November 24, 2008 · Updated 6:52 PM
Bridge. A game of skill, chance and finesse. It's a favorite pastime of billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and Islanders too. Successful players must be in tune with their partner, patient and as skilled in bluffing as any high stakes poker player.
That and practice -- 40 years of practice -- paid off for Islander Helen Abbott as she and her bridge partner, Polly Dunn of Bellevue, took an amazing second place at a national bridge competition in Pittsburgh earlier this month.
The pair, who have played together since 1998, played 100 hands of cards in marathon sessions over two days.
Abbott, who has won or placed in regional and sectional contests, is thrilled. When asked what cards or bids made the difference in the tournament, the veteran player tried to explain. But the intricacies of the bidding and tricks were soon beyond the understanding of this casual player.
Abbott took her first bridge lesson when her husband shipped out to serve in Korean Conflict in the late 1950s.
``I took a class in the stock market and another class in how to play bridge at the Y in downtown Seattle,'' she said.
Abbott has played at the weekly bridge sessions organized by Marsha Rayton and held at the Congregational Church every Tuesday night for years. She has her own bridge students.
I seems that practice has made Abbott nearly perfect.
Superintendent of Mercer Island School District and avid baseball fan, Cyndy Simms, was honored by the Mercer Island High School baseball team when she was asked to throw out the first pitch for the team's season opener last Thursday. The Islanders went on to win the game, handily defeating the Chief Sealth team 7-0.
It was the first time anyone can remember a ceremonial pitch at a Mercer Island High School baseball game. The idea came from the Baseball Booster Club board.
Simms donned a MIHS T-shirt for the occasion and admitted later that she was nervous about getting the ball all the way across the plate.
``I think it was OK,'' said third baseman and team co-captain, senior Sam Selby, of the toss. ``It didn't bounce or anything.''
Simms is an athlete. Being from Steamboat Springs Colo., she is an expert skier. She ran the half-marathon at the Rotary Run March 20 with a team of school staff.
As a memento for delivering the first pitch, she received a bouquet of flowers and the ball signed by the co-captains.