ACES AND KNAVES

By Jackie PARÉ

WIDE - as SALES All rights, World

Documentary - Completed 2019

ACES & KNAVES zooms in on the champions, the cheaters, and the rich human drama surrounding the game of bridge—the most complex mind sport ever invented.

Festivals
& Awards

Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (online) 2021
Doc Market Films
    • Year of production
    • 2019
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • USA
    • Languages
    • ENGLISH
    • Duration
    • 52 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Jackie PARÉ
    • Producer(s)
    • Michael R. LEVINE, Jackie PARÉ (Fountain Square Productions), Michael HULL (Fifth Column Films)
    • Synopsis
    • A sedate pastime for retirees? No way! Bridge is a high-stakes whirl of brain against brain in which elite players process a million data points a minute and compete as fiercely as Olympic athletes. ACES & KNAVES captures that drama by zooming in on the champions and cheaters who dominate the game. Yes, cheaters! Like every human endeavor where money and ego hang in the balance, bridge has long had its share of tricksters. The film follows the emotional story of the codebreakers who outed the most recent batch of bad guys. And it also gets to the core of why millions of people around the globe are addicted to the game. Says bridge legend Zia Mahmood: "If I sat with you for 10 minutes at a bridge table, I would know more about you than your closest relatives do. Because I could see whether you're brave, you're strong, you're fearless. Whether you're honest or charming. It reveals everything."
      Walk in on a world championship and the room is as hushed as Wimbledon. But emotions boil beneath the surface. "My head starts spinning, and I feel my heart start beating, and I get this tickle on the back of my thighs," says Swedish champion Christina Lund Madsen. The nail biting, the self-flagellation, and the occasional sense of exhilaration are legendary among bridge players. "One minute you feel like a genius," says 5-time world champion Gail Greenberg. "And the next you wonder if you should take up finger painting instead." The big money in bridge comes from sponsors, often business titans, who hire the best players from around the world to form teams. Monthly retainers and bonuses for winning can push salaries well over $1 million a year.
      The lure of fame and fortune has produced some unusual cheating between partners, from playing footsies under the table to coughing in a certain way. Two Israelis crossed the line by the way they moved the bidding boards back and forth; an Italian duo communicated illegally by the direction in which they positioned their cards on the table. "It's such a fine line to be good enough to not get caught but to be bad enough to need or want to do it," says North American champion Gavin Wolpert.
      The thinking required in bridge is unique to the human brain. Computers can beat the world's best chess players; not so in bridge because there is often not a single optimal play. Memorizing moves is out of the question: The number of ways to distribute a deck of 52 cards to four players is 635,013,559,600. Compared to poker, which is more psychological, bridge is infinitely analytical. No surprise that it attracts a range of big brains, from Wall St. wizard Warren Buffett to Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who in the film reveals his passion for bridge and his occasional embarrassing slip up. Among its other fans across the globe: lawyers, doctors, options traders, stay-at-home moms, musicians, academics, and young students everywhere. Reebok's Paul Fireman is a fan, as is the band Radiohead, tennis ace Martina Navratilova, and