The World Bridge federation (WBF) is sponsoring a project at Stirling University where an Intergenerational Bridge Club has just been set up. In simple terms, it is a club where youngsters and the not-so-young learn and play the game together. The WBF website article announcing the project starts off:
"The University Bridge Club has been set up as part of a series of research projects into the health and well-being benefits of playing the card game”
And it finishes thus:
“This collaborative research project will look at what drives people to take up bridge and keep playing throughout their lives. It will also explore the role a hobby can play in friendships and personal communities, as well as how it creates a sense of belonging and collective identity within and across generations”.
Whilst I welcome this initiative by the WBF, the remit of the University means that the researchers will not be able to address the sensitive subject of why the game is haemorrhaging players.
Through the new ACES club and this website, we will be doing our best to promote the aims of the Stirling project. But we will also address the problems of intergenerational bridge where the players` ages, circumstances and expectations are so different. As a good example, I will take this opportunity to touch on one intergenerational problem right now. A problem for which the senior players must take the blame, but for which the juniors are paying the price
The "C" word is one that has been largely taboo in the publications emanating from the WBF and National Associations. This is despite the ever increasing high profile worldwide cheating scandals. In trying now to promote the merits of intergenerational bridge without also researching and dealing with the cheats more effectively, I fear they might run up against a brick wall at Stirling, The pictures top and bottom of this page show one of the reasons why:
young children TRYING to enjoy themselves playing bridge
behind hideous screens
Inevitably, on arrival at that venue, the 8 and 10 year old pair (pictured top left) asked why all competitors were expected to play 6 hours of bridge (48 boards) in one day behind screens. No teacher can explain the inexplicable. All one can say in avoiding the C word, is to joke that they were lucky to be so short that they could at least see each other. But that response will not be sufficient for intelligent youngsters and their parents who can work out the stark truth for themselves. And who wiill then inevitably ask themselves the question as to whether they want to participate in a sport where cheating must be so rife that it requires such absurd measures to be applied.
Happily on this occasion, the President of the Asia Pacific Zone of the WBF, Esther Sophonpanich, made a lovely gesture by inviting us all to lunch. That memorable occasion for the girls helped banish all thoughts of our teams of world record holders giving up bridge. But, sadly, I did lose a dozen other bridge students (including adults} because of the adverse publicity those screens created back at the schools and the club.
Unfortunately, screens are increasingly becoming the norm for all generations. Not just the top players but thousands of ordinary club players who are required to play behind screens if they advance beyond the preliminary round in national competitions. Often against their friends from other local clubs - and even if it is a competition for relative beginners. i.e. for people who wouldn`t know how to cheat.
Hardly surprising that newcomers to the game then immediately decide to give up playing competitive bridge altogether. Citing the obvious reasons: Playing behind screens is both impersonal and stressful for the older generations. Clearly an anti cheating measure that has now gone too far. It is totally out of proportion to the problem.
Thankfully all is not doom and gloom in the bridge world. Far from it. Asia has shown us that intergenerational bridge is the way forward.
As the bubbly little Thai lady (top picture) announced to her Mum shortly after taking up the game at 7 years
”Playing bridge is such fun”
With youngsters playing, the enthusiasm is infectious. Bridge will always therefore be fun for the not-so-young players around them
We must all work together to try and keep it that way