Bridge Team Defeats Harvard, Columbia to Advance to National Finals


March 4, 2003

DELAWARE, OHIO -- On Feb. 22, four Ohio Wesleyan students won a trip to California playing cards.

The Ohio Wesleyan Bridge Club team will join the University of Victoria (Canada), Stanford, Michigan, Chicago and Yale to compete in the 2003 College Bridge Team Championship Final in Long Beach, Calif., on July 18-19. Juniors Matthew Bernardina and Elizabeth Dale, and sophomores Svetozar Palankov and team captain Thomas O'Rielly-Pol defeated teams from Harvard and Columbia Universities to qualify for one of the top two spots in the Eastern region.

"There were a lot of good players in the tournament," O'Reilly-Pol said. "If we lost, I knew it would be a lack of experience, not a lack of talent. It ended up to be a close win."

He continued, "As for California, I think we will be even more experienced when we compete. You never stop learning in this game and I think that when we get there, we'll be making some noise."

O'Reilly-Pol started playing bridge about seven years ago, learning from his father and grandparents. In college, he began playing online and started competing in duplicate tournaments when he joined the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL).

"I wanted to start a bridge club because I really like playing bridge and wanted to play as often as possible," O'Reilly-Pol said. "I was curious to see who else knew how to play and who wanted to learn. I like teaching people and I love it when it all just falls together for them."

While Dale and Palankov had some previous exposure to the game, Matt Bernardina is a newcomer.

"I was so shocked. I didn't believe we had actually qualified for the finals when they announced it," Bernardina said. "I have to give all the credit to Tom. I didn't know how to play bridge before this past September and the fact that we have come this far, this quickly, is a credit to his teaching ability."

"Bridge is a 4-person card game of infinite variety," O'Reilly-Pol said. "It has two phases -- the first phase is descriptive where players use only 14 words to describe their hand. The second phase is the play. What I love is that every hand is different."

In the team game, there are two pairs of partners, one playing in the opposite direction of the other. As they compete against another team, two tables are formed. The two tables play the same cards and then the scores for each hand are compared, awarding a series of points to the team with the better score.

Find out more information about the American Contract Bridge League.