After 10 days at the tables, nearly 6,000 bridge players are packing up their cards, their coffee mugs and their keepsakes for the long journey home. And local merchants are waving a reluctant goodbye.

The 1988 Summer North American Bridge Championships ends Sunday, after attracting throngs to the Salt Palace and giving the local economy a much-welcomed boost.One of the largest groups of visitors to come to Salt Lake City this year, the bridge players are leaving much of their money behind - from $8 million to $10 million, by some estimates.

Sherri Rosen, public relations coordinator for the American Contract Bridge League, said local hotels and restaurants weren't the only ones ringing the cash register bell. A variety of tours were offered daily to bridge players - everything from a ride on Salt Lake City's downtown trolley to chuckwagon dinners, canyon parties and a day at Snowbird.

Temple Square and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir were among the favorites for players who wanted a break from the concentration at the card tables, she said.

Along with bringing needed tourism dollars, the tournament exposed many first-time visitors to Utah, much to the delight of city and state tourism officials.

The state's most recent advertising campaign, touting Utah as "pretty" and "great" would get the nod from most participants, Rosen said. "My personal opinion, which has been echoed by many people, is that you have a clean, beautiful, city with warm and friendly people. There's a good feeling here. I don't really know how to put it into words, other than that. But Salt Lake has been a nice place to play."

Rosen said many Utahns who dropped in on the tournament to watch ended up being coached in the finer points of bridge by players.

"We had folks coming in off the street. In fact, I was walking out of a restaurant, and a middle-aged couple asked if I was going to the bridge tournament. I brought them in, gave them some literature and entered them in a session, then checked back on them a couple of hours later. They were having a ball."

A team lead by Jim Mahaffey of Winter Park, Fla., squeezed by New Yorker Ron Rubin's team to win the Spingold Master Knockout Teams competition.

Mahaffey's teammates include Ron Andersen, of Carrollton, Texas, Paul Soloway, Mill Creek, Wash., Bobby Goldman, Highland Village, Texas, Eric Rodwell, West Lafayette, Indiana, and Jeff Meckstroth, Pinkerton, Ohio.

The losing team, included Rubin, Mike Becker, of Tenafly, N.J., Peter Weichsel, Encinitas, Calif., Bobby Levin, Hollywood, Fla., Bart Bramley, Chicago, and Lou Bluhm, Atlanta, Ga.

The victory qualifies the Mahaffey team to complete for the right to represent the U.S. in world competition.

In Friday's final rounds of the Women's Knockout Teams, the winning team consisted of Beverly Rosenberg, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., Helen Utegaard, of Carmichael, Calif., Susan Weinstein, of Northbrook, Ill., Janice Seamon, of Miami, Carol Pincus, of Los Angeles, and Pat Schor, of San Diego.

They defeated Terry Michaels, Prairie Village, Kansas, Cindy Bernstein, Bryan, Texas, Linda Perlman, Miami, Sue Sachs, Baltimore, Md., Sally Wheeler, Houston, an Jo Morse, Silver Spring, Md.