Bart captures Canadian bridge title

March 09, 2006, volume 35, no. 5
By Barry Shell

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Brad Bart, a lecturer in computing science, has a milk crate full of puzzles on the top shelf of his office. "This is my toy box," he says.

Bart teaches introductory computing and math courses and he loves it. But he loves puzzles and games more, especially the card game bridge. With his partner, Rashid Khan, an economics professor at McMaster University, Bart just won the Canadian open pairs bridge championship in Mississauga, Ontario.

Described as the world's most challenging mental sport, bridge is a game of skill, communication and infinite possibilities. Always played with partners or teams, the competitive game Bart plays is called duplicate bridge, meaning every team must duplicate the other teams' efforts by playing the same hands of cards.

They use special boards that keep the cards organised. Each deal is passed to the next card table at the end of a game and final scores are calculated by comparing how each person played every hand that was dealt.

"It cuts down the luck factor," says Bart, "especially when you have four team members." Bart was captain of one of three B.C. bridge teams that competed in Ontario in February.

Bart learned to play bridge at the age of 17 and has been playing ever since, starting with lunch hour games in high school, then playing on university teams at University of Waterloo and SFU. Now in his 30s, Bart is a life master, second from the top level attainable in the game.

In 2002, Bart played in the world championships in Montreal against bridge greats like Eric Rodwell, Bob Hamman and Paul Soloway.

"It was fabulous to talk to them about bridge hands," says Bart, emphasizing the social aspect of the game. Bridge has allowed him to travel around the world.

In Mississauga, his B.C. team made it to the quarter finals before being eliminated. In recent Canadian open pairs tournaments, Bart has come fourth and sixth but this year he and his partner won first place. The prize includes a medal, $1,000 each and entry into the 2007 European bridge championship in Turkey.

When it comes to teaching, Bart likes fun and games, too. In his discrete mathematics course (i.e. the math of things you can count) he entertains and educates students with mathematical oddities, often bringing out his toy box.

He also coaches SFU's student computer programming team every year. In the last two years they came in second in regional competitions, beating major U.S. university teams like Stanford and Berkeley. Though puzzles and games are his passion, Bart says, "I take what I do seriously. Everything I attempt - bridge, teaching, coaching - everyone should get good value and feel good about it. And I expect them to take it seriously, too.

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