Face-to-face bridge has restarted on Tues and Fri mornings! Click here for details of our regular bridge sessions.

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Chairmans Chat
September 2021

Face-to-face bridge on Friday mornings has started out well with 4 or 5 tables per hybrid session and in October we plan to offer face-to-face games on Tuesday mornings too in addition to the online game. I hope this will encourage many more of you to support the club. Tuesday mornings used to be so busy. I am missing those keen Tuesday players. Please let me know if there is anything else we can do to encourage you to play. OBC is your club and I do want to ensure we are catering for the needs of all our members.

Ideally all our games should be hosted so that anyone who turns up without a partner will get a game. This is trickier with hybrid sessions as we need two hosts - one for the face-to-face game and one for the online game. If you could help with hosting, I would be most grateful. The club hopes all regular players will host the session in which they play at least once a year. It is a great opportunity to meet someone new. You may learn from an experienced partner or be able to help someone who needs a bit of encouragement. Please do give it a go. I need more hosts for the Tuesday online game so that I can fill the rota until the end of the year and I know that Liza would be grateful for volunteers from the small pool prepared to play face-to-face. Please just get in touch with me if you can help.

We received a lovely accolade from one member who had stopped playing duplicate during lockdown and was feeling a bit rusty. The support provided at the Learn and Play sessions has restored her confidence so now she feels ready to switch to gentle duplicate. Thank you, Education Team. Plans for competitions in 2021 and 2022 are well under way and of course there is the Wessex League. I live in hope that I have mastered the necessary tactics for Teams. As for COVID, no one is sure what is going to happen next and hope is essential.

My michaelmas daisies are putting on a fine show especially the glorious shocking pink 'Andenken An Alma Potschke' (what a name). The colour is warm enough to cheer the dullest day even if the bridge has been problematic. Enjoy the autumn!


August 2021

Good news! Face-to-face bridge is returning. All being well, we should reopen before the end of August. The bridge committee is working on the logistics. Players returning to the club should be double vaccinated, initially numbers will be restricted to a maximum of 7 tables and bookings will have to be made on-line. More information will follow but I hope that the opportunity to play face-to-face will be welcomed, although it may feel mighty strange holding cards after all this time. Please spread the word especially to those who are not playing any bridge. The transition to face-to-face bridge will be gradual and online bridge, which suits many of us, will continue. It is not clear how any bridge club will flourish when some play online, some play face to face, and some do both, but I am confident that OBC will rise to the challenge and playing online does provide opportunities to attract new members. We are running taster sessions as well as lessons (both face-to-face and online) so do let friends, family and neighbours know. All the information is on our website.

Last week the Trustees agreed a 3-year strategic plan (see the OBC website) with objectives that I hope you will help us to deliver:

1.     To provide the best possible social environment for anyone who wishes to learn or to play the game of bridge and, through education and feedback, to promote high standards of behaviour throughout the club.

2.     To strengthen the teaching of bridge (on-line and face-to-face), ensure we have excellent teachers and broaden the reach of the Oxford Bridge School.

3.     To provide a variety of bridge games (face-to-face as well as on-line) that cater for different standards of player and may include relaxed games for those who wish to play less competitive bridge.

Above all, I want members to feel that they belong to the OBC community and that their views are valued, heard and respected. Apart from letting me know when things are going well (it is great to be able to pass on positive feedback), most importantly please tell me when OBC could do things better and do not hesitate to suggest improvements. I promise to listen.

I have been guiding in the Oxford Botanic Gardens (free tours on Thursdays) which are looking wonderful. My own “hot bed” is a blaze of reds, oranges and yellows. I finally managed to grow the striking 1.2m tall Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’, because for once I was at home to cherish the seedlings. The bright orange daisy-like flowerheads are guaranteed to lift your spirits, even after another defeat at the bridge table. Keep going!


