Nonagenarian slays competition in African bridge tournament
Johannesburg nonagenarian Joy Rothenberg is competing this week in an all-African bridge tournament, having recently received her South African colours to represent her country. On 22 May, she played against Egypt and Tunisia in the All Africa Zonals tournament and won both matches.
“It’s mind-blowing to be able to get my colours and represent my country now,” said Rothenberg, 93, this week shortly before the competition began. “I never thought I would get this far.”
She said her bridge partner had asked her to take part in a team of six in a national competition. “I was hesitant a first, but very excited. We won, and now we’re playing for South Africa.”
To date, Rothenberg has only ever played at some Johannesburg bridge congresses, smaller competitions, and in an inter-club tournament. In the latter, she said, “ we walked away with the cup”.
Rothenberg plays socially about five times a week. “I’m part of The Links Bridge Club, but I play mostly online as it is much more convenient.”
Rothenberg was born in Johannesburg in 1930 to a British mother. “We lived in London for two years, but moved back to South Africa and settled in Benoni.” She met her husband when they were both 18, got married at 22, and had three children. She now has grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
In her mid-30s, Rothenberg started playing bridge and discovered she not only had a natural ability, she was also really good at teaching the game. “A friend asked me to teach her to play, and shortly thereafter, I was inundated with people asking me to teach them to play.”
So, she became a bridge teacher and taught for 30 years. During that time, she wrote a book that helped people learn to play. “I contacted the Sandton Chronicle at the time, and they agreed to interview me about the book,” she said. “A few days later, Exclusive Books asked if it could see the book. That led to a first order of 10 books and three months later, I had a number-one best seller. We started selling the book in Cape Town and Durban, and copies were sent to the United States and Australia.”
She then started a bridge club in Rivonia with a friend of hers, which they ran for six years.
She says bridge “is fascinating no matter how old you are”. What’s more, as she discovered, “if you’re a good player, you’ll be inundated with invitations to play. The game is so good for the mind and keeping you socially active.”