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Bridge mastermind talks about reaching the top

Fred Wilkie

Bridge is not just for old people as one 19-year-old whiz proves.

Bridge player Leon Meier
Bridge player Leon Meier Freddie Wilkie

Chances are you’ve heard of the card game bridge. You would probably think it is a dying game for retired people, but one man is here to prove you wrong.   

Leon Meier is a bridge mastermind taking the scene by storm. At just 19 years old he has already travelled around the country and the world playing the game. Leon started at the Christchurch club back before Covid and has been playing for three and half years.

Leon was always a very studious kid excelling in mathematics at high school. In fact, it was a maths teacher of his who got him into the game. Leon has now moved on to study financial engineering at the University of Canterbury.

It is often thought that mathematics is a key component to being a good bridge player, but Leon disagrees with that claim.

“There is a lot of maths behind the scenes in bridge, but you don’t actually have to know a lot of maths to be a good bridge player.

“There are some people who play by knowing all the statistics and working that stuff out as to what the percentage play is, but most people who are good players or great players don’t use much maths at the table."

Bridge Leon Meier Press
Bridge Leon Meier Press Freddie Wilkie

Leon doesn’t just play in Christchurch but actually around the country and even the world. He has been to represent New Zealand in Jakarta and Australia and will soon be off to the Netherlands. In the Asia Cup in Jakarta, he was on the New Zealand men’s team coming second to Hong Kong.

Despite his age he is nearly a grand master.

“I’ve played a lot of tournaments and I’ve gotten some success due to having great people who have played with me over the years.

"I’ve had some good luck and had some good results. It won’t be long til I’m a grand master.”

Leon says his success involves other people, because bridge must be played as a pair.

“I’m always playing with a partner and the partnership dynamic is interesting when comparing bridge to other games I play like chess or poker.

"In chess and poker it's just you and you're trying to make the best decisions for you but in bridge you are also trying to get the best out of your partner.

“You have to play considering what your partner is going to take from what you do, and how that’s going to affect how they play the rest of the game.”

Bridge Leon Meier class
Bridge Leon Meier class Freddie Wilkie

As well as playing the game he also teaches it.

“I encourage people to learn the game and so I teach it to those who are interested.”

Leon said he had a clear message for those who may be interested.

“Bridge is amazing because no matter how good you are or what you want out of it you can get that.

"If you’re a hyper-competitive person and you want to play in all the tournaments around the country, you can always do that.

"There is also something there for the person who wants to come once or twice a month and play with their grandma and just have a social night.

“If you like using your brain to solve problems and play games, this game is right for you.”