Fyfield, Ongar & District Bridge Club
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April 2022 - Bridge Trivia

Here are some random facts and trivia about bridge!

  • An early version of the game was played in England as far back as the 16th Century.
  • Oliver Cromwell banned all card games during his Protectorate - however after the Restoration and once Charles II was safely on the throne, card games returned!
  • There are two kinds of bridge, rubber which is normally played at home for leisure, and duplicate bridge which is used for competitions.
  • Mrs Anthony Fly, of Little Rock, Arkansas, filed a petition for divorce, on the grounds that her husband refused to make up a four at bridge.
  • However, it could be a mistake to play with your husband or wife, as shown by Myrtle Bennett. In 1929, Myrtle shot and killed her husband over his bidding and play of a hand. Mrs Bennett was later acquitted!
  • The Soviet Union tried to replace the kings, queens and jacks of court cards with heroes of the revolution.
  • The modern form of contract bridge was invented in the Twenties by American billionaire Harold Vanderbilt, who developed an early scoring system for the game.
  • The odds against four players each holding all thirteen cards in a suit are 2,235,197,406,895,366,368,301, 559,999 to one. Such a deal was first claimed in March 1892, and has been claimed ever since! Maybe winning the lottery isn't so difficult after all.
  • In June 1995, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) admitted the World Bridge Federation (WBF) as part of the Olympic movement.

A number of literary heroes played bridge:

  • Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg.
  • Ian Fleming’s James Bond. For example, in Moonraker, Bond rigs the pack to deal a 34-count to Drax.
  • Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.


  • Former Chinese leader, Deng Xiao Ping, played bridge several times a week.
  • Mahatma Ghandi, not only played bridge, but used the game to illustrate the relationship between kharma (fate) and dharma (the action of man).
  • Bridge is popular with UK politicians - every year there is a match between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
  • Other famous politician bridge players are, Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and former Tory Chancellor Geoffrey Howe.


  • Bridge is played by a good mix of celebrities from Bill Gates to Susan Hampshire and from Martina Navratilova to members of the rock bands Radiohead and Blur.
  • Omar Sharif is quoted as saying that he would, “rather be playing bridge than making a bad movie" and "Acting is my living, bridge is my passion".
  • Past celebrity players include the Marx Brothers and Telly Savalas.
  • Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft corporation, competed in the North American Mixed Team championship in 2000. He is still a very keen player. As is business and philanthropist Warren Buffet - the two often play together.

We may not have any celebrities amongst us but for further information about playing at Fyfield Bridge Club, please visit our website.


Martin Collier



February 2022 - Why do people play bridge?

‘Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.’ – Henry Ford

First and foremost, people play because they enjoy it. Playing bridge is a fun activity which you can enjoy with friends and family of any age, anywhere in the world. All you need is a pack of cards, a table, and some like-minded people. Bridge players love the mental challenge. Each game played will offer a unique challenge of problems and solutions. Every single deal is different; every deal poses a new problem and the challenge of finding the solution is a great source of enjoyment - even more so if you find the answer! The American Jazz composer Duke Ellington famously said, “a problem is your chance to do your best", and it won’t come as a surprise to know that bridge players soon develop special skills in problem solving! It’s frustrating for players when they don’t rise to the challenge, but tremendous when they are successful – whether through finding great technical play, by outwitting their opponents, or by co-operating really well to achieve success with their partner.

Secondly, bridge is an excellent social game and can be played by everyone - players can meet new people, make new friends, take on new challenges and learn the game through the many bridge clubs and teachers. Like participating in any sport - be it a 'physical sport', or a 'mind sport' - playing bridge is good for you mentally and physiologically.

Finally, you can play bridge anywhere! You can play locally, nationally and online. There is so much potential to play this wonderful game!

For further information about playing at Fyfield Bridge Club, please visit our website.


Martin Collier



January 2022 - New Year - New Challenge

The change of the year is traditionally the time to set new resolutions and personal challenges. Have you ever considered playing bridge? Maybe you already play whist or 'kitchen bridge'? Why not explore the challenge offered by duplicate bridge within your local bridge club?

