I’ve had the most amazing challenge for the past few weeks, helping a young Chinese woman improve her English.
I started playing Whist as a young girl with my Mom, Dad and brother Jim. Whist was a good card game for learning the concept of taking tricks or not taking them. If you bid to take tricks, you learned how to play the cards in order to win the hand. If you passed, you could easily learn how to throw away your high cards on higher cards. The experience of playing cards in Whist was very helpful when I started to learn the Bridge game.
It Takes Four to Play Bridge
I lived with three other girls before I was married and we sometimes played bridge together. It takes four to play, or multiples of four, and we even played bridge sometimes with a foursome of football players from the Saskatchewan Roughrider football club!
I bought a booklet on the Goren Convention System when I started playing Bridge. It was only about 30 pages long but it served me well. Many people play only Duplicate Bridge, and both Duplicate and Standard are played competitively. At the Huntsman Senior Games in St.George, Utah where I competed in golf last year, Duplicate Bridge is one of the categories.
Bridge Became an Occasion
In 1960, I first joined a bridge club that consisted of seven other gals. Now Bridge was a big occasion, and it was a seriously big night out! We got dressed to the nines and arrived at the home of the hostess at 8:00 p.m. Drinks were served (not your regular iced tea, either) and we played bridge for several hours. THEN a delicious “lunch” was served, but that was closer to 11 p.m., and afterwards we’d have dessert and coffee. We were pretty buzzed when we got home, around midnight.
Our group of eight played together for several years and each of us would eagerly await our turn to be hostess and show off our hostessing skills. Although each of us tried hard to do our best and the food on hand was always beautifully prepared and delicious, we never once thought about putting together a book of favourite recipes the way a group of women from Calgary did. The Best Of Bridge cook books are still being published, and are go-to books for many cooks I know, not just bridge-players either.
Being the Hostess
Being the hostess, back in those days, meant a great deal of work. First you thought up the menu, then you bought the food and drinks, then you prepared the food, cleaned the house, got your husband out of the house for the evening, threatened your children to stay out of site, got out the card tables and folding chairs from the basement or borrowed a set from a neighbour, made sure the cards had no sign of wear and tear on them and, if so, you’d need to buy new ones… and then you were ready to open the door for your guests, who would all arrive promptly a few minutes before 8:00 p.m.
Grand Slams and Finessing
Many of my friends have passed on now, but one of the bridge clubs I started up in Regina is still active. The joys of those grand slams that you made stay in your memories. I will never forget one evening when I had spades in every hand all night. I had one grand and one small slam in spades that night and four spade games as well. What a night!
Sometimes it is not winning games that is the challenge, but how you play the hand. With so many possibilities in the cards, every hand is different and your challenge is to try and make the best plays. Sometimes it is a finesse you made that you remember. To finesse (in Bridge or Whist) is an attempt to win a trick with a card that is not a certain winner.
Here in Calgary, I am lucky to have friends to play Bridge with every Monday. Times have changed and we seniors have traded in the Wednesday nights for playing in the early afternoon. Coffee and tea (regular or decaf) and a small lunch is served now, and none of us serve alcohol! After decades of play, I am always still learning. Sometimes I will have three friends over for dinner and we will play for an hour after dessert. My friends will do the same at their house.
When I am watching sports on TV, which I often do, I will deal out four bridge hands and bid each of them. I will even play these hands as the contract winner and figure out the best way each trick should be played. It is just another challenge. A lot of people I know play bridge on line.
Bridge and Mental Fitness
Call your friends and invite them over for a game of bridge. It is good brain-work and maybe a delicious dessert too!