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Georgia Youth Pairs Win!

Two of the best and most experienced youth pairs in Georgia teamed together to win the Georgia State Championship Youth Open Teams bridge championship at the Atlanta sectional in Roswell on March 3, 2007.

Ten year old Mili Raina and twelve year old Zandy Rizzo won the Georgia State Championship Youth Open Pairs in December and teamed with thirteen year old Sean Gannon and eleven year old Hunter Smith, who finished second in the same event, to go unbeaten in the Open Teams event and win by 7 victory points. Mili, Zandy and Hunter are all taught by Carolyn Eckert.

Mili is a 5th grade student at Ocee Elementary School in Fulton County. She started playing bridge over a year ago as part of the curriculum in the advanced math program taught by Mrs. Eckert and now, with her teammates, goes to bridge lessons at Mrs. Eckert’s house. Mili says that, “Bridge is really fun – it makes me think” and claims “Bridge helps to relieve stress!” Her mother said that, “She has been playing chess, but now all she wants to do is play bridge. Every day they go for bridge, they finish their homework early”.

Zandy is a 6th grade student at Notre Dame Academy in Duluth. He has been playing for a year and a half. In one of the matches Zandy proudly scored 1480 (4 spades redoubled with an overtrick) to help win the match and the championship.

Hunter is in sixth grade at Taylor Road Middle School in Alpharetta. He has been playing for 18 months. Hunter said that he loves to win but you have got to have fun playing with your partner.

Sean is a ninth grader at Woodward Academy in Atlanta. His father Rick taught him to play two years ago. Sean now has over 50 masterpoints and has the most masterpoints of Atlanta’s growing youth bridge population.

The Holton team – Grant Holton (11), Alexander Hammond (7), Michelle Smith (12), Lauren Pinion (12) and the Kane team – Bennett Kane (13), Mitchell Kirkpatrick (13), Nick Taylor (13) and Daniel Khalek (12) tied for second place.

This was Grant’s first tournament and he wants to become a mathematician. Alexander is a second grader at Lovett.  Lauren has been playing for over a year with the group from Mrs. Eckert’s class.  Michelle started her bridge training over a year ago as part of the curriculum in the advanced math program at Ocee Elementary School taught by Mrs. Eckert.  She continued her bridge with Nancy Watkins last summer at one of Atlanta Junior Bridge’s numerous summer camps.

Three of the Kane team are from Dickerson Middle School in Marietta and are taught by Mrs. Martha Ouderkirk. All four have been friends for many years.

Kevin Cooney(10), Austin Agerton (11), Angie Green (11), Surabhi Ghai (11) finished fourth.  All four also attended Atlanta Junior Bridge’s summer camp taught by Ms. Watkins.

Sharon Cooper, State Representative for Marietta, presented the trophies to the winners and congratulated everyone stating, “I am very proud of you spending your Saturday mornings playing bridge. In the United States, we are far behind other countries in Math and Science. You are going to lead the way to helping us change that into being the top country in the world.”

Nancy Watkins directed the event and commented, “The kids are a lot friendlier and more forgiving of their partner’s mistakes.”

The State Championship was the first of its kind in the country. The Georgia championship was open to all players under 19 who lived in the state. The tournament was organized by Atlanta Junior Bridge (AJB) with support from the Duplicate Bridge Association of Atlanta (DBAA) and Unit 114 of the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL). The event was sponsored by Ed and Judy Hales.

Final standings:

1. Sean Gannon - Zandy Rizzo - Hunter Smith - Mili Raina
2/3 Grant Holton - Alexander Hammond - Michelle Smith - Lauren Pinon
2/3 Bennett Kane - Mitchell Kirkpatrick - Nick Taylor - Daniel Khalek
4. Kevin Cooney - Austin Agerton - Angie Green - Surabhi Ghai