As Alex James, the bassist from 'Blur' says: "Bridge is utterly compulsive once it has got hold of you. It isn't too hard to learn and the joy is that you can play it and actually start enjoying it before you get very good. You can take it on at any level that you want. The big problem is that very soon after you start you want to be brilliant."

Playing bridge is one of the most enduring and popular pastimes in the world and, for over 100 years, it has fascinated people of all types and from all walks of life. It is one of the most popular leisure activities in Britain, with around 300,000 people playing on a regular basis. Bridge is recognised as a mind sport, and is a partnership trick-taking card game of skill. It is played by four players who form two partnerships; the partners sit opposite each other at a table. There is an auction (often called bidding) and then the play, after which the hand is scored. The more tricks a partnership correctly predicts they will make the better their score - but if they do not make as many as they predict their opponents score points instead. In competitions the same hands are played at each table (known as ‘duplicate bridge’) so you can compare your scores with the other partnerships and work out who did best with what they were dealt, thus almost eliminating the 'luck' aspect that exists in games such as poker.

How do you go about learning bridge? As a first step, please contact Fyfield Bridge Club via our website (below). There are many ways of learning bridge and much depends on the nature of the student and the dynamics of the group. Some students will already be more familiar with bridge type card games (such as whist) and may in the early stages move faster than others – such students may therefore wish to consider a more accelerated course. Make sure that you talk to the teacher and check that the chemistry feels right. You should also look at the ideas given below before deciding the route which is best suited to you.

Regular classes don't suit everyone's schedule, so one option you might like to consider is going to a residential/weekend course or even take a bridge-themed cruise!

On-line tuition is also available: ‘No Fear Bridge’ (, for example, is a website that was created to provide a variety of online activities with the aim of making learning how to play bridge easy and fun. It contains a wide variety of online learning activities suitable for beginners, improvers and advancers.

Whatever route you choose, learners should join in with regular club play at the earliest opportunity. You should always feel that you are enjoying yourself, even if you are a little unsteady in the beginning (imagine water-skiing!). If it seems a little hard at first, remember that bridge is, above all, meant to be fun - it is not an endurance programme. If you are not having fun, it is time to make some changes!

Here at Fyfield Bridge Club we are very keen to welcome new blood – please contact us via our website. We meet at Fyfield Village Hall on Mondays from 2 - 5 and Thursdays from 7.15 - 10.15.

Happy New Year!


Martin Collier





December 2021 - Face-to-Face Bridge has returned - Hurrah!

Face-to-Face Bridge at Fyfield Village Hall has returned. Please return or come and join us. We meet on Monday afternoons at 1.45pm ready for a prompt 2pm start and Thursday evenings at 7.00pm for a 7.15pm start. Precautions are in place to keep us all safe and hot drinks are available on a self-service basis. New players always welcome - we look forward to meeting you.


Eileen Heaphy



January 2021 - New Year Positivity

Ailsa Wildig has sent us these photographs to raise our spirits in these gloomy times - thank you Ailsa!



Fyfield Bridge Club - December 2020 Newsletter

The club continues to thrive despite these unprecedented time. We are now playing online 3 times a week and numbers playing have steadily risen so we now have over 50 regular players.

In the summer, a donation of £250 was made to Essex Air Ambulance as we were unable to hold our planned summer fundraising charity event.

On 11th November we played in the ECATS Children in Need national duplicate tournament with table monies being donated to the cause. With no opportunity for a raffle this year, a further donation from the club was added so that a donation in excess of £400 was raised.

The club meets online on Mondays at 2pm, Wednesdays at 10am and Thursdays at 7pm though log-on time is 20 minutes before start time. New members are always welcome so if you are interested in playing especially now as most of us have more free time than usual do get in touch.


Eileen Heaphy



ECATS Children in Need - November 2020


We held a very successful Children in Need competition on Wednesday 11th November. Congratulations to Michael and Ailsa Wildig for achieving top spot.

We have been able to make a donation of over £500, so a massive 'thank you' and well done to everybody for taking part.

