01. Bridge: “. . . breaking down the barriers is the key”–Andrew Robson

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Robson is an internationally-known bridge player and owner of a hugely popular bridge club in London. He happens also to be one of the first members of the serious bridge “establishment” to give me hope my views on bridge might have validity despite fact that I am purely a sociable bridge player.  I first heard of Andrew Robson in the book Backwash Squeeze, by Edward McPherson.

In the book, McPherson writes about London’s bridge world and the friendly ambiance of the Robson Bridge Club compared to the atmospherics of bridge clubs where he’d taken up playing duplicate bridge. When McPherson asks Robson what possible satisfaction he could get out of teaching those he knows “will never become terribly competent” he responds that wasn’t the point–“it’s going to enhance their lives.” I was entranced with both Robson and McPherson.

I was then in the throes of writing a book Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway?  with the subtitle: “An Affectionate Look Back at Sociable Bridge & Ladies Lunch.” It is a chronological account of the pop culture and social history of SOCIABLE bridge as opposed to the tournament and duplicate bridge played by serious players.

McPherson’s book caused me to change the whole ending of the book and conclude with a couple of chapters telling the establishment what I thought they ought to do to promote bridge properly to today’s younger people. I sent the last couple of chapters to Andrew Robson for comment based on the McPherson interview with him. He responded immediately: “You’ve hit the nail on the head–breaking down the barriers [between serious and sociable bridge] is the Key. . . . Bridge is enjoying a good resurgence over here . . . .”

And that’s how come I created Bridge Table Chronicles–to sell my book, of course, but also to advocate for an appreciation of sociable bridge as the pop culture phenomenon it used to be and could be again if only the bridge establishment and the ACBL understood its key role in growing their kind of bridge as well.

My reading of bridge history tells me that contract bridge became a mass fad in the  20s and 30s because of the conversion of SOCIABLE bridge ladies playing auction bridge and getting together for lunch–not because contract bridge conquered auction bridge amongst the tournament players.  And so, today, when the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) is working to restore competitive bridge to its glory days of the 30s to the 60s, they should be “breaking down those barriers” as Robson says, and making sociable bridge part of their strategic marketing plans.

They don’t do that . . . there’s a saying, “War is too important to be left to the generals.” I say playing bridge is too life-enhancing a game to be left to the expert players and the bridge establishment.

Bridge Table Chronicles is my way of putting in my un-asked for two cents–it has four parts.

  1. Bridge
  2. Sociable Bridge
  3. Ladies Bridge Lunch
  4. Nonagenarian Notions

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