Though only in his early forties, Fred is the uncontested computer guru of the bridge world. Born in Toronto but now residing in Las Vegas with his wife, Sheri Winestock and dog Magic, he has revolutionized the hobby with a profusion of innovative concepts making the game available to people worldwide through cyberspace. A University of Toronto computer science student, he dropped out to play bridge and soon afterwards became a programmer for a bridge player operated software company. Together with Sheri, Fred founded Bridge Base, Inc. originally concentrating on educational bridge CD-ROMS but soon turning their attention to Bridge Base Online (BBO), the world’s most successful online bridge service, as well as software for producing vugraph shows for live audiences and the Internet.
Below you see an interview with Fred Gitelman. Source for this is:www.lesgogosbridgeurs.com
On its excellent Webridge site.
There is finally little interview of Fred in French and the preceding one which I knew was that published in 2002 in the not less excellent site of N@ncyTex@s and carried out by Gerald Masini.
We had then published it in one of our preceding forums of Gogosbridgeurs.
I find that it always has all its place in this forum “For better knowing them”, in order to make you discover or rediscover who am the brilliant inventor of BBO.
Name: Gitelman First name: Fred
Date of birth: 6/02/1965, in Toronto
Profession: developer of software of bridge and player of professional bridge
Residence: Las Vegas, where it moved in in May 2002, after having lived in Toronto until there.
Marital status: married to Sheri Winestock, one of the best Canadian players, in addition holder of a doctorate in history and philosophy of psychology. Without child, the couple has black Labrador retriever called Magic.
Hobbies: golf, tennis, bowling, excursion, reading, mathematics, juggling.
Classification: Diamond Life Master in classification ACBL. It thinks of being World Grand Master with the world classification, without in being completely sure. In any event, it does not attach great importance to the classifications, whatever they are.
Prize list: three money medals, with the Championships of the World Junior 1991, the Bermuda shorts Bowl 1995 and the Transnational Championships of the World by teams 2000. A gold medal, at the Great Price of the Olympic Committee 2002. It also gained two American championships north, the National Board-A MatchTeams 1999 and Reisinger Trophy 2001.
Can you tell us how you came to the bridge?
When I was child, my parents played bridge between friends, but I did not begin myself to play before being approximately seventeen years old. Schoolmates who could play had one need day for a fourth. They since then addressed to me because I was good in maths and data processing, and I nourished a true passion for this play. Brad Moss, of New York, has been my partner appointed for approximately four years. I also like to play with my wife, Sheri, and Canadian Joey Silver.
Which is your best bridgesque memory? And worst?
To finish second of the Bermuda shorts Bowl 1995 was really a great moment, because it was my first championship of the world and, in all honesty, I was by no means aware that I was able to make competition on this level. I arrived at the championships while hoping to live a great experiment, but I did not expect that my team succeeds. To gain the money medal was very pleasant surprised. My most disappointing moment is perhaps my deplorable service with the team of Canada during Olympiades of Rhodos, in 1996. After our success of 1995, I hoped well to beat me for a medal, but my team badly played and we did not qualify ourselves for the phase of KB.
Are there conventions which you like or which you do not like particularly?
Generally, I think that the proliferation of conventions made wrong to the bridge enormously: When the average player manages from there to use conventions in a number, the play becomes more difficult to learn for the beginners. _ The majority of those which use conventions do not know them correctly, which causes all kinds of hateful incidents requiring to call the referee. _ If the bridge must never be retransmitted on television, the biddings will have to be simple, if not general public will not be interested in it. Myself, I prefer much natural systems, partly for the preceding reasons, but also because I find amusing more to play bridge by using a natural system with a minimum of conventions.
I believe it that you are a player of professional bridge?
I play indeed as a professional (while being paid for that), but only in one reduced number of tournaments each year. The majority of the North-American players of profession are it full-time and take part in more than one score of tournaments per annum.
Can you speak to us about your company, Bridge Bases Inc.?