The overall ECats results may be seen here . An explanation of why ECats results differ from our local club scores may be found here and here.


Fyfield Bridge Club - August 2020 Newsletter

For the two months since our previous contribution to the Fyfield Focus we have been completely ‘locked down’, still with little prospect of re-convening. Bridge is difficult to play on a socially distanced basis: a standard bridge table seats players no further than 60cm from their opponents; cards, bidding boxes and scoring tablets are handled by multiple players during a session - and that is before you consider players entering and exiting the premises, paying cash, having refreshments, using the toilets and cloakroom. Without extensive mitigating measures, or considerable relaxation of the regulations, it will be some time before ‘we meet again’.

That is not to say that we have been idle; we have not forgotten our members and the campaign to keep in contact with everybody continues unabated. This has revealed an array of hobbies and pastimes ranging from jigsaw puzzles, crosswords and various crafts, to more physical pursuits such as gardening, walking, running and cycling. The initial loosening of the restrictions has also meant that some family reunions have become possible.

Inevitably there has been some sad news though and our thoughts and condolences go out to those who have suffered bereavements. There has also been some cause for celebration however, with two of our members achieving the milestone of their 90th birthdays. And to those members who have had slips, trips and falls or who are otherwise indisposed, we wish you all a speedy recovery.

Many members are playing Bridge online using a number of different programmes and a sizeable proportion are now participating in the Club’s weekly Bridge Base Online ‘Tournaments’. These have grown in popularity in a short space of time and we can now field some 8-9 tables on a Wednesday morning. These games have also enabled us to attract new (and returning) members who, for reasons of geography or loyalty to other Clubs, would not otherwise have joined us – they are all welcome. When the present crisis is over and all restrictions are lifted we will need to ask ourselves “is the future of Bridge online?” Just as high street shopping may never be quite the same again, perhaps Bridge clubs will similarly go through a period of change.


Martin Collier



Fyfield Bridge Club - May 2020 Newsletter

Bridge is a very social game - at least it is the way we play it in Fyfield. A Club session enables members to get out of the house for a while, exercise the 'little grey cells' with a few hands of Bridge, and have a natter over a cup of tea. The present Covid-19 pandemic has now cut off this means of escaping the four walls, leaving our members to find other means of amusement and mental stimulus. We've been keeping in touch with our members to check that they are coping OK in current circumstances and giving them the opportunity to have a chat.

Necessity being the mother of invention, we have been exploring the possibility of playing Bridge online. Nowadays most homes are kitted out with a PC, tablet, and/or laptop, together with WiFi. Proprietary software is available to enable players to get their Bridge 'fix' remotely and a number of small-scale games have been played in this way, providing a useful stop-gap measure. These have been generally enjoyed by the participants in their own homes.

We'll continue to support our members in this way until we can all return to the good old approach of actually meeting face to face across the green baize.


Martin Collier


Fyfield Bridge Club - January 2020 Newsletter

The highlights from last year must be our two fundraisers where, with the generosity of local businesses in providing fabulous prizes for our raffles, we have been able to donate a total of £1,550 to various charitable causes: St Clare Hospice at Hastingwood, Children in Need, and help towards installing a defibrillator at Fyfield Village Hall.

Since the Club's new beginnings in 2015 we have doubled our membership, doubled the number of sessions each week, replaced all equipment with new, and invested in an electronic scoring system. Whilst we have provided various training seminars we do not, as yet, have the capacity to offer a full beginners course but these are available elsewhere locally via the English Bridge Union ( or Essex Contract Bridge Association (

I cannot emphasise enough the benefits of playing Bridge. It can provide not only a challenge but also a friendly social outing in lieu of the interminable reality/soap programmes on TV. Once the first step of taking a beginner's course is under your belt why not contact us via our website ( to start a new adventure?

