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Northeastern student wants to bring bridge to a new generation of players

The average age of a competitive bridge player in the United States is 71.

But Yichen Yin, 23, is hoping to popularize the card game with a new generation by showing them how fun it can be.

“There can be a steep learning curve, but once you know the rules, bridge is a really fun and intellectual game,” said Yin, a graduate student at Northeastern who is studying computer engineering. “I encourage people to go out there and learn the game.”

Yin represented the United States in the 17th World Youth Bridge Team Championship, which was held in August in Wujiang, China.

His team, which comprised six players between the ages of  21 and 26, placed sixth among 22 teams from around the world. An American team had not finished in the top eight since 2010, Yin said.

“In China, bridge is a popular game for young people,” said Yin, who prepared for the competition by practicing online. “I hope it spreads in the United States. I’m always happy to see younger people playing at competitions.”

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Bridge is a four-person card game played by two teams who compete to earn the most points by winning tricks: sets of four cards, one from each player. Players are dealt 13 cards each round, in which they bid on how many tricks they think they can win and determine which suit trumps the others.

Twenty five million Americans over 18 know how to play bridge, according to the American Contract Bridge League, the largest bridge organization in the world. But the popularity of the game in the United States has declined sharply since the 1940s, when it was played in more than 40 percent of American homes.

Yichen Yin recently competed in an international bridge tournament in China. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Sharon Osberg, a world champion bridge player, argued in an op-ed for The New York Times that the arrival of television has contributed to the waning popularity of the game. “Television,” she wrote in 2005, “served as a social replacement for bridge night.”

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Yin, who grew up in China and moved to the United States to study at Northeastern, has been playing bridge since middle school. Schools in China use the game to teach math and probability, he said.

Yin is a member of the American Contract Bridge League and plays regularly at the Newton Bridge Club and the MIT Draper Lab Bridge Club. Northeastern does not have a bridge club, but Yin hopes to recruit enough players to start one.

“I’ve already found two people at Northeastern who play bridge,” he said. “Now I just need one more.”

2018 marked the second time that Yin had competed at the world championship in China. He played for China in 2012, which finished in ninth place.  

“Next time around, I want to medal,” said Yin, who is eligible to compete in the youth bridge team championship one more time before he ages out of the competition. “I’ve already started practicing as much as I can because it will be my last shot.”