Bridge Bases Inc. is a company which develops educational softwares and services Internet related to the bridge. The company was founded by Sheri and myself, in 1990. We have worked full-time for ten years with the writing of software. I undertake the major part of the programming and the aspects of our business related to the bridge. Sheri deals with the commercial part itself. It is also responsible for the tests, of the writing of documentation and the cutting to size electronic of the data provided by the authors. We developed more than one score of educational CD-ROMS, based for the majority on the work of considered authors, like Mike Lawrence, Eddie Kantar or Larry Cohen. Our most popular product, Bridge Master 2000, were translated into ten languages, of which French. You can learn some more on our company by visiting its Web site? www.bridgebase.com. We also developed a service called Bridge Bases Online which makes it possible to play bridge and to devote itself to various educational activities related to the bridge. It is 100% free and you can download the software starting from www.bridgebase.com/online. Test it! It is marvellous and there are now many French bridge players who play on line on this site.
Does it also sometimes happen to you to play on line on Internet?
I play with Bridge Bases Online. I play sometimes with friends, but I use also the bridge on line to involve me with my usual partners. It is very practical because, as Brad (Moss) lives in New York and me in Las Vegas, it is difficult to join together us to involve us.
Do you think that the computer will modify the practices of the bridge players, even the teaching of the bridge and the course of the championships?
It is an obviousness. The bridge on line will change the way of playing everywhere in the world. As regards the international championships, the only major change that I see in an immediate future is the diffusion on line on Internet of an increasingly large number of them. It is necessary time so that the organizers of the major tournaments evolve/move and I do not think that the use of computers instead of charts is there for soon. For teaching, it is different. The educational softwares are more effective and more amusing that the traditional means to learn the bridge (such as the reading of specialized works). Thanks to them, the student out of average bridge will be able to better play. The teachers of the bridge will have to adapt to new technologies if they want to remain in the part.
According to you, which are qualities necessary to make a good player of bridge and which are yours?
The capacity not to lose its concentration is the most important factor. But it is also necessary to be able to control its emotions with the table to be an effective player (and so that the partner is able to play his best bridge). One of my greater qualities is the fact of being an excellent partner: I never carry myself against my partner and I am always interdependent when it makes a bad decision. I also studied the play much more seriously than the majority of the high level players. My greater defect is my natural lack of combativeness. To gain, it is important to want to gain. During many years, I played bridge not with an aim of gaining tournaments but because I thought that it was a splendid play. I had to take on me to change, now that I try to take part in the major competitions. That did not come to me naturally.
The majority of the French players do not know anything with the North-American bridge. Could you tell us some words on the question?
In North America, all the tournaments are organized by the American Federation of Bridge (ACBL), to which also the players of Canada, Mexico and Bermuda belong. Each year are held three tournaments indicated like the Championships of North America (North American Bridge Championships, NABC), which are most important by far that the ACBL organizes: Spring NABC, Summer NABC and Fall NABC. Each one of them lasts ten days and comprise many tests. They attract a great number of players of all levels and all nationalities (since they are open). I think that the average frequentation must be at the neighbourhoods of five thousand people. Each year also, a tournament makes it possible to constitute the national teams: US TEAM Trials for the United States, National Canadian TEAM Championships for Canada. There is perhaps a hundred tournaments known as regional (regional in English), which are somewhat similar to those in which I played in France, like the Festival of Deauville, like several hundreds of tournaments known as catégoriels (sectional). They are the tournaments of lower category, where the level of play is typically not much more extremely than that of a tournament of a club of average bridge. The players gain of Master Points to the tournaments of the ACBL. The system does not function however very well in terms of classification, for the reason which it is easy to gain of the points simply while taking part in a great number of tournaments.
You gained the Great Price of the Olympic International Committee with Salt Lake City in February, with Keith Balcombe, Gordon Campbell, Nicholas Gartaganis, Peter Jones and Joseph Silver.
The World Federation did beautiful work by organizing this tournament. To gain the victory gave me the great shiver. Canada was not supposed to fight for the first places and it is always more exciting to gain when its team is given losing rather than favorite!
In semi-final, you beat the frightening Italian team, which seemed invincible. It had in particular gained the eliminating heats with more than 30 statement in advance over Norway, second.