Marion Alcock


Fyfield Bridge Club - December 2019 Newsletter

It's a busy time for all of us, no more so than our Club who recently held its AGM. We are fortunate to be able to report an on-going rolling training programme, the purchase of new equipment and sizeable donations to local and national charities. Part of the proceedings was the much-awaited announcement of the Trophy winners with the Wells Cup for the best Monday session players being awarded to Violet Porter and Margaret Warren, the Hadley Cup for the best Thursday session players to Mike and Ailsa Wildig, and the Endeavour Cup for the most improved pairing to Peter Spray and Eileen Heaphy - our congratulations to you all. A presentation was also made to our hard-working Secretary, Marion Alcock, who has decided to stand down from that role this year.

By the time of publication we will have again played in the international Simultaneous Pairs competition in aid of Children in Need. We have had respectable results in the past so are hoping for the same again this year but, if not, we will be philosophical about it as it is the taking part and donation that really matters. The final results may be seen here.

Just before the Christmas closure both our Monday and Thursday sessions will enjoy a social get-together where the Bridge is secondary to the festivities; but still no-one wants to go home with the wooden spoon!

May I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Christmas closures: Thursday 26th and Monday 30th December.


Marion Alcock


Fyfield Bridge Club - October 2019 Newsletter

Over a thousand years of history in your hand

How often do we Bridge players consider the origins of the humble playing card, without which the wide variety of card-based games we play today would not have come about?

To start with, we know that a form of printing technology originated in China around the 9th Century AD, so it is no surprise that reference has been found to printed paper-based games from around that time. Some of these took the form of drinking games, with the ‘cards’ containing instructions or forfeits for the participant who drew them. The earliest report of a game involving cards with ‘suits’ and numerals was also in China - in 1294. It has been suggested that the first cards may have actually been paper currency, which doubled as both the tools of gaming and the stakes being played for; play money or ‘money cards’ were later substituted for real currency, divided into four ‘suits’ or denominations of increasing value and illustrated with characters to denote rank and suit.

Cards evolved and spread throughout Asia and eventually arrived in Egypt, from where the oldest surviving card fragments, dated to the 12th/13th Centuries are to be found. Four-suited playing cards were first recorded in Southern Europe in 1365 and the wide use of such cards throughout Europe can be traced from 1377 onwards. Cards were very popular with soldiers, for example, as they were easy to carry and enabled universal rules for gambling to be applied.

In 1939 a near-complete pack of cards was discovered in the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul. The so-called ‘Topkapi pack’ (dating from c.1500) originally contained 52 cards comprising four suits: polo-sticks, coins, swords, and cups. Each suit contained ten ‘pip’ cards and three ‘court’ cards, called king, viceroy or deputy king, and second or under-deputy.

As cards spread from Italy to the Germanic countries, the suits evolved to become ‘leaves’ (or shields), ‘hearts’ (or roses), ‘bells’ and ‘acorns’. By the time they arrived in France, these had become ‘pikes’, ‘hearts’, ‘tiles’ and ‘clovers’, respectively. Eventually, when used in England, ‘pikes’ became ‘spades’, ‘tiles’ changed to ‘diamonds’, and ‘clovers’ transformed into ‘clubs’.

In the late 14th century, Europeans changed the early court (or picture) cards to represent European royalty and attendants. In England, the lowest court card was called the 'knave', which originally meant male child, so in this context the character could represent the 'prince', son to the king and queen. Packs of 56 cards containing in each suit a king, queen, knight and knave were once common in the 15th century.

Packs were later developed with the value of the card printed at the corner(s), enabling players to hold their cards close together in a fan with one hand, instead of the two hands previously used. In addition, sharp corners wear out more quickly, and could possibly reveal the card's value, so they were replaced with rounded corners. Before the mid-19th century, British, American, and French players preferred blank backs. However, the need to hide wear and tear and to discourage writing on the back led cards to have designs, pictures, photos, or advertising on the reverse, as we have today.

So why not join us and hold a little bit of history in your hands?


Martin Collier



Fyfield Bridge Club - August 2019 Newsletter

Did you know that card playing has introduced a number of well-known phrases and sayings into everyday language? Here is a small selection of some of the more common of these idioms:

Above board - honest, not secret (originally players showed their honesty by keeping their hands above the board/table when playing a game of cards).

Come up trumps - to complete something well or successfully, to have a better performance or outcome than is expected (trumps are playing cards that are chosen to be ranked higher than the other cards).

