With a vocabulary all its own, bridge can seem like a foreign language to the uninitiated, but people like Michael Hess can turn 13 playing cards into a statement of victory. Hess, a Wilton resident who is a Level 5 gold life master of the game, will get a chance to match wits with the best of the best when he and his partner, Gary Miyashiro, a silver life master from West Redding, compete in the Summer North American Bridge Championship July 19 in Toronto. Hess and Miyashiro will compete in a team of four that also includes Barry Bragin of Prospect and Weiling Zhao of Brookfield. They \u00a0will represent District 25 \u2014 the New England Bridge Conference \u2014 of the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL). For Hess and Miyashiro, this won\u2019t be their first trip to the championships. They played together in the summer of 1981 where one of their competitors was U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. \u201cWe did OK,\u201d Hess said during an interview at the Wilton Senior Center last week. Stevens wasn\u2019t the only celebrity at that event. \u201cA few seats away was Omar Sharif,\u201d Hess said, adding they did not get to play against the actor. To get to Toronto, Hess\u2019s team won a two-day regional tournament in April in Sturbridge, Mass. An analysis of the 28 hands they played in the finals round may be found\u00a0here. Hess has been playing the game for more than 40 years. A pinochle and poker player while at Loyola University, he picked up bridge while studying for a master\u2019s degree in psychology at Columbia University. \u201cI glommed onto it right away,\u201d he said. Hess met Miyashiro when they were both students at Wharton where Hess was studying for an MBA. In 1977 they won their first ACBL masterpoints in a non-masters pairs competition in Cherry Hill, N.J. As with many avocations, life took over and Hess worked to balance family, work, and bridge throughout his career in advertising. While living in the Chicago area, he played regularly on the commuter train. When he semi-retired in 2015, there was more time for bridge and so he and Miyashiro began playing again. They play with the Newtown League, where Miyashiro is a member. When Hess and his teammates begin play in Toronto next week they will be one of 32 teams to start. That number will be reduced to 16, then eight, then four, with the two final teams playing Sunday, July 23. To reduce the luck factor with the draw of the cards, each team will play the same hands. The cards are pre-dealt and kept in a device called a board, with a slot for each seat. After a hand has been played, all four players put their cards back into the board, ready to be played by the next team. What makes Hess and Miyashiro a good team? \u201cWe\u2019re both analytical, we both love the game, and we both care about all the aspects of the game from bidding to play,\u201d Hess said. \u201cSome players don\u2019t care for defense, but Gary and I both really like defense,\u201d he added, which is important since it is half the game. \u201cWhat\u2019s really important is we go easy on each other\u2019s mistakes,\u201d he added. \u201cIt\u2019s a tough game, you inevitably make mistakes.\u201d After each game in Newtown they spend half an hour or so analyzing their play. \u201cWe take responsibility for our errors. We\u2019re both even keel,\u201d he said. That last quality is evident from one of the comments on the District 25 analysis of their play in Sturbridge which said, \u201cGary and Mike don't jostle easily.\u201d Miyashiro told The Bulletin\u2019s sister paper, The Redding Pilot, he enjoys bridge because it\u2019s mentally challenging. \u201cIt's a combination of chess and poker. It involves a lot of strategy. You have to be able to think ahead, read your opponents and understand strategy,\u201d he said. Part of the fun of the game for Miyashiro is the suspense surrounding it. \u201cI have always believed that every hand is an adventure because every hand is different,\u201d he said. However, he pointed out that bridge differs from both chess and poker in that, while the other two games are individual, bridge is a partnership. \u201cYou not only have to be able to play well yourself, you have to be able to communicate and play well with your partner,\u201d he said. \u201cIt\u2019s a great social game.\u201d The grand prize is not money but masterpoints. Hess received 36 gold points for winning the regional tournament to add to his total of more than 2,500. To become a sapphire life master he needs 3,500 points. For him, the prize is \u201crecognition in the bridge community and satisfaction.\u201d The lack of a monetary prize is not a problem since for him, \u201cbridge is an art form.\u201d Bridge in Wilton Hess moved to Wilton in 2004 when he became global research director for a big advertising agency. He now divides his time between statistical modeling for advertising and teaching bridge. He was first approached to teach by Rolling Hills Country Club. \u201cI figured it would be fun\u201d to teach, he said, \u201cbut I didn\u2019t realize how big the demand would be. He then began teaching bridge at the Wilton Senior Center as well, and then Wilton Continuing Education. In the fall he will teach two classes at Staples High School. \u201cThere\u2019s been a groundswell of interest in bridge,\u201d he said. \u201cAs the baby boomers retire, bridge has become popular.\u201d Some people want to play with their elderly parents, he said, while others have read that playing games like bridge is good for the brain.\u2014 Sandra Fox contributed to this story.