Q&A with Diyan Danailov – Bridge Champion of Note
© Alex J. Coyne for Great Bridge Links
We got an e-mail from Diyan Danailov, winner of the Cavendish Cup (2017) and the Open Pairs 9th European Open Championship (2019). He’s the face of ProBridgeLessons.com and hopes to bring the game to entirely new players with a level of enthusiasm about the game everyone can admire.
Here’s what he had to say about playing (and teaching) bridge.
Why love bridge?
DD: Bridge is a fantastic game, no matter your age. It never stops challenging you and makes you think creatively. I created Probridgelessons to help more people learn and enjoy this game no matter what level they start at – beginner, advanced or professional. There are always new tricks to learn and new techniques to master.
How did you start playing bridge?
DD: I started playing bridge in high school. I was watching my schoolmates playing the game and immediately fell in love with it.
My friends and I asked these guys to give us some lessons. After a couple of months we were four friends playing five- six times a week for at last three hours. One year later a family friend told me that there was a bridge club in our town. Three years after my first bridge hand, I started my university education.
It was in one of the biggest cities in Bulgaria. The bridge clubs were more and the players were stronger. In the beginning I just watched, then some people started teaching me.
A year later, I started playing at tournaments. More than 30 years later since it all began I can’t stop playing and thinking for bridge almost every day.
What should aspiring professional card players know?
DD: Playing bridge professionally has some good and some bad sides. To work on something that is also your hobby is the best job. Every day you learn something new, meet new people, discover different ways to play the game.
On the other side once (and if) you decide to play at major tournaments, it can involve a lot of traveling and being away from family for a long time.
What’s the most useful piece of bridge advice you’ve ever received?
DD: The most useful piece of advice for me has always been to calculate the balance of the points. This makes me count all the time, to be careful, and cautious, to be aggressive and a step-in-front of the opponents.
What inspired you to start ProBridgeLessons?
DD: My inspiration to make Probridgelessons is to teach people on everything that I know about the best game when the clubs and live tournaments are closed or when people just want to have flexibility to learn at the comfort of their own home and at their own pace.
With technology nowadays there are so many ways to continue playing and enjoying this game.
I want to share the great experience I have gained in the last 30 years, as well as show the way to the many victories I have won to other bridge fans and professionals.
What’s the hardest concept to teach someone who has never played before?
DD: To start teaching people who never play bridge before is a very difficult but very rewarding task. You have to make small steps, keep their interest, and show how exciting and vast game is the bridge. The best part is when you see their progress and enthusiasm as they learn more and more about the game.
What are your “focus techniques” for a good game?
DD: It is very important to ignore everything else when you play bridge. You must focus on every single card, bid, time for opponents’ reaction. You have to analyze the bidding, play, or defense at any time. You have to enjoy the game and not fight with the opponents or the partner. This is the way to earn friends and respect, and like bridge more and more.
Online bridge versus in-person playing: What challenges are we facing with more online bridge?
DD: Online bridge versus in-person. Playing bridge from home is not completely the same as live tournaments or club games. When playing in-person you have a live interaction and have a better chance for a fruitful discussion between the sessions, or before or after the game. It is more social and exciting.
Unfortunately, the pandemic situation has made us think outside the standard norms and how we can continue practicing this game in new circumstances, i.e move towards playing and interacting online.
The good news is that we can still play and watch many of the tournaments, big events, or just a table with friends even online. Many world-class players play almost every day online. We can learn and practice at our own pace and then join a tournament anywhere in the world without having physical restrictions.