WHY PLAY BRIDGE
“Bridge is the most entertaining and intelligent card game the wit of man has so far devised”
W. Somerset Maugham
What is Bridge?
Bridge is an elegant game with many layers. It involves maths and strategy and tactics. If you want to stimulate your grey cells sit at a bridge table.
In bridge, there is almost endless staying on top of things. You have to keep a lot of numbers in your head: how many points in your hand and how
many your partner may have. And then there is the soul of bridge: the bidding. You have to know what your partner’s bids mean in terms of total
points and number of suits — 1 club, 1 spade, 1 no trump, 2 hearts, etc. And the most challenging aspect: your response. What does your partner's
bid mean and how do you respond?
Then there is the actual playing of the hand. You have to monitor what cards are played, especially your partner's (a low card may mean something,
a certain suit something else), the number of trumps still out, what high cards your opponents have, etc. It is a constant mental ping-pong match.
After an hour or so you may feel like your brain needs a cold shower and a rubdown.
What Benefits does Bridge bring?
Research has long shown that ongoing mental engagement can lower your risk of dementia. But the kind of social interaction and group get-togethers
that bridge provides may also be a key to a longer, healthier life. A new report published by the National Academy of Sciences says "social isolation
and loneliness are associated with increased mortality."
Another new study in the journal Nature Neuroscience discovered that isolation reduced the production of myelin, a protective nerve fibre, and
could contribute to mental illness.
The game has benefits for older adults as well. Over the years, several research studies released by Albert Einstein College of Medicine of
Yeshiva University found that “Playing chess, bridge or a musical instrument significantly lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s
disease or other forms of dementia.”
If you’re neither young, nor at risk of Dementia, there are still benefits. A November 2000 study by a University of California, Berkeley
researcher, Marian Cleeves Diamond, found that playing contract bridge leaves people with higher numbers of immune cells.
But above all, bridge is about partnerships. To be successful you have to work as a team. Communication is essential. It is this human
factor that sets it apart from other games. People enjoy how bridge makes them interact with others.
“There is little conversation during play. When my partner makes a bid I have to communicate through my bidding. It's like speaking
another language. When we begin to play the hand, again in silence, I watch what cards she discards. I know she is trying to tell me
something — urging me to play a certain card. I do the same in return. And when she bites her index finger, I can hear a thousand thoughts
running through her head. They are the same as mine.”
Benefits for Young people
A study commissioned by the English Bridge Union at St. Paul’s School in Manchester clearly shows a positive development of the young
people involved. This study concentrated more on social skill development, rather than improvements of a purely academic nature.
Experience shows that bridge teaches:
Sorting into groups
For young children, the idea of grouping items is central to early learning in mathematics. In Mini Bridge and bridge, cards have to be
sorted into the four suits,§, ¨, ©, ª which in turn have a hierarchy and then into ranks within suits. This requires knowledge of the
ranks, (ace, king, queen, jack rank above 10, 9, …3, 2).
Aids to numeracy
Counting points in Mini Bridge, adding the point count of the partnership hands to decide whether to try for part-score or game,
counting suits as the cards are played. This is a very difficult concept for all but the best bridge players. At an elementary level, it is
only practical to count one suit (usually the trump suit). Calculating the score after each hand has been played.
There is opportunity to use probability at all levels of the game. Knowledge of how cards split (with 5 cards out, the likely split of
3-2 is 68%, 4 – 1 split is 28%, 5-0 split is 4%). Knowledge that a finesse is an evens chance, in the absence of other information.
Know from the allocation of points in Mini bridge or by listening to the auction of opponents in bridge that one line of play may be
superior over another. Deduce that a finesse is a better line of play by using the opponents’ auction, even though numerically it
may appear inferior.
Bidding and playing in turn – Knowing that the absolute rule of card play is to follow suit when you can. Keeping a “poker” face and
not letting your emotions give away vital information.
