We speak to bridge player Graham Nugent about setting up a club
Time Out Bahrain staff
In your own words ‘bridge clubs are like mausoleums – incredibly serious, all bidding with bid cards, no discussion or conversation - total silence for the three to four hours’. What do you mean, it sounds more like an exam than a fun pastime? An expat for 40 years, my social life in my early years in Africa had been dinner and bridge with friends. So many happy memories. A quarter of a century later I wanted to rekindle those memories: I knew I would be ‘rusty’ so enrolled at the Nearly Beginners Bridge Class at the Marlborough College Summer School. After five days, fired up and enthusiastic I decided to attend the local bridge club. I phoned and explained I was very much a novice and was told ‘no problem’.
I arrived at the appointed time, brief handshakes and then a signal, everyone moved to a table. My partner, a rather formidable lady, asked me a lot of questions as we settled down for the first hand
– ‘What convention – ACOL or Precision?’ ‘Do you play Stayman?’ I shook my head and she grimaced and said ‘don’t worry’.
It was the best of times: it was the worst of times. Total silence for the next three hours, punctuated only by the narrowing of eyes, by snorts and incredulous expressions. The non-verbal expressions of disdain more powerful than any words. I squirmed, all confidence evaporated. It was horrible. After ‘playing’ 24 hands (games), at the end my partner gave a summary of the evening ‘I expect we are bottom’. I crawled into the night, humiliated and embarrassed.
It wasn’t meant to be like this!
How did you get started playing bridge? In Africa in those days there was no TV just crackling radio if you were lucky – dinner and bridge became the mainstay of our social lives.
Can you give a brief outline of bridge, an idiots’ guide for us and other non-players? Bridge is one of the most popular card games in the world, played by millions of people at clubs, tournaments and with friends. It’s played by four players in two competing partnerships with partners sitting opposite each other . They are identified by the points of a compass – north, south, east and west and north and south play east and west.
The game goes through four phases – dealing, bidding, playing and scoring. Dealing and scoring are procedural, bidding and playing actively competitive.
The objective is to decide through a bidding process how many tricks you and your partner will make: the bidding is a complicated communication