Austrian Bridge, a tale of triumph over adversity

Inspirational individuals! Clockwise from top left, Dieter Schulz, Christian Bernscherer, Peter Lipp, Manfred Schwab, Günter Eipeldauer and Robert Winkler.

As has been the case in many parts of the world, COVID-19 has had a big impact on the Austrian bridge playing community. All face-to-face bridge has been banned since March the 16 last year, with no domestic tournaments taking place.

‘House Tournaments’ have been a feature of many Austrian bridge clubs for years. These small-scale duplicate bridge tournaments, help players better understand their skill level, socialize and improve.

Obviously, with COVID-19 it was impossible to continue playing these games at the clubs. From as early as March 12 players at the Vienna club, Bridgecentrum were planning how to get the ‘House Tournaments’ online. These would be House Tournaments in more ways than one – they’d now be actually played from home!

The players from the Vienna club were not alone. Other players from clubs all over Austria were also busily looking for ways to get their tables set up for club members to play online.

Christian Bernscherer, a regular of online games, helped his friends get started with online bridge and came up with the vision for Austrian ‘house tournament’ collaboration. He wanted to see these small clubs join forces. His theory being;

Better 1 tourney with 30 tables than 10 tourneys with 3 tables

Christian Bernscherer

Moving fast, Christian contacted players from all over Austria and they arranged to meet that same day. This group, representing clubs from Graz, Perchtoldsdorf and Vienna built on this collaborative idea and immediately got to work. Later that day, they’d built their website and conducted their very first online house tournament. Hats off, that’s a lot to fit into just one day!

Since March the 16 they’ve been running two tournaments nationally every day. By March 25 there were over 400 players registered and more players have been joining ever since.

What an achievement – you’ve managed to bring your bridge clubs to your members! Clubs who were previously competing are now working together to benefit not only their own members, but all bridge players nationwide. Something positive has come out of this strange and difficult situation.