July 2021

We had a very smooth-running virtual AGM this week. Many thanks to all those who attended - it was lovely to see your faces and to hear your views. It was a particular pleasure to congratulate the prize-winners - have a look at the website to see their names - but I was sad that I could not hand out the various trophies which are still languishing in the club cupboard. We discussed when we might return to face-to-face bridge and reviewed the results of the survey. I have summarised the discussion in a document to be uploaded separately to the website.

I would like to use my chat to thank Mary Bennet, who is standing down as chair of our conduct committee. Mary’s wisdom and balanced approach have been such an asset to the club. Mary graduated in the combination of philosophy and psychology and worked as a consultant clinical psychologist so she had absolutely the right skill set to be the perfect conduct officer. Her insights into the behavioural challenges that can be posed by competitive bridge players ensured that complaints were handled with tact, diplomacy and, above all, understanding. Thank you, Mary - and thank you also for finding such an able successor in Paul Watson.  

Peter Sherry is another incoming officer, replacing Susan Fletcher, our universally popular Education Secretary. Susan’s skills at people management (trustees as well as teachers) ensured that she ran the Education team superbly and that she was a very articulate and persuasive advocate for Education at meetings of the trustees. I am very grateful to Susan for all her contributions and I wish Peter well in his new role.

I was perusing the EBU website where I found some interesting articles on teaching. Lots of food for thought. Teaching is such a great way of reaching out to potential players and attracting new members. We are fortunate to have an enthusiastic team of teachers but I am sorry that we will be losing Shirley Rawlings at the end of the autumn term. She must have introduced so many people to bridge over the years, giving them the confidence to enjoy the game - thank you, Shirley. We will be looking for more teachers, so if you have a passion for bridge, enjoy using technology and would be interested in training (on-line) as a teacher with the EBU, please do let me know. I might even give it a go myself.

Spotted flycatchers are one of the last migrants to reach us. Their numbers have plummeted in recent years but I was so pleased that a pair nested in an open-fronted birdbox on our house. I have attached a photo of the bird on a bean pole in the veg patch. He was poised to dive on a passing fly. Sadly a magpie raided the birdbox - it is a tough world out there. Hopefully it is not quite as bad at the bridge table!

Enjoy the summer.


June 2021

Bridge has hit the national news for all the wrong reasons. Recently both the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph featured articles about the rise in allegations of cheating in the world of online bridge. I was dismayed to read how standards have plummeted during lockdown, so much so that over the last year the EBU has suspended 25 people, including seven couples, for anything from 18 months to 5 years. Andrew Robson supports the efforts of the EBU to eliminate cheating and said “I believe they are weeding out these players using statistical means, and I’m full of admiration for these whistle-blowers as it’s a long and tedious process. But it needs to be done, as bridge is a wonderful game and lends itself well to online, provided players play with integrity.” He is absolutely right.

Bridge is a team game and finding the “right” partner makes all the difference- someone who is on your wavelength, will tolerate your mistakes with a smile, deals well with disasters and, despite everything, is still happy to play with you. Your partner is the equivalent of your “best friend” when you were at school- an analogy that may ring truer for those of you who were once small girls. Boys tend to hunt in packs.  It follows that you must treat your partner with respect, smile and avoid harping on about the “obvious” error.  Sadly sometimes even the happiest of partnerships may come to a natural end when one of the pair wants a change. This can be tricky for both partners.  I still remember the loss of my “best friend” at the age of 11.  Please do move on if you feel the time has come, your partner will understand, and please do not feel deserted if you are the one left behind - we will help you to find someone else. Start with pianola and by playing in the hosted sessions and another partner will emerge. New beginnings are supposed to be like new adventures!

I ran my moth trap overnight on a warm evening. I attach a picture of the buff-tip that came to the trap- such a fantastic moth. I placed it on our silver birch tree, where it carefully adjusted its position until it stuck out resembling a small twig. Look carefully and you may just make out the legs but I am afraid the focus is not perfect. Amazing camouflage and one of my favourites. 

