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Stefan Skorchev

What was the first ever card game you played?

I used to play game called Santasse (or “66”) – 1 vs 1 game with 24 cards where the aim was to gain 66 points to win the deal.

I also played a popular French game called Belote – a partnership game with 4 players, similar to bridge but with only 32 cards.

At what age did you start playing bridge and why? Where did you learn?

I started playing bridge at the age of 12. A teacher came to school and asked if we were interested in learning chess. About 15 kids turned up and we had chess lessons for about two weeks. Then the teacher threw the chessboard away, put a deck of cards on the table and said: “Now let me show you a more interesting game!”

Cards were often associated with gambling in Bulgaria and if the teacher had initially announced that he was intending to teach us a card game, parents wouldn’t have let their children attend the lessons. A genius plan!

After two weeks of bridge lessons, I was the only kid left in the class. J

Do many young people play in Bulgaria? Is it popular generally?

For the reason stated above, bridge has never been particularly popular in Bulgaria. It is primarily played by soldiers on duty in military barracks.

Competitively around 500 people play in Bulgaria today, compared to around 250,000 players in the UK for instance. Although the size of the federation is small, Bulgaria is one of the world’s leading bridge countries and regularly secures a place in the top 6 at European championships, leading to a place at the World Championships (the Bermuda Bowl).

Bulgaria played host to the European Youth Championships in 1987, the year I was born. During the transition period after the fall of Communism, youth bridge ceased and didn’t start again until 2003 with the National Youth Championships which now attracts between 20 and 30 juniors every year. In 2007, Bulgaria came back on the international bridge scene by sending their team to the Under-20 European Junior Championships in Italy. As outsiders, the team scooped a surprise win by claiming the silver medal. Ever since, thanks to the help of generous supporters, Bulgaria participates in most of the international junior competitions.

In attempt to make bridge more popular among pupils, the Bulgarian bridge federation started organising Junior Camps that are absolutely free of charge – free accommodation, food and bridge. During this fourth year, more than 50 kids participated.

Why and when did you move to the UK?

I came over almost 3 years ago along with my girlfriend Dessy.

We love bridge and wanted to make a living out of it. As I’ve already stated, there aren’t many players in Bulgaria and very few sponsors, so a career in bridge back home is almost impossible. The decision was between the USA and UK, the latter being much closer to home.

We e-mailed three of the biggest bridge clubs in London for a job and Acol gave us a warm welcome. We consider ourselves very lucky as we discovered a different side to bridge – we were used to playing competitively at the highest level, which is not particularly friendly or sociable. Here at Acol it’s exactly the opposite – people seem to be happy and very friendly. We’d never experienced lunch breaks before but they make the sessions much more relaxed and enjoyable.

So you have succeeded in making a living out of bridge?

Yes, I am full-time bridge professional and teacher – organising sessions at the club, teaching privately and playing in big congresses and international competitions.

I am also interested in software development and I’ve founded a small company developing websites and mobile applications.

In the future, I would like to organise bridge holidays and big tournaments.

You play in tournaments, both in the UK and abroad? What’s the biggest accolade you’ve won so far? As a pro bridge player, what is your strategy for the next 5-10 years and which key tournaments you would like to enter / win?

My highest bridge accolade so far was the bronze medal from the Open European Teams Championship in San Remo, Italy in 2009 and then in 2010 the quarter finals of the Open World Teams Championship in Philadelphia, US.

My strategy in the next 5-10 years is actually not be a bridge pro. The plan is to become rich enough to afford my own bridge team – travel around the world and participate/win the best events.

I would love to win the Bermuda Bowl (World Teams Championships) – only 18 National teams from around the world meet every two years, after qualifying through their zonal championships.

What do you enjoy most about the game?

That is the most difficult question in this interview!

First of all – I love bridge, I really love it – I think this is the greatest game ever!

I like the way it is so similar to life – there are so many problems to be solved and solving them actually gives you great satisfaction.

Bridge is probably the most sociable game ever – you meet so many different people all the time, go to so many different places, meet different cultures and cuisine and so on…

How did you get so good? Any tips?

Bridge is a game of mistakes. The less mistakes you make, the more successful you are – same as life.

For a few years when I was learning (and that was in school), I was playing between 5 and 15 hours a day. Observing your mistakes and trying not to repeat them is the way to go. Of course, it is much better if someone more experienced (teacher) sits next to you and points out your mistakes. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford a teacher and I tortured expert players I knew to tell me what I was doing wrong in a particular hand.

