Andrew Rowberg, in Van de Walle's research group, is winner of the 2020 Online Collegiate Bridge Championships

Overbidder's Anonymous

UCSB’s bridge team shoots to the top of the Online Collegiate Bridge Championships

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 09:30
Santa Barbara, CA

“It’s got something for everyone,” said Andrew Rowberg, a UC Santa Barbara materials science graduate student and a self-professed ‘numbers guy.’ You can be riding high one moment but a single slip, one misread of your partner’s intentions, can bring that momentum to a halt. Or, you can be struggling to stay afloat and find in your hands an opportunity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. This is bridge.

Rowberg and his team found themselves in just this dramatic scenario as finalists in the 2020 Online Collegiate Bridge Championships. Competition this year took place entirely online. Playing out in a mashup of cold war thriller and sports underdog movie, Overbidders Anonymous, the UC Santa Barbara bridge team Rowberg founded in 2018, went into the knockout rounds riding the momentum of half-expected victories.

“I had hoped, but wasn’t exactly expecting us to win because I knew there were a lot of strong teams out there,” Rowberg said. “Schools like University of Chicago, Georgia Tech, really strong bridge programs. And I knew it would take a lot going our way. But I also was pretty confident in our team.”

He was right to be confident. Teammates Hanwen Tian, Danning Lu, Nicholas Adamski, David Mc Carthy, Ian Banta, Aaron Maharry and Michael Zheng got themselves into a groove in the preliminary rounds, taking advantage of luck and keeping their cool when the stakes got high.

The camaraderie was especially important for the team this year, amidst a global pandemic. Quarantines and lockdowns meant the American Contract Bridge League’s (ACBL) in-person games, including the College Bridge Bowl in Montreal, had been canceled, leaving loyal fans of the card game in the lurch.


Ultimately, however, UCSB’s Overbidders heaved themselves over the psychological hump and went on to make “a very impressive showing” in the final segment, giving themselves just enough points to win and to claim the title of national collegiate bridge champions.

“It was really exciting for us,” he said.

Rowberg looks forward to the day isolation and quarantines end and the the team can get together and celebrate properly — with cookies (as his fellow bridge players can attest, he’s got some serious baking skills).

“I also like to give motivational speeches and I didn’t get to do that very much,” he said. “But I hope we can have a party once everything gets back to normal.”