I hope my reasons appeal to you and that you
will consider learning
to play bridge. I promise you, you won't be sorry!
Everyone is concerned about health and well-being. Hundreds
books and magazine articles have been published about dieting,
nutrition, emotional well-being, spiritual fulfillment,
self-confidence, financial security, etc. But what about
well-being of one's intellect? That's obscure, but surely
important as one's cholesterol level! There was an article
September, 2003 issue of the American Contract Bridge League's
publication, the "Bridge Bulletin," which quotes
studies that extol
the power of "brain-boosting" leisure activities.
(including bridge, which is a mental sport requiring the
memory, concentration, logic, psychology, and a little math)
associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease. Bridge,
games like it (such as chess), show a "74% reduced risk
playing four or more days [a week], compared to those who
weekly, less or never," says Joe Verghese, MD, of the
College of Medicine in New York. I don't know if brain-boosting
activities are also related to financial success, but as
playing bridge and financial success definitely have a correlation.
The two wealthiest Americans (according to Forbes magazine),
Gates and Warren Buffett, play, and so do many Wall Street
traders, Congressmen, college professors, doctors, lawyers,
businessmen, and computer mavens.
Unfortunately, it's possible to be in tip-top shape in
areas mentioned above, and still suffer from the ineffable
loneliness. Even a person with a "full" life can
feel lonely. Bridge
is a very social game. For one thing, four people are required
play. If you're involved in competitive bridge, there are
even hundreds of other players sitting with you in the same
it physical or virtual). In competition, you change opponents
every few deals. There is no limit to the people you meet,
people are friendly (although it's a good idea to have a
because some bridge players get emotional when things go
take it out on their partners!). Players like to discuss
after the game (this is called the "post-mortem"),
so even a person
without social skills can enjoy a cup of coffee with a group
people, and contribute his two cents about why you should
ace of spades instead of the queen.
Bridge players don't care about how rich, smart, attractive,
successful, or popular you are. Your background, your race,
politics, and your social standing are totally irrelevant.
writers for Bridge Today Magazine over the years have included
Mahmood, a star player from Pakistan; Kathie Wei Sender,
world champion from China (who, by the way, was able to help
American trade with China because the Premier and other leading
figures in the Chinese government at that time were all
players!); Omar Sharif (the movie star from Egypt); as well
writers from Israel, England, Scotland, Sweden, Poland, Australia,
Canada, and even Croatia! (English, by the way, is the
language of bridge, which explains why our writers from non-English
speaking countries have no trouble providing us with material.)
illustrate how unifying bridge is, my husband and I are
Lubavitcher Jews who moved from upstate New York to Israel
10 years ago. Our office manager of more than a decade
is a fundamentalist Christian who lives in Georgia. Our
computer tech lives in Montreal and we don't even know
his religion or politics. Our business partners are from
Silicon Valley and Ontario, our writers live all over the
world, and our bridge partners are from New York City and
Vermont. Even age doesn't matter. I am 50 and my husband
is 52, but our close bridge friends and partners include
people in their sixties, seventies and eighties.
You can enjoy bridge actively or passively. My 75-year-old
for example, doesn't play at all but he reads the daily bridge column
in his newspaper. My 81-year-old mother-in-law plays just about every
single day at a bridge club or at her home or the homes of her
friends. Most serious players compete in at least two or three
duplicate games every week, plus a few out-of-town tournaments. Three
times a year there are North American Bridge Championships held in
major American cities such as New Orleans, San Francisco, and
Washington D.C. The first major competition of the day doesn't begin
until 1 p.m., so players can enjoy some sight-seeing in the mornings.
Games for players at every level are available. You can play three
sessions a day, or two, or one, or you can take a day off for touring
or kibitzing. For non-active players, there are several magazines,
dozens of daily, weekly, or monthly bridge columns, plus hundreds of
bridge books to read.
I think the most wonderful thing about bridge is that you
it in your home. You don't have to leave the children with
baby-sitters. If you're immobile or ill, G-d forbid, you can have
this amazing hobby which takes you "out on the town" without leaving
home. In addition, if you play bridge at home, you don't have to
spend a fortune to have a good time. Some computer tournaments, such
as those on Bridgebase.com, are totally free, while one of the most
popular virtual bridge club, OKbridge, costs only $99 per year. Our
web site offers a membership which includes daily columns, a monthly
e-magazine, lessons, and a ton of exclusive bridge material for less
than $5 per month. That's a great deal cheaper than buying even one
bridge book per month, or playing in one duplicate game! Actually, if
you're on a very tight budget, you don't have to spend any money at
all. You can play in your home with friends, or at one of the free
bridge clubs online, and you can read the daily column in your
newspaper or access free columns on our web site or others like it.
Literature is replete with allusions to bridge. If you
play bridge, you'll finally know what they're talking about! For
Witness" by Michael Malone, published by Sourcebooks,
2002, p. 209:
eight of us guests remaining were then commanded by Edwina
play bridge. She picked me for her partner, and after I overrode some
of her greedier swoops on the bid, we came out the winners, with
$38.55. Well, I'm a good bridge player, despite a lack of practice
opportunities other than the games in the newspaper. At any rate,
Edwina was impressed...."
[Edwina] said, 'Meaning, Cuthbert, I just hope you aren't
going to waste your life - as you so bluntly implied I
had wasted mine.'
said, 'I just hope you aren't ever going to bid four notrump
with a singleton again.'"
a way, this is the weakest reason to learn to play bridge,
but I remember that watching people play bridge in the
movies before I knew how to play drove me crazy. I wanted
to know what was going on when a character would say, "I
bid four spades" or whatever.
Bridge is a healthy way to channel one's competitive urge.
I think feeling competitive is part of normal human nature,
but when there is no healthy outlet for it, many of us
feel competitive in non-constructive ways (such as "keeping
up with the Jones's"). Bridge, like life, isn't totally
fair. Sometimes a less talented player will best an expert
thanks to good luck or even accident. You can't imagine
the thrill of defeating a player you know is better than
possibility doesn't exist much in the non-bridge
world, and it nourishes the competitive drive in a healthy way
because you can be competitive and humble at the same time (even if
you best an expert on a hand, you still know how you play compared to
how he plays!). In addition, you can be an ordinary person and play
against the best players in the world at a championship tournament!
In the early stages of a championship, just about anyone who is at
all competent can enter, so you get to compete against the experts
even as you're learning. You will almost surely lose the match, but
it's possible, and even likely, that you'll have at least one good " result" (score on a single bridge hand) against your expert opponent
in a session. By the way, the experts tend to be generous. If an
expert has a bad result against a weaker player, he or she will
usually give the weaker player a compliment. In addition, most
experts are willing to answer questions from ordinary players.
Imagine being able to go up to Tiger Woods and ask him to explain
what's wrong with your golf swing! It would never happen, but famous
expert bridge players will cheerfully answer a stranger who wants to
know why three notrump is the right bid on the last hand.
The game itself is a great deal of fun! Playing bridge
you with something challenging to think about instead of worrying
about terrorism, the ecology, yourself, etc. As an intellectual
pursuit, it takes you outside of yourself and your worries. Bridge is
amazingly absorbing and the time passes incredibly quickly while
you're playing (unless you are having a dreadful game or you dislike
your partner). In addition, bridge is very deep. You can play for
years and years and go from level to level, learn more and more, and
find the challenge of becoming a good player inexhaustible. Most
bridge players stick with this game for life (whether actively or
passively) because, to paraphrase Rogers and Hart, once you have
found it, you never let it go.
Back to News and Photos page