I look forward to seeing you at the virtual AGM on Wednesday July 21st at 6.00pm. Enjoy your bridge.


May 2021

The Trustees met a few days ago and amongst other things we discussed the return to face-to-face bridge. As COVID-19 rates fall, we all want to know when bridge clubs might reopen. I have asked a small group to explore what might be possible and when, but we are not going to rush into any decisions until the situation is much clearer. I want everyone to be safe whatever we do, but the most important thing is to ensure that you have been vaccinated.

Many members are playing a lot of online bridge, often with friends from other parts of the country and even from other parts of the world. We have recruited new members from outside Oxfordshire. They are all very welcome (even those from Cambridge!). Please spread the word and encourage your bridge-playing friends to join our community. I am looking forward to catching up with old friends on Tuesday mornings now we are playing with RealBridge. It is a great way to play.

I realised that I know very little about the high-powered side of bridge so I spoke to some of our experts. High-level competitive bridge is a different world. You must be committed if you want to be successful and you have to be physically fit. Not only is it necessary work at your game but you also must be able to switch off at the end of a testing day so that you get a decent night’s sleep and you must find time to eat properly. It sounds like training to be a gold medal athlete!  I greatly admire all our experts, especially those who compete nationally and internationally, but I am very happy with club duplicate although I would like my play (and my bidding) to be a bit more reliable.

It has been lovely to meet some of you in our garden. Spring gardens are such a joy. Do contact me if you would like to visit me and we can have some coffee together. I have attached a picture of the alpines in one of my troughs.

Enjoy the spring and may your finesses be successful!


April 2021

Oxford Bridge Club

Chairman’s Chat


The Trustees have had a productive meeting to review the club’s strategy. Much of the discussion focussed on the charitable purposes of OBC which are: 

1. The advancement of amateur sport by promoting the game of bridge for the benefit of the residents of Oxford and the surrounding area.

2. The provision of facilities for the learning, teaching and playing of bridge for the benefit of the residents of Oxford and the surrounding area with the object of improving conditions of life.

Our fantastic education programme ensures that the club provides public benefit but we could do more. We agreed that OBC should make efforts to diversify the membership.  I hope that members will support this aim by encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds to take up bridge and to consider joining the club. Here is a selling point - apparently research has shown that regular bridge playing improves reasoning skills and long- and short-term memory. My partners might find this difficult to believe, but perhaps I just have to play even more.

The Trustees also discussed what sort of club we would like OBC to be and the overwhelming conclusion was a welcoming club that caters for all levels of player. So again, I hope members will endorse this aim and rise to the challenge of smiling (or sending a friendly chat) even when desperately trying to remember how many trumps have been played or inwardly grinding teeth at some foolish mistake that has just been made at the table. I was delighted to meet new people both on BBO and RealBridge recently- so do say hello and welcome even if it is just by typing in the chat.

We are fortunate to have great Directors to help us when we are stuck- please do not hesitate to call a Director if you have a problem. They like to be used (I hope). Directors have been encouraged to introduce themselves before the session starts so players know who is out there. The BBO “vEBU201048” is not exactly welcoming. But the Director will be busy setting up the game (and sorting out recalcitrant robots) so may sometimes forget the introduction. Like any game, bridge has rules that we have to try to remember, particularly the requirement to explain some bids (not even all bids). This explanation may seem somewhat unnecessary when one has already said or typed what system one is playing. I suppose one could argue that, apart from providing typing practice, the Directors are just training us so if (when) we move on to more advanced bridge, we feel entirely comfortable with the mechanics and etiquette of the game, even if still not able to play the cards (or count). So please respond to those Directors, be nice to them (we need them) and keep on making the effort to explain your bids (but do forgive me when I forget).

I hope that you have a very Happy Easter with an opportunity to see (at a distance) friends and family. The little chiffchaffs are back from Africa (a very distinctive song) and swallows will soon be here as well. Daffodils are out, tulips are opening and my snakeshead fritillaries are a picture. The attached photo is Narcissus “Oxford Gold”, a variety of the lovely Hoop Petticoat daffodil. Come and visit Upper Green one day soon.


