Jim McAvoy jokes that he’s lost more bridge games than most people have played.
It’s likely true, as he now has nearly 8,000 points as a competitive bridge player.
When he hit Life Master at 300 points, McAvoy felt on top of the world. Decades later he’s learned there’s always more to learn.
“To get better, your a function of who you play. You have to do a lot of losing to win,” he says. “It wasn’t horrible to lose, because you’re losing to the world’s best.”
The long-time Oak Bay resident is one of Canada’s top-ranked players, having discovered bridge during his first year studying at the University of Victoria.
He knew he wanted – needed – to step up and delve deeper into the game. Improvement wasn’t an option, but a must, and he found the only way to do that was to explore beyond local club competition.
“Then I started to play really competitively,” he said. McAvoy steadily shifted upward from local to provincial, national and international competition over a 40-year span.
As a chartered accountant dealing primarily with tax issues, McAvoy needs a keen mind to stay in the game, both in bridge and his career.
“You have to direct the problem and take in little pieces and bridge helps you do that,” he says.
“Health-wise it’s really important to use your mind.”
With thousands of games under his belt, six bridge championships stand out for McAvoy.
His first Canadian championship with partner Duncan Smith in 1992; a second national win in 2011 with Michael Hargreaves, and the most recent three Central America championships alongside his wife, Constance McAvoy.
“When we play bridge together, we’re in a different zone … and who better to travel with,” he said of partnering with his wife of more than 30 years. “It’s a partnership game so it’s important your partner is relaxed and on top of their game.”
For that reason, he and Constance tend to take a holiday the week before a tournament. They have won three consecutive bridge championships in Central America and the Caribbean, most recently last May in Barbados.
“You meet some really interesting people all over the world. It’s really deepened an appreciation for being Canadian and living where we do. When they hear ‘Canada,’ the world smiles. We have an amazing international reputation,” he said.
“Whether the guy on your right is Russian and speaks Russian doesn’t matter, we’re speaking a bridge language.”
The highlight for McAvoy, aside from new friends, is simply representing the nation wherever he plays. “I’m the most avid fan of Canada,” he says. “I get a thrill every time I look up and see our names and Canada beside it.”