Deal (someone) in - to include someone

Follow suit - to play a card of the same suit; to follow the example or actions of someone else.

Force (someone's) hand - to make someone play a card that they would prefer not to (to make someone do something that they do not want to do at that time).

Hold all the aces/cards - to have all the advantages (the ace is the most valuable card in many card games).

House of cards - a poorly thought about plan, something that is badly put together and can be easily knocked over.

In spades - as much or more than you could want (spades are the highest ranking cards in the game of bridge).

Joker in the pack - someone or something that is likely to change a situation in an unexpected way (the joker is one of the cards in a pack of cards that can be used as any card that you want in some games).

Lay one's cards on the table/Show one’s hand - to reveal your hand; to be open and honest about one's intentions or resources.

Miss a trick – fail to notice or take advantage of a good opportunity.

One’s strong suit - something that one is good at or knows a lot about (in cards your strong suit is the suit that you have the best and most of in your hand).

Overplay one's hand - to overestimate the value or strength of one's position.

Play one's cards right - to make the best use of one's opportunities in order to be successful, to behave in the right way in order to be successful.

Shuffle the cards/pack - to change policy/personnel.

Turn up trumps - to complete something well or successfully; to have a better performance or outcome than is expected.

So if Bridge is your strong suit then please join us at Fyfield on a Monday afternoon or Thursday evening where you will be sure of a welcome - in spades!


Martin Collier



Fyfield Bridge Club - July 2019 Newsletter

On Monday 20th May we had a Charity bridge drive in aid of St. Clare’s Hospice in Hastingwood with a fantastic result.

We were overwhelmed by the generosity of local shopkeepers and members of the Club who gave such delightful donations for our raffle (see photo below). I feel it is only fitting to name the shops individually and they are: Blooming Jacks the florist, Hockings the butchers, Central Electrics, Bubbles pet shop, Anchor Fish and Chip shop, Sainsbury's, Capital Flowers, Bell Nails, Amy Louise, Nerrisa & Claire's, Brick Lane Bagels, the Cheesemonger, Wake n Bakery, Balloonatics, Eeny Meenie, Queens Head public house, Black Bull public house, and Fyfield Post Office. 

Most of the monies came from the raffle sales and with the Club donating all the entrance fees a grand total of  £700 was presented by Rita Barnard and Barbara Wells to Mrs Dani De Ach at St Clare.

Presenting the cheque to the St Clare Hospice: (L-R) Rita Barnard, Dani De Ach and Barbara Wells

Our congratulations go to Clive and Kate Cullen from Ongar who were the overall winners of the competition.

I wish to thank Fyfield Bridge Club for all the hard work that went into this event, and thanks to the ladies who made the delicious homemade cakes that were served with tea at the halfway break.

We intend to make this an annual event and hope we can repeat this success for many years to come.

Barbara Wells



Fyfield Bridge Club - June 2019 Newsletter

Fyfield, Ongar & District Bridge Club is a friendly sociable club for members who enjoy a relaxed approach to playing Bridge. There are two sessions each week, on Monday afternoon and Thursday evening, held at the village hall off Houchin Drive in Fyfield. Attendance is constant with six to eight tables on Mondays and six to nine tables on Thursdays. The club has electronic scoring which is very user-friendly and provides each member with their final position at the end of of play. The results are uploaded to the website and available to view by the time they have returned home.

Charity events are also planned throughout the year with monies donated to Children in Need and/or other charitable organisations. The latest event took place on 20th May in aid of St Clare Hospice at Harlow and a further report will appear in the next newsletter.

We are in the process of organising an outside tutor to run a series of monthly refresher classes on a Wednesday afternoon and there may be room for non-members to attend. If anyone is interested, please make contact via our website.