February 2021

It really was a pleasure to chair my first Trustee meeting on February 19th. What a great team of Trustees we have. Each of them has agreed to write a brief pen-portrait for the website, so you (and I) know a little more about them. Do have a look when they are all uploaded.

You will have read how OBC players have been excelling on many fronts. Many congratulations again to all of them. Some of us are far from expert but I do hope that we are all enjoying the game. That, I feel, is the most important thing.

Good communication is crucial - but my email in-box is overflowing. I suspect many of us have the same problem but I hope these chats are not too much of a contributary factor. Some considerable time ago I read about effective management. One sensible piece of advice was to set aside a defined time for dealing with emails (or letters - those were the days), open the email once and deal with it then and there. One must accept that some of the time one will make the wrong decision, but the key thing is to come to a decision. All very well, but sometimes it is not that easy. I am trying, and apologies if I do not respond to you as promptly as you would like.

It will be Easter in just over 4 weeks and I think spring really has arrived. Lesser celandines are flowering in hedgerows and gardens and birds are singing including larks over the fields and great tits making that call that is reminiscent of pumping up a bicycle tyre. The later snowdrops are still flowering and the crocuses are a treat (see attachment). I hope to see you in our garden one day soon.


January 2021

It has been just over a month since I began my new role in the Bridge Club.  I must confess that I am spending my time looking and listening rather than doing. One of the tasks that Ursula (our very efficient secretary) set me was to read through the documents relating to my role as a Trustee as well as those referring to the constitution and administration of the club. I suspect most of you will not be familiar with these, although they are available on our website. I was struck by these (rather peremptory) lines under the Responsibilities of Membership in our Articles of Association:

3.3. All members are expected to make some practical contribution on a voluntary basis to the running of the OBC.

3.4. All Members are expected to participate in any hosting system which the OBC may organise, unless they are granted dispensation because of extenuating circumstances…..

We are very fortunate that so many of you have helped and continue to help with the running of the club - thank you all. I used to put together hosting rotas and was so grateful to all those players who were willing to help me to make them work. We are introducing hosting for Learn and Play on a Thursday evening and I have offered to set up a host rota for Real Bridge on Friday mornings – please do let me know if you could help again.

I have attended my first Bridge Committee meeting – undoubtedly one of the engines of the Club. Many events are planned, including informal “Play with the Expert” sessions when those of us (like me) with erratic skills would have the chance to be partnered by and learn from (or even make friends with) an expert in a non-threatening environment. Give it a go if you get the chance. We will continue offering both BBO and Real Bridge and I am enjoying both for different reasons. I know some people prefer one to another, but each has advantages. Meeting a cheery opponent (even if he/she does defeat your contract) can do a lot to raise spirits so do keep the conversation flowing (up to a point) and, above all, please keep smiling.  If you are having Real Bridge problems, the advice on their website may be helpful. Our centenarian member, Elsi Hamilton, has taken to remote bridge like a duck to water - so do give it a try. Elsi really appreciated all the birthday greetings she received on the big day and would like me to thank everyone on her behalf.

Now for some more good news. Tom Gregory-Smith, an evening player, has been shortlisted for one of this year’s “Our Health Hero” awards. Voting closes on 8th February. Click this link to find out more and to cast your vote to support Tom  https://t.co/WHvQepA9t0 or https://t.co/OZUbQW3nk7

Despite the circumstances, our Club goes from strength to strength. Remote bridge has taken off, more than 70 people have signed up for our education programme, Saturday seminars are fully booked, and the club is financially secure.

I am so sorry that lock down has prevented you coming for a chat and seeing my snowdrops, but I can assure you they are looking great and there are more to come. I encourage you to plant Galanthus “Trumps” (see attachment) - one of my favourites and surely a must for every bridge player!

Keep going and good luck at the bridge table.