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There is a preconception about contract bridge, also known as bridge, as the paling “American Craze” card game that more than 20 million participants took up throughout the 1930s yet is only regularly played on a monthly to weekly basis by around 2 million people throughout today’s generation, aside from iconic outliers such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. With this in mind, it is truly a stirring feat to see UCSB’s student bridge team competing in the 2023 Collegiate Bridge Bowl, the largest competition in the college circuit. They’re imbuing new vitality into a game whose demand for sharp logical skills and comprehensive strategy inspires nothing less.

UCSB’s Overbidders Anonymous team — made up of Kenneth Chan, Michael Hu, Danning Lu, Hanwen Tian, and Michael Zheng — is one of eight teams and 12 pairs to win the competitive travel package to attend the bowl that will assemble in Chicago July 20-22, showcasing years of dedication toward learning the game that, as Chan, team member and PhD student in economics at UCSB, states, “takes lifetimes to master.”

Bronia Jenkins, executive director of the American Contract Bridge League, the bowl’s governing body, notes, “I’m pleased to see a younger generation of bridge players show an appreciation for the game, let alone compete with their peers with the same spirit and grit like any other university sports team.”

Following Jenkins’s sentiment, Chan describes his seven-year journey of learning and playing bridge, attributing his initiation to his aunt. He says, “My aunt plays bridge quite ‘religiously’ — it got me curious about the game that is so addictive. I picked up the game mainly from reading online and playing at my school bridge club. When I started playing, I got hooked as well and have never stopped since then.” Chan refined his skills through his mentors and bridge partners, eventually finding community within the UCSB Bridge Team.

Although the UCSB Bridge Team attended the bowl last year, 2023 marks Chan’s first tournament competing alongside his team members. Chan quips, regarding his upcoming travel plans to the Windy City, “I think bridge is a good way to justify holiday trips; there are lots of bridge competitions everywhere in the world. You can get some traveling done as well.”

On a serious note, the competition offers students a high-stakes occasion to grow as players, and bridge as a whole has provided Chan with what he believes are profound “insights into how people behave, which has inspired me to pursue a career in academia working on behavioral economics. I think bridge will be a huge part of my career as well; some of my existing research projects are inspired by my bridge experience.”

Make sure to tune in to the UCSB Bridge Team as they take on players from across the country, and perhaps tune in to the game of bridge yourself. For those hoping to try out the game for the first time, Chan advises, “Be patient! There is a steep learning curve to bridge. It is not like chess, where it takes an hour to learn how each of the chess pieces moves; or poker, where the bids are intuitive and you can learn about the hand strength quickly. You will need a couple of months just to pick up the bidding convention, but the joy of playing the game will be worth it.”

Learn more about the competition at


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