In a quiet Phoenix shopping plaza earlier this month, two local women bested all but one pair of bridge players among thousands in a worldwide bridge tournament.
Sharon Fauss of Central Point and Dorothy Purcell of Eagle Point earned second place — by narrow margin — in the World Bridge Federation Worldwide, a regulation tournament held at the Jackson County Bridge Center in conjunction with 254 other bridge clubs spanning 27 countries.
The tournament drew 5,060 bridge pairs who competed across the world in what's known as a duplicate tournament, in which contestants play the same hands at locations around the world and earn points based on how each pair plays the hands. The teams played a minimum of 20 hands.
Among the top 15 finishers in the tournament, only six were based in the United States.
"We haven't played together a lot," Fauss said. "We've often played separately, but not together."
"But we play the same system," Purcell said, noting that they both use a two-over-one bidding system to communicate with each other the contents of their hand in play. "As long as you do that, you can play with almost anybody."
The pair knew they had a good game, but it wasn't until a day after the June7-8 tournament that Fauss and Purcell learned just how well they had performed.
"We got called in the morning, and I thought, 'You're kidding,' " Purcell said.
The pair scored 72.41 percent, while the winners, based in Lexington, Ky., finished with a score of 72.74 percent.
"It wasn't a big difference and, in fact, here at the local club, our score came out to a 73.3. And the pair that got first at their club got a 69-point something," Fauss said. "We were like four-tenths of a point below them."
Bridge is an important part of the women's lives.
"A good bridge player plays a lot of bridge and plays for a lot of years," Fauss said. "I probably play bridge almost every day of the week, and I compete in a lot of tournaments."
Bringing new people to bridge is important to Fauss, who directs a game on Saturdays at noon.
"It's actually geared toward working people," she said.
Both believe there's room for social bridge players to explore competitive bridge in a supportive environment.
"It used to be that people didn't want to play because, 'Oh, they're just so vicious there. So cutthroat.' Well, ACBL (the American Contract Bridge League) came out with a zero tolerance, so that if someone was rude at the table you could tell the director and the director will warn them," Purcell said.
"It's the nicest group I've ever played in," Purcell said of the Jackson County Bridge Club. "And I've played in several."
Competitive players compete for points and work to achieve different levels of "Life Master" in ACBL.
"You don't get prizes, you get points," said Leah McKechnie, tournament director and owner of the Jackson County Bridge Center. "The first-place winners of this tournament will get 30 points — and that's a really big deal."
In contrast, McKechnie said, winning a standard local game usually earns the player one or two points. Tabulations for Purcell and Fauss aren't complete, but McKechnie anticipates they will each earn about 25 points.
"They won't know for sure until July," McKechnie said.
The bridge center is open six days a week, and holds Saturday lessons and evening games on weekdays geared toward working people, McKechnie said. Thursday events are aimed at newcomers.
For information, call 541-261-6321 or see www.dan-voorhies.bridge-centre.org.
Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.