“About Duplicate Bridge” by Steve Becker

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February 28, 2015

“Most players play only rubber bridge . . . . This is a pity” is the opening sentence of Steve Becker’s February 5 bridge column, “About Duplicate Bridge.” Why a pity?

Rubber bridge players often don’t learn from their mistakes–or even realize they’ve made a mistake. Duplicate bridge players can’t escape their transgressions.

Which is absolutely true, but it’s also one of several reasons why social players vastly outnumber duplicate players—always have. Duplicate players seek perfection—the perfect highest possible bid played and made. Any observer of human nature knows the pursuit of perfection is an elitist activity. Social bridge is populist.

I don’t think Mr. Becker ought to even try to convert his social bridge readership to duplicate. There’s probably no statistics, but I assume bridge columns in newspapers have a good proportion of social bridge fans or they wouldn’t have large enough audience to justify a column?

Instead we ought to be appreciated for existing. Would there even be newspaper bridge columns if their only readers were duplicate players?

Why, then, do social bridge players read bridge columns?

If we’re not seeking perfection, why do social bridge players read bridge columns?

A neighbor of mine in New Hampshire analyzed the bridge column every single day and yet hadn’t actually played a bridge game in three decades. Both of us had learned to play back in the 50s but I did not “do” the daily newspaper bridge column until a few years ago.

I confess now I wish I’d begun that routine long ago, because reading Becker daily has absolutely improved my social bridge game, even as I have become far older. Also, now retired in Florida, I play far more bridge than I used to play in New Hampshire, with many younger than I am (and very good players), and so I think I have become addicted to the Becker column as a way of offsetting aging.

One reason I’ve not read bridge columns in the past is that the bidding system seemed so esoteric. Becker’s bids seem to me more “natural”–I first bid for all four players before looking at the actual bidding sequence, and so help me seems like 9 out of 10 times I reach the same bid–slightly different path. Those I miss are usually slams–but not always!

I’m not interested, however, in conversion to duplicate–I just enjoy astonishing my bridge friends now and then with a bit of astute playing to make a difficult contract. And hope they keep including me in their games.

So, Mr. Becker . . .

No pity, please! Appreciate that social bridge players survive despite a bridge “establishment” that does nothing to promote bridge as a card game–an establishment that only promotes duplicate bridge and keeps track of tournaments and masters points. Even its youth programs are entirely about duplicate, making certain that rubber bridge will be a distant memory in another generation.

Gone . . . along with typewriters and carbon paper.

In that context, your pity had an ominous ring, which accounts for this blog.



3 Responses to “About Duplicate Bridge” by Steve Becker

  1. I echo the earlier remarks and raise to 7 no trump! Our Port St Lucie (Fla.) social bridge group has been going for 3years+ now, with a “casual-beginner” session on Mondays and a more serious session on Fridays. We’re in the snowbird-less doldrums now, and I — who initiated the event with the county parks dept. — have been away more than a year due to personal and family illnesses.

    But others cared enough to pick up the slack and 2-3 tables of locals remain interested and committed. As I prepare to return to playing, I am gratified and pleased to know we’ve created this little pocket of friendly, highly social bridge.

    We had some duplicate players attending at one point who used our games for practice. This often conflicted with the otherwise gracious and fun atmosphere we strive for. Not to mention, left newer players scratching their heads over esoteric bids and conventions.

    I believe these dupe folks have moved on, at least I hope so — not very gracious of me, I admit, but they tended to poison the air, truly, and turn off the very people we want to encourage.

    So Maggy, while I’m one of the youngest in our group at 60, and nobody’s showing up with chicken salad on toast points, we aim to build on the rich traditions of social and sociable bridge you revere.

    Happy 95th and keep on keeping on!


  2. Maggy, I noticed in a recent blog post you mentioned your upcoming 95th birthday in March. Just want to wish you a belated Happy Birthday and I hope it was a good one. Your blog inspiring and you are a wonderful role model. Best wishes.

  3. I occasionally run into “The Duplicates” on cruises and am fascinated on how driven they are. They really aren’t playing a game but are participating in a great race to become a master(see Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?”) I don’t think they are really having fun, and they certainly aren’t looking for friends. I have some very bright friends who could be great players but wouldn’t put up with the duplicate schnanigans.

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