Bidding blackwood, jumping to two no-trump, and ruffing in dummy: these are all standard card game terms to the over 200 members of the McGill Bridge Club, four of whom qualified earlier this month for the Educational Foundation Collegiate in Washington D.C., to be held this July.
Bridge is a four-person, trick taking card game modelled after Whist and similar to Hearts that involves intense strategy and technique. Contrary to the widely-held belief that most bridge players are seniors, a significant proportion of the estimated 60- to 100-million bridge players worldwide are spry, young enthusiasts.
Christopher Chalcraft, the current president of the McGill Bridge Club, explained that the variety in play is what keeps him playing.
“I like how intricate bridge is,” Chalcraft said. “The more you learn about bridge, the more addictive it becomes.”
While the basics of bridge can be taught in an hour, players are constantly learning new techniques, and playing with new partners and opponents.
“It’s not something that you figure out once and then it’s done,” said Shaz Taslimi, a former president of the club who has been playing for five years. “It does require analytical thinking. You do need to visualize the cards you can’t see.”
But while the game can satisfy the curiosity of the mind, many enjoy playing because of the friendly atmosphere.
“A lot of people start playing because it’s a social activity,” said Julia Evans, one of the four team members who qualified for the Collegiate tournament, who explained that meeting new friends at the table from nearly every McGill faculty has increased the value of the game.
The attraction of the friendly atmosphere is echoed by Paul Linxwiler, the managing editor of the Bridge Bulletin, the monthly magazine of the American Contract Bridge League.
“Bridge is the greatest game because of the partnership element,” Linxwiler said. “Trying to maintain communication between the partnership…that’s an art.”
Linxwiler also remarked that each game being a new experience has helped the game survive in its current form for nearly 100 years.
“Any game you could learn in five minutes is unlikely to hold your attention for a lifetime,” Linxwiler said. “It has an internal complexity and an internal beauty that keeps people playing.”
Chalcraft added that the supposed demographic skew is probably due to the stereotypes attached to the game by people who have never tried it, and that people need only need a few hours to get hooked.
“Bridge is a game of all ages. The reason most elderly probably play it [as opposed to youth] is because they have more time on their hands.”
The McGill Bridge Club meets Thursdays at 6 p.m. in the Trottier cafeteria. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.