Planning the play of the hand before playing a card to the first trick by using a SWOT analysis. In bridge, this takes the form of
Strengths: Counting your top winners; Weaknesses: how many tricks you are short of your target; Opportunities: Which suits offer
the prospect of generating the additional tricks you need; Threats: what can your opponents do to thwart your plan; what steps can
you take to avoid danger. Learning that in the bidding, you must plan the way you will describe your hand.
Unlike chess, which is a single player game, bridge is a partnership game. You have to work as a team, understanding that bidding
is a dialogue between partners aiming to reach the best contract. Understanding that defence is a partnership activity.
Bridge requires concentration. You have to think about what you are doing, who bid what and who played which card. It requires
great mental stamina. At the highest international level, you need to be able to play for 8 hours a day for up to a fortnight – the
equivalent of 2 marathons a day for 2 weeks!
A further study performed by Dr Christopher Shaw, a researcher in Illinois, in 2006 found that children who play bridge perform
significantly better on standardized tests than their non-bridge playing counterparts — increasing scores across all five core
subject areas with an astounding 39.11% increase in science.
Who plays Bridge?
From 6 years to 100+ years, able-bodied or physically challenged, male or female – everyone can play bridge.
“When I play bridge, I forget my wheelchair, the difference is not there anymore. Bridge brings me such joy. There is strategy,
understanding, pleasure. It is more difficult to stop playing bridge than to start.”
- Pamela, a young French wheelchair user.
The World Bridge Federation website www.worldbridge.org shows worldwide membership through federations at c720,000
with more than 50% of that figure coming from European Bridge Federations. However, anecdotal evidence puts the worldwide
playing population at more than 20 million with the bulk of that figure based in China. This arose because of the premiership of
Deng Xiaoping who led the country from 1978 until 1992 and was himself a prominent bridge player, encouraging the teaching
of bridge in schools.
Warren Buffett – Bill Gates – Omar Sharif – Radiohead – Martina Navratilova – Dwight Eisenhower – James Bond –
Susan Hampshire – Sue Lawley – Mike Gatting –– Gandhi – Margaret Thatcher – Snoopy – Hercule Poirot –
Buster Keaton – Chico Marx – George Burns and closer to home – Daniel O’Donnell – David Coleman.
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.
- Warren Buffett
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.
- Omar Sharif
No matter where I go, I can always make new friends at the bridge table.
- Martina Navratilova
But Why Play Bridge??
Bridge is SOCIAL. A game of bridge involves communication and cooperation with your partner and interaction with your
opponents. There’s a special camaraderie among bridge players that develops from the social setting and the game’s emphasis
on teamwork, ethics and sportsmanship
Bridge is a BARGAIN. All you need for a bridge game is a deck of cards and three other people. You can play at your local club,
where you’ll enjoy a three-hour session of bridge for just a few Euro. If you have a computer, you don’t even need to leave home.
Bridge is FUN. Of all the reasons to learn the game, the most important is that it’s just fun to play. It offers the suspense of poker,
the cerebral qualities of chess and the excitement of athletic sports, all in a sociable setting where you’re a participant, not just
Bridge can be a LIFELONG pursuit. It takes only a little knowledge to begin playing and enjoying bridge. But no matter how many
years you play, the learning process will never end. Bridge also caters to all physical conditions and disabilities, so players can
actively pursue their pastime throughout their entire lives.
Bridge STIMULATES the brain. Bridge is one of the best ways to practice the “use it or lose it” advice for maintaining mental
sharpness in older age. Research has shown that regular bridge playing improves reasoning skills and long- and short-term memory.
Bridge can improve your physical HEALTH. Research has shown that a game of bridge can even boost your immune system.
Other studies have found that people who play bridge regularly are 2 ½ times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
That’s what keeps people coming back to the bridge table,
and it’s why bridge will always be the world’s most popular game.
Thanks to Paul P. CBAI