Tips for improvers:

1. When in the game zone – stop thinking of 5 of a minor, this is your last option – 4M and 3NT are way better

2. Stop cashing your Aces and Kings in the first few tricks – what matters at the end is the total amount of tricks you’ve taken

3. Take finesses!

Tips for advanced players:

1. Count, count and count – points, distribution – don’t only count how many trumps are missing, but try to follow your second best suit as well; if opponents had bid (and sometimes even if they haven’t) – you are given information as shape and point-count – being defender or declarer you can and you should use this information;

2. Bid more in competitive auctions at the lower levels when non-vulnerable – push your opponents as high as possible – of course try not to lose 800, but at the end of the day it is only one bottom

3. Respect your partner and be nice to her/him – the final score you get is a result of your play as a partnership – if you tell your partner off, they will play worse than they usually do and that will affect your score. If you don’t think your partner is good enough for you – try and find another one, you can remain friends with your ex-partner, but if you keep playing with him/her, you are also risking your friendship.

Do you have any activities or hobbies aside from bridge?

I used to do lots of activities in school and I still practice them with friends when I have the time – volleyball, table tennis, football, chess are among my favourites. For about 10 years, I’ve enjoyed Bulgarian folk dancing as it’s really close to my heart.

What do you not like to do?

I don’t like doing nothing. I always dream to have free time to rest and once I have it, I always find something else to do.

What book / film / TV series would you recommend to members and why?

Books: “The Amphibian Man” by Alexander Belyaev; “Cash”, “Money” and “Fortune” by P.L Sulitzer

Films: “Rain Man”, “Inception”, “The Hangover”

TV series: “Game of Thrones”, “Suits”, “Modern Family”

Tosh's Specials

Continuing the theme of trying to improve your scores without learning any new darned conventions, Andrew has prepared 3 new seminars to keep you warm this winter.

The cost is £49 per person for members and £65 per person for visitors, which includes lunch, tea, filter coffee and the course notes.

If you book all three, you will receive a 15% discount!

 Saturday 18th November 2017 from 11am till 3pm

DECLARING AT DUPLICATE

In ye olde supervised /rubber bridge / teams formats your task as declarer was relatively straightforward, to make your contract, whether that contract was good, bad or indifferent.

At duplicate, it’s a different story. When should you risk your contract for an overtrick, when should you play safe? How can you tell and why? If you want the answers, this seminar is for you.

 

Monday 27th November 2017 from 11am till 3pm

RAISING 1 MAJOR

Finding major suit fits is the crux of your constructive bidding. If only it were straightforward...

Two, three or four? Jacoby or splinter? When to raise with three cards. When not to. You have done the lessons – make sure you are getting the most out of them. We will be having a long look at the ‘problem’ hands that don’t fit in with the textbooks (or your notes), but which you seem to always pick up!

 

 Sunday 3rd December 2017 from 11am till 3pm

HAND EVALUATION AND CARD READING

A two-pronged mental challenge, this one.

In the morning we will have deeper look at how to improve your bidding. Again without learning any more conventions! Do you have a good, bad or indifferent hand? And why does the same hand’s worth vary depending on the context?

After lunch we’ll move on to the dark art of card reading. Like Sherlock, we will have a go at becoming “a practitioner of the science of deduction, of using the known facts in a case to unveil the unknown”.

Nothing but an enquiring mind and a healthy imagination required.

Seminars - Members Booking

Book Specific Sessions

DECLARING AT DUPLICATE

The product (code : m-sem1) is not published.

RAISING 1 MAJOR

The product (code : m-sem2) is not published.

HAND EVALUATION AND CARD READING

The product (code : m-sem3) is not published.

BOOK ALL THREE!

The product (code : m-sems) is not published.

Seminars - Non-Members Booking

Book Specific Sessions

DECLARING AT DUPLICATE

Product
n-sem1
DECLARING AT DUPLICATE: Saturday 18th November 2017 from 11am till 3pm
Price/Unit
65.00 GBP
Qty

RAISING 1 MAJOR

Product
n-sem2
RAISING 1 MAJOR: Monday 27th November 2017 from 11am till 3pm
Price/Unit
65.00 GBP
Qty

HAND EVALUATION AND CARD READING

Product
n-sem3
HAND EVALUATION AND CARD READING: Sunday 3rd December 2017 from 11am till 3pm
Price/Unit
65.00 GBP
Qty

BOOK ALL THREE!

Product
n-sems
ALL THREE SEMINARS
Price/Unit
165.00 GBP
Qty

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Next Holiday Weekend!

Our next holiday will take place at the lovely Hever Hotel during the weekend of 19th - 21st October 2018. Click here for booking form and more information.

 

Playing Schedule

We're open every day of the year except Christmas Day!

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Book a Function Room

Function room available for bridge events in West Hampstead. For further information please call us on 020 7624 7407.

Player of the Week!

Congratulations to David Karp who is our Player of the Week after amassing an impressive total of 50 overall ladder points last week.