|Winner's a master at matching
Nine-year-old wins Ann Arbor's first SET tournament.
By Karen H. Woo - News Special Writer
The Ann Arbor News - 5/17/93
| When it comes to the popular card game SET, mental agility matters more
The proof is 9-year-old Amy Blanshard, who won the grand prize Sunday in Ann Arbor's first SET tournament.
The Ann Arbor Girl flushed shyly after winning the final round against three other players, including one who is almost 50 years her senior.
She then played a game with teenage son and daughter of SET inventor Marsha Falco, and again won in short order.
Asked what she plans to do with her winnings of $600 in U.S. savings bonds, Amy shrugged, leaving matters of finance to her proud parents.
Fifty-one contestants, ranging in age from 6 to 80, took part in the two hour competition hosted by Hertler Brothers Inc. in down town Ann Arbor. John McGovern, co-owner of the store, said he was pleased with the turnout and plans another competition in the fall.
During the tournament, contestants sat in small groups at four tables while friends, family and other contestants stood behind the roped-off section.
A $100 savings bond went to the winners in each of four age divisions: Children to 10 years old, 11 to 20, 21 to 55 and senior citizens. The four winners then competed for the grand prize: a $500 savings bond.
In the final round, Amy competed with other age group winners Erik Brubaker, 16, of Ann Arbor; Ellen Smith, 34, of Ann Arbor; and Lillian Banta, 57, of Farmington Hills.
SET involves identifying sets of three cards in a group of 12 cards. In the 81-card deck, each card features one of three symbols (oval, squiggle or diamond) in one of three colors (red, green or purple) in one of three numbers (one, two or three) in one of three shadings (filled-in, outlined or striped). To qualify as a set, each of the four features must be all the same or all different.
SET originated in 1974, when Falco was working as a population geneticist in Cambridge, England. She used cards to help learn gene combinations, and this led to developing SET. At first reserved for family and friends, the game's popularity spread by word of mouth. It hit the market in December 1990 and since then, more than100,000 games have been sold. SET Enterprises Inc. is based in East Lansing, where Falco now lives.
"It's a fun game," said Roger Perlstadt, 17. "It's a logical, analytical game." Perlstadt won East Lansing's first SET competition two years ago. In Sunday's competition, he tied twice with Brubaker before losing.
Falco's husband, Bob, their two children and a family friend served as judges at Sunday's competition, and she oversaw the final round.
During the rounds, groups of two or three players studied the cards intensely. The first person to correctly identify a set, by calling "Set" and pointing at the cards, took the cards. If incorrect, the mistake counted against him or her. At times, players called sets as soon as the judge put down cards. At other times, tension mounted before less obvious sets were identified.
"The dealer has to hurry up," Bob Falco said, laughing, in one game where the children found the sets so quickly he struggled momentarily to have the full 12 cards down.
Banta received SET for Mother's Day. "It's a great game," Banta said after winning her division. "It takes keen eyesight." A bridge player as well, she said she loves competition.
Amy Blanshard learned the game at Bach Open Elementary School in January. Locally and across the country, schools are using SET to help teach students math, organizational skills and concentration.
Amy's parents, Pete and Vickie Blanshard, praised SET as a family game, saying they play several games with there children after school. Amy is often the winner. "(Her skill) puts me to shame," said her father.