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Monday, October 04, 2004

the game of bridge

When someone mentions the word bridge, we immediately visualize the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge or the pontoon bridges used by the Army or the Konkan Railway Bridge. We are also reminded of the award winning cinemas ‘Bridge on the river Kwai’ or ‘the Bridges at Toko-ri’ or our very own black and white oldie ‘Howrah Bridge’ which propelled Helen to fame. The unforgettable foot tapping dance number ‘mera naam chin chin choo’ is a popular one to the youth even today – proof is in the remixes. While discussing bridges, we cannot forget the generation gap and efforts of psychologists to bridge that gap. But, the bridge of all seasons still remains that beauty of a game involving a pack of cards.

Yes, a game of bridge can be an absorbing, engrossing and entertaining one with enlightenment thrown in for good measure - especially when the experts discuss the pros and cons of certain deals or methods of play with open books to prove their points.

I first learnt the ‘primitive’ form of the game viz. the auction bridge when scores used to be kept in two vertical columns ‘we’ and ‘they’. Vulnerability was never predetermined and there were no boundaries defined within which to operate. Subsequently, I ventured into the territory of contract bridge and became acquainted with the modern system of maintaining the scores. I also tried to understand and evaluate the different bidding systems like Goren, Precision, Joshi, phony clubs etc.. Simultaneously, I began picking up terminologies like ‘discard loser on loser’, ‘finesse the Queen’, ‘drop the opponent’s singleton’, ‘engage in dummy play’, ‘end play the opponent’, ‘squeeze the opponent in the minor suits’ and so on and so forth.

My learning also extended to both the versions of the game – the ‘pair’s event’ involving only one pair and the ‘duplicate event’ involving a team of four i.e. two pairs. In the duplicate events, one of the pairs sat in the open room, where enthusiastic persons could watch the progress of play and pass comments. The second pair would sit in the closed room and were not permitted to move into the open area. The deals played in the open room would be played in the closed room also, the difference being that the players would sit in opposite directions. In the beginning, all this seemed confusing but, with the passage of time, I became more and more knowledgeable.

Our local Officer’s club used to organize friendly games on Sundays.

We would assemble after lunch in the club hall and, for the next four hours, would try to bid and achieve three no-trumps if not slams! My partner and I used to experiment a lot. We evolved a bidding system of our own and tried it out in local tournaments. We even tabled it in the Joshi Memorial Bridge Tournament conducted by the Mitra Vihar club of Nasik in 1981. We were granted Special Leave to participate in the Tournament; unfortunately, we were nowhere near to players like Jimmy Mehta or the Tolanis. But, we did get an opportunity to see them in action. The brightest stars of Indian bridge who regularly attend International tournaments.

There is a saying in Bengali – ‘tash, daba, pasha/shakal karma nasha’ (‘cards, chess and dice are games that ruin your working potentials’). Yes, these are bad if one becomes an addict. Basically, all these games are examples of ‘hope springs eternal in the human breast’. When one is dealt a set of cards which does not promise much, one gets disheartened. He prays to God Almighty for a better deal next time and, the next time may not come quickly enough! Once addiction sets in, cards like any other intoxicant can be equally destructive.

It is recommended to use it judiciously, in small measures, to get the required kick!!

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