MY BRIDGE IN LEEDS
I happened to be in Chapel Allerton visiting a non playing friend when I decided to try the local Bridge Club in Moortown for the first time. A more welcoming and progressive club you could not find. It is also the biggest club I have visited in the UK. With tournaments for all levels. Including sessions regularly attended by one of the very best in the world, Fiona Brown**.
A partner was found for me. Colin hgis name. An 82 year old suffering from Parkinsons which had been diagnosed 10 years earlier. We ended up playing together every time I popped back from Spain to my UK base in Leeds. But our results never matched the standard we were capable of achieving and which our playing skills deserved. Not, that is, until a year after our first game when I decided it was time to do something about the obvious problem.
Here are copy mails we exchanged after what must have been about our 4th game together. The messages reveal a lot that bridge players ought to know about Parkinsons.
On Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 10:47 my partner Colin wrote:
"We could have come third with 52%. The others must have played badly too"
On 11 August, yours truly replied
"I think our result was a fair one for the way we played. Especially when we got off to such a terrible start. I probably won`t be back in Leeds for 5 months, but I will look forward to playing with you again on my next visit.
In case you wonder why I enjoy playing with you Colin, it is your joie de vivre. You do your best, never panic or get overawed despite your physical limitations. You never dwell on mistakes - and always enjoy your game. Exactly the same philosophy as me. And, yes, I made a couple of big mistakes Thursday, so it would indeed have been 52% without those errors of mine.
Your score should regularly be much higher than it is. Why do I say that, you may ask. Because, if I were directing at Leeds (and I have been asked to do so by Leslie and two others), I would not uphold the right of the person who insisted I pass. That was after you deliberated two minutes before passing yourself. I won`t go into all the reasons why he was wrong to say what he did. But I will write a letter to your President on the subject if you find it happens again to you. In brief, your physical handicap means you should be exceptionally allowed extra time to make even a pass.
The fact that you passed in no way could have led me to the conclusion that you might have as many as 14 points. Which is what our opponent claimed. Had I thought that, I would have bid 4 spades (rather than 2S) over opponent`s opening two heart bid. In a club which promotes friendly bridge sessions, that complainant deserves a reprimand for taking advantage of an opponent`s physical handicap to gain an advantage for his side.
Not to mention the incident a year ago during our first game together where the director conveniently forgot to change our score from a zero to 100% in the knowledge that neither you or I would make a complaint.
Enough said. Except to say that it all means that you are without doubt a much better player than your scores suggest!!!
Colin then signed off our exchanges thus:
"Thanks for your lovely words, you old shmoozer. Thanks for playing with me
All the same, I get the score I deserve"
Fast forward another 6 months:
CASE STUDY No. 2
There was another Parkinsons sufferer plus a Stroke victim in a group of 52 on the bridge break I had in Nerja, southern Spain. Fantastic holiday and mentally stimulating. Being on a mini holiday, I had the chance to talk to those sufferers privately about their problems which they appreciated greatly. My understanding of Parkinsons was by then quite comprehensive because there were at least another four Parkinsons sufferers in the Fuengirola club where I directed regularly. One of them was Malcolm Harris, a former Essex county player. Despite his impediment, he still came top in in almost every tournament he played at that club in 2017/18 which I found remarkable given his handicap and the quality of his opponents. The proof that Parkinsons sufferers can continue playing to a very high standard.
But not many club players appreciate that fact. Especially when they see they have "the shakes". Normally the "P" word is as taboo as the "S" word for most non-sufferers at the bridge table. Both the sufferers and the fit are generally frightened to bring the topics up. So the sufferers` difficulties - needing more time to bid and play to achieve their potential - never get aired. For understandable reasons. If you are one of those who does not yet appreciate their special needs, please read on.
The day I left Nerja I flew to Leeds again. Colin was hospitalized and forced to cancel the game I had booked with him. That gave me plenty of time to put pen to paper and wish him a speedy recovery. With the Nerja experience still in my mind, I took the opportunity to ask Colin how he felt about me telling his story on my website. To help other Parkinsons victims like those in Nerja and Fuengirola. He agreed to do so. And it was Colin himself who helped me write that account above.
Let me sign off with the rest of that message to Colin in hospital:
"Knowing all about Parkinsons thanks to you, I have been able to fight your corner to stop opponents actually profiting from your illness. But I am sure you can express it in more tactful terms. Then perhaps we can make people realise that us winning the comp last time by a clear 5% against so many good players was not a flash in the pan. In fact, if there was a handicap prize that gives a fair allowance for disability, you would have a chance of winning every week at Leeds.
I look forward to having the opportunity to win another tournament together on my next visit to the Club.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery. See you soon. Trevor"
**The uplifting sequel to that message was that Colin was invited to go on the "host" roster the next time we played together 3 months later. His immediate reaction was to say no. I told him to look upon it as an honour. This is what I actually said to cause him to quickly change his mind:
"It is recognition from the club hierarchy that your improved results and playing skills mean you are still good enough to be able to partner anyone. Including, perhaps, a World Champion who is a very nice lady and... 50 years younger than you"
End of story.
Footnote: Despite the earlier regrettable incidents at LBC referred to above, I know the people involved very well and should add that the actions were out of character. The Leeds Club remains one of the best run and friendliest clubs I have ever come across. For those reasons I intend remaining a member to support the club despite living in Spain.
Trevor - Updated 15/8/21