Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bridge Documentary

A few years ago there were always cameras following my friend Gavin Wolpert around at bridge tournaments. Eventually I learned that a documentary was going to be made about him and his partner Vince Demuy. That didn't seem too exciting as I often hear about potential bridge documentaries and movies but the project always seems to fizzle out.

Not this time. On April 7th the documentary aired on CTV. Wait, CTV is Canadian! I was lucky enough to get to see it about a week ago in Gatlinburg when Gavin brought it on DVD. I was very hopeful that it could increase the visibility of bridge and enhance its image if done correctly.

For those of you masochistic enough to be loyal readers, you will remember that my concept of the best way to do something like this is to have almost no bridge content at all. The atmosphere and drama need to be the focus with actual hands playing a very small role so that even non-bridge players can watch and enjoy a movie or documentary on bridge.

In The Cards did not disappoint, the whole story being about a young partnership trying to prove themselves in a world of established professionals. Once they did that and got hired onto a major team they had to perform. All the while they had to maintain their friendship and partnership, a very hard thing to do. There was little talk about bridge. This is perfect because if someone who doesn't know how to play bridge watches the documentary they'll think, "That was really interesting, I want to learn bridge and become a part of that world. Bridge seems like a cool game." There was drama, big money, fierce competition, and highs and lows.

I really think that this documentary is great for the game. The only problem is that all the Americans and Europeans and Asians who don't have access to CTV may never see it. Because of this Alan Crank has put the documentary on YouTube. Since it's about a 45 minute documentary and YouTube can't handle videos that large he has cut it up into separate 9-10 minute segments.

So far only the first 2 parts are up, but as he gets more of them up I will update the list. I encourage everyone to watch the documentary and show it to all non bridge players they can, preferably young people. I also encourage all bridge bloggers to add links to the YouTube video. I really think that if bridge is going to try and get the attention of my generation it needs more media coverage of the young stars and their exciting lives. This video is a great start and we need to capitalize on it by giving it a lot of exposure.

Update: Part 3 is now up.

Update 2: Part 4 is up.

Update 3: Part 5 is up. Part 4 is apparently having some technical difficulties, but will be working again shortly. Gavin has also written his thoughts on the documentary. If you enjoyed it, I recommend reading what he has to say. If you have any relatives or non-bridge playing friends please tell them to watch this.


  1. Thanks for the link. I've been looking forward to watching this since I heard about it a couple of months ago. Very entertaining show thus far (of course a lot of the 'play by play' makes an experienced player cringe and/or bust out laughing as it's rife with inaccuracy, but it certainly adds to the drama.)

  2. George & I watched both segments this morning -- it's incredibly well done! What Jonathan characterizes as "rife with inaccuracy" struck us as smart filmmaking. Some of the details they skimmed over would have added much to the confusion of non bridge players and almost nothing to the forward momentum of the story. I thought they showed an amazing amount of bridge for a general TV audience -- and they made it accessible, interesting and entertaining.

  3. Right, like they used the term points instead of imps. Well, people understand points, and it gets the general point across, no one would understand imps. It was very smartly done and clearly targeted for an audience that doesn't know how to play bridge.

  4. My favorite 'liberty' is when they repeatedly zoomed in on the seating assignment board and pretended that it was some sort of scoreboard or leaderboard. Can't wait for the rest of the show.

  5. I'm glad you talked about it.A partnership between a genius and a very good player, how will they cope with that under pressure. They could not. Because of their age, may be; none made the first step, trust was shatered, life is not that easy. It was great and we could talk a lot about it.
    Marcel Panneton

  6. "between a genius and a very good player" -> the documentary has not reached Denver 05 yet, so be careful with taking on the assumptions of the film.

    I liked seeing Stan, Mavis, Jurek, and Nick (if you don't know who they are, it doesn't matter). The part with the CNTC didn't point out that the team member discussing the results was Jurek's partner, and, far more important, Gavin's older brother, Darren.

  7. I really like this so far. As an average player who plays regularly with someone who makes far fewer mistakes than I, I really appreciate the dynamics that they are discussing in the video.

    Part 4 doesn't seem to work. When I try to watch it, it brings up Part 3 again.

  8. Part 4 is down right now, we are working on getting it back up, thanks for your patience.

  9. Thanks alot Justin for pointing me to these documentaries. They are really great.
    On another note - I have been keeping track of you ever since knowing you years ago on okbridge and helping you edit some "nightmare" document I think it was. You keep impressing me with your bridge abilities and the way you handle yourself with other people at tournaments I have seen you at. Keep up the great work in both areas.

    Leah Newell

  10. thank you so much for making this available. I found myself totally mezmerized.

  11. I was a little worried when I saw the first two parts, which were so focused on money. I don't know the guys at all, but I'm sure that it's not the only reason they play.

    But the second half made up for it, with what I thought was pretty captivating demonstration of partnership relationships (at least in theory). Certainly these types of movies are good for bridge.

    The only part that I don't understand the reason for leaving out is the discussion of duplication, or even (especially in the first two parts) teammates. It really made it sound like you just play random hands and then add up your scores. I don't think it's difficult to make the tension of "did teammates/opponents bid the pushy slam/find the killing defense" exciting.

  12. Every one of those videos were awesome.

  13. I linked to the videos through another site and thought they were absolutely brilliant.

    We need more of this to attract younger and new members to our wonderful game :-)

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