10. Bridge: A philosophical take on playing bridge

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Playing “transfers” in bridge, is for me the dividing line between sociable and serious bridge.

Which is how I came to exchange e-mails with Linnet, co-founder of the Wine Women and Philosophy Spa for the Mind in Montreal.  I came across one of their offerings–Away Days of Social Bridge, only to read later they offered social bridge lessons that included transfers.

“Oh dear!” I wrote to them, “This isn’t social bridge it’s serious bridge aiming at duplicate.” If you include transfers the goal is duplicate.

Had I read Linnet’s resume beforehand, I might have been too intimidated to write. But my response was spontaneous (much like Emily’s “I just want to have fun” in an earlier blog). I was so disappointed that this lovely and novel idea of a club that sponsored weekends playing social bridge might be just another club for duplicate players.

Linnet responded and to my surprise turned out to be exactly on my wavelength! She agreed with me, but expressed her attitude toward bridge in almost philosophical terminology and much better than anything I’d written:

“As a child of social bridge-playing parents and grandparents . . . I am with you on so many points you make. I think that it would be such a pity to lose that vital and vibrant part of the game to strict and endless conventions, and I do feel that my own enjoyment of the game diminishes as the number of conventions that we are trying to “master” increases. [Bold emphasis is mine.]

“It becomes a different sort of challenge. Strangely, I find that the game becomes so centred on the bidding process that by the time the game actually happens, it is just a kind of “get-it-over-with” formality to see whether we got the bidding right. I don’t feel the same kind of joy in playing that I felt when I knew less (or wasn’t expected to know more) and was winging it to a certain extent.”

Exactly my reaction when someone I play bridge with asks, “Do you play transfers?” It’s the slippery slope to loss of joy in playing–“winging” it as Linnet says.

She closed:

“I am glad that you have as your mission the task of keeping [sociable bridge] alive as a game, and continuing to bring new players in. I took on the same kind of mission a few years back, but in another domain–recreational ice skating. I felt that the sheer joy of skating on ice was being lost as people opted for competitive hockey and figure skating, and I called for an active embracing of what I called ‘disorganized’ sport.

“I really believe that we live in an era where everything becomes professionalized and everything needs to be validated through some kind of official accreditation, when in fact true freedom and pleasure in activities of all kinds comes of doing them in a sociable and relaxed ambiance. . . of doing them for fun’s sake.”

Like Emily in my earlier blog but with a thoughtful and “life philosophy” twist.

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