Lifelong Pursuits: Hooked on Bridge
North: “Didn’t you add up your points?!”
South: “I did, but —”
North: “You must not have counted that singleton.”
South: Well, yes I did, but not till after the second bid ... but I know there’s no point in continuing the sure-to-be futile justification. My partner sighs, and plays to the lead on the table.
If you don’t play bridge, you doubtless wonder why anyone would want to bother. It’s obvious that almost every every single hand leaves room for argument and discussion from the first bid to the last card that falls. Scoring is complex enough to keep an inumerate like me from trying.
There were six of us in our section of the dorm my senior year in college. Two had schedules so full of labs they’d never have time for a bridge game ... and there was me. Already intimidated by my younger cousin who played tournament bridge at twelve, I’d never learned. My suite-mates’ sheer desperation made me a candidate for a fourth. Over 65 years ago, that’s how I got involved with a lasting obsession.
If you can imagine a couple of hands played between one class half a mile away and another at a later time, or before knuckling down to homework … always on a rumpled bedspread with one of us sitting on the floor, you’ll get a picture of those games. With no head for numbers, I’m glad in some ways that my mentor was mostly interested in simply finding someone to make it possible for her and the other two to deal a few hands and play them. To say they taught me the basics might be a slight exaggeration. It’s true that many of the rules they taught me have been superseded in the decades since I learned them, and that doesn’t lessen my frequent confusion and misjudgments.
Once I got out of school and returned home, I knew no one who played bridge, and nearly forgot about the game, except for a few months after my father’s death when my husband and I played occasionally with my mother and a friend.
Then, in my seventies, we landed in a veritable (hornets’?) nest of bridge fanatics. My husband wasn’t interested in cards of any kind, though his mother had loved bridge and taught him the game. Once again, I was called on as a substitute from time to time after I admitted that I’d played once in the dim past.
Those first entertaining and slightly terrifying games were presided over by a couple of ladies I’d been warned about. “They play excellent bridge,” I’d been told. “You have to be careful of ____ because she doesn’t suffer a fool gladly.” If you stretch a point, you might agree that I’m not entirely a fool, but a good bridge player? Hardly.
Book: Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition of Agatha Christie's Cards on the Table , Wikipedia
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