In my opinion, it is currently the best team of the world. I admire much the Italians, who are in more all very sympathetic nerves. I did not give many chances to beat them with my Canadian team. It was a very good match, with many interesting hands. My partner and me were confronted with multiple situations of slam in the third and fourth quarters time and we made better decisions that the Italians. My team had at one time 50 IMP of delay. With the passing, it is difficult to imagine that she was able to return to the score with such a variation, but my fellow-members never lowered the arms.
You then beat Poland finally. This match was it more difficult than the precedent?
I would not say that. It was tighter on the end. The Poles, like the Italians, are large card players and are very fittés. I must say that they did everything proof of a great sporting spirit during these matches. Even if to lose against Canada had to be somewhat embarrassing for them, they warmly have us happiness after their defeat, as true gentlemen.
Are there notable differences in style between the large North-American and European players?
I do not think. The practices with the chart vary from one country to another. The French like to give the account, the Italians base their indication on the parity of the charts, the Americans prefer the direct call. A great number of the best American pairs use a system of bidding similar to the French system, but the strong Clover also has many followers. The Polish and Swedish systems used by some of the best European pairs did not yet really take in America, but that will change, in my opinion, because these systems appear to be at the same time effective and difficult to thwart. It also seemed to to me that the high level European players are younger on average than their American counterparts.
Which are, in your opinion, the strongest teams currently on a world level?
Italy, Poland and the USA. A few years ago, I would have added France but, for a reason which I am unaware of, the French did not do anything these last years. Indonesia, Brazil, Sweden, Norway, Bulgaria and Russia (without particular order) is also close to the top.
You gained the last Reisinger Trophy with the American players Bjorn, Fallenius, Steve Garner, Brad Moss, Howard Weinstein and Roy Welland. The Championships of the World of Montreal, you played with the same ones. Is this your usual team?
Indeed. It is unfortunately a very discussed call which decided victory in Reisinger and which saved my team in the place of the Italians. I think that there should not be possibility of call to the bridge, for two reasons. On the one hand, when the victory in a major test is given following a call, it results from it always much from rancours. In addition, in America, the boards of appeals tend not to show a great effectiveness and I believe that the decisions of the referees are quite as good with long. Normally, I should have been very excited with the idea to gain Reisinger, but the call very wasted. During all the time of the meeting of the commission, I said myself: what they decide is completely random and little imports me to finish first or second. to Montreal, we did not pass the eliminating heats. It was a large disappointment, but the fact is that we very badly played!
Is this for you the beginning of a new career of professional player with the USA?
I would not say that it is about a new career. My principal activity remains the software. As I underlined to start, I play as a professional only in the major tournaments, contrary to the majority of the other professional players. My objective is to try to represent the USA during future championships of the world. But it will not be easy, because the very strong teams are numerous in the country.
The efforts of the World Federation to play bridge an Olympic sport did not succeed. Do you think that that would have been advantageous with the bridge?
I have a long time think that it there be no chance that the bridge enter to Game Olympic, but I can really not reproach with federation to have test because that have undoubtedly be good for the bridge if it have succeed. ? my opinion, the educational softwares and the Internet represents our best hopes to attract more the young people towards the bridge. To put the bridge and the software of bridge in the school system of various countries would be a very good thing. I hope that the interest of Bill Gates for the bridge will help to make the play more popular. Bill is a friend and we play often together. It likes really the bridge and it is one of the rare people in the world to have the means of contributing to return the future of our more radiant play.
Do you wish to add something before finishing?
I would like to say that I played in France several times and that I have each time taken pleasure with my visits. I always admired the high level French players for their so powerful natural systems. Thank you for your interest for me and my work.
Thanks for having so pleasantly agreed to answer these questions. Good luck for the continuation of your career.
(reproduced with the pleasant authorization of Gerald Masini who collected and translated these remarks the 16.09.2002 for excellentN@NCYTEX@S(newspaper of the club of Nancy-Jarville)
N@NCYTEX@Sn° 34 and Gerald Masini 2002
Below you see another interview with Fred Gitelman. This link is to the french source:Interview de Fred Gitelman