Deborah Smith - Winner of WBF Women's Spring Festival 2023

Deborah Smith

Deborah Smith (known as Fizzcat) from New Zealand has once again emerged victorious in the 2023 WBF Women's Spring Festival, leading in both the individual robot tournament and the pairs tournament. She's now won in the last two festivals! I had the chance of interviewing her once again, and she graciously shared her remarkable journey.

Reflecting on her back-to-back wins, she confessed, "I was very happy to win it for the second time. Initially, I planned to participate casually this year, but once I started, it was difficult to resist the thrill of the competition."

She expressed her appreciation at winning the special prize, a free entry to the WBF Pairs Championship in 2024, stating, "I think it is a generous prize and a wonderful opportunity." However, she also acknowledged the practical challenges, saying, "Given the geographical distance between New Zealand and many other parts of the world, it may be challenging for me to participate. We will have to wait and see once the details regarding timing and location are announced.”

The WBF Women's Online Festival offers a multitude of games throughout the week, with a diverse range of options. Deborah commented, "I love the fact that there are various types and times of play available. "Initially, I intended to participate in games that fit my daily schedule, but as the competition progressed, my competitive spirit took over, and I found myself engaging in more games. Since it only occurs twice a year, why not make the most of it if you can?”

Deborah enjoys the challenge of playing against robots, saying, "Playing against robots was not the biggest challenge for me. I appreciate their distinct playing style, just like human players. I leverage their accuracy in counting points and shapes, which actually works to my advantage. While they might occasionally make peculiar moves, it doesn't bother me too much; it's all part of the unique experience of playing against robots.”

Managing sleep schedules and coping with time zone differences presented additional obstacles for her. She revealed that she avoids participating in late-night tournaments, especially early in the week. The fast-paced nature of the robot tournaments aligned well with her natural inclination to play at a faster tempo.

In navigating her demanding schedule and overcoming the challenges posed by time zones, she expressed her heartfelt appreciation for her family's support. They provided her with the necessary space and assistance during tournament week. She shared, "My family has been brilliant. They understand the importance of uninterrupted play and help out as much as they can during the tournament. They even make great coffee."

Deborah Smith’s Journey in Bridge

Deborah has had lots of experiences that have shaped her love for the game. Her earliest memories take her back to playing card games like 500's with her sister in her grandparents' bed during holiday visits, while their Nana prepared morning porridge. She nostalgically described her grandparents running a small bridge session near the beach in Christchurch, where players could enjoy the view of crashing waves through large windows. Setting up the tables each week and even baking biscuits for break time, she described it as "a true display of service.”

She vividly recalled at her age of 18, she attended bridge lessons run by John O'Gorman and Chris Marshall at the local club on Sundays. The lessons brought together a diverse group of passionate players ranging from her age to people in their 80s. She said, "We fast became friends, weekly going around to each other’s houses to get in our practice before our lesson. Such things as age or professions just did not matter, we just all loved the game."

She expressed immense gratitude for the support and guidance she received from talented bridge players throughout her journey. Notably, Grant Jarvis, a leading masterpoint earner in New Zealand, and a close friend. She had a chance to partner with him in the national congress when she had only been playing for a year—an act of bravery that she admired. 

She also talked about Jan Cormack, a Kiwi bridge legend with an abundance of captivating life stories, who later became her partner in the New Zealand Women's team. Deborah acknowledged the invaluable guidance she received from numerous other players who generously helped her along the way.

Among her cherished memories, one stands out—the New Zealand bridge youth training weekend overseen by the late Lionel Wright. She recalled his advice, which profoundly impacted her strategic thinking: "not to play a card from dummy until she could tell the specific layout she was playing for."

Through these memories, she revealed the profound connections, mentorship, and wisdom that have enriched her bridge journey, instilling a passion that continues to drive her accomplishments in the game.

She also talked about the importance of actively playing bridge. Whether through friendly games or exploring online platforms, she encouraged players to embrace every opportunity to practice and learn. She concluded with some advice for beginners, “Don’t change your system every time you get a bad board, it just happens - no system will suit all the time. Especially if you are new, just play something simple until you have the basics. Once you have that mastered then it really comes down to style, for how adventurous you want to be."

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