If you would like to play Bridge in a welcoming environment, then come along and give us a try. Full details can be found on the Club's website:

Marie Hatch



Fyfield Bridge Club - May 2019 Newsletter

There are at least twelve Bridge Clubs within a 10-mile radius of Ongar, with Fyfield, Ongar and District Bridge Club being the nearest and it shows just how popular the game is. When our club started in 2015, we needed to attract at least twenty-four members in order to cover the set-up and running costs and were delighted with the initial response. Since then numbers have increased steadily, and we now regularly have enough people to put up between eight to ten tables for each of our twice-weekly sessions.

Although for many it is the social rather than the competitive side of Bridge that is the attraction, none of us really want to see our names at the bottom of the leader board. To this end, many members try to improve their play through subscription to on-line sites and of course the Club does run its own training sessions which, during this year, will cover general playing techniques and in particular the various tools to enable players to bid and make that elusive slam score.

Once a year our Thursday evening session enters an ECATS worldwide competition in support of Children in Need and for our Monday sessions we are introducing a fun competition to raise funds for a more local charity, the St Clare Hospice at Harlow. The competition will be held this month on 20th May and we are busy organising homemade cakes and raffle prizes in the expectation of a good turnout.

Further information about the club and the competition may be found on our website

Marion Alcock



Fyfield Bridge Club - March 2019 Newsletter

Why Play Bridge? This is a question often posed by non-players yet to be convinced by the virtues of the game – and sometimes even by experienced players suffering from a dip in confidence.

The game’s origins lie in whist, which can be traced back to the 16th century in various guises but it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that a duplicate form of whist was played. Bridge, as such, emerged in the late 19th century, but was transformed into the game we know today by one Harold S. Vanderbilt during a long sea voyage in 1925.

Research by means of a well-known internet search engine reveals that the game has attracted many high-profile players since it was first devised – ranging from Churchill and Eisenhower to Bill Gates and Radiohead’s front man Thom York.

Author W. Somerset Maugham considered that bridge was “the most entertaining and intelligent card game the wit of man has so far devised.” Well-known actor and exponent of bridge, Omar Sharif pointed to the game’s mental challenge when he said: “Many games provide fun, but bridge grips you. It exercises your mind. Your mind can rust, you know, but bridge prevents the rust from forming.” Former tennis champion Martina Navratilova has been quoted as saying: "No matter where I go, I can always make new friends at the bridge table." And financial guru, Warren Buffet has said: “Bridge is such a sensational game that I wouldn't mind being in jail if I had three cellmates who were decent players and who were willing to keep the game going 24 hours a day.” So there are at least four good reasons to play Bridge: entertainment, mental stimulation, sociability and enduring fascination.

If I’m preaching to the converted then I can assure you of a warm welcome at our Fyfield-based Club – we meet on Monday afternoons and Thursday evenings for most weeks of the year. We meet in the well-appointed village hall, off Houchin Drive, overlooking the attractive playing fields. And if you need a partner – no problem – we have an efficient partner-hosting system in place.

Please visit the ‘Welcome’ page on our website for further information and contact details.

Martin Collier



Fyfield Bridge Club - December 2018 Newsletter

At the AGM on November 8th we were fortunate to be able to report a third successive successful year in terms of both membership numbers and financial health. We have all worked hard to keep the club as friendly as possible where the social side ranks equally with our aim to improve the quality of play. The resultant financial stability means that the club can now not only broaden its horizons particularly in the training area but also ensure its continued existence for the foreseeable future.

We also took the opportunity at the AGM to celebrate the achievements of our most successful members. Chairman Martin Collier presented the inaugural Wells Trophy for the best Monday partnership to Brenda Dunsford and John Bicknell, the Endeavour Cup for the most improved player over the past year to JoAnn O’Neil, and the Hadley Cup for the best Thursday partnership to Ailsa and Michael Wildig.

Retirement is often seen as a golden age of leisure time and for the most part this is true but for some fate steps in and the amount of leisure time can become a burden. There are many local activities and clubs to join and bridge is just one of them, but it does provide a good social outlet and there is much to stimulate the grey matter. For younger working people it can provide long term interest and an antidote to the stresses of everyday life. If you are interested in joining our club, please visit our website

We now look forward to our Christmas Socials on Monday 17th and Thursday 20th December.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas  and a happy and healthy New Year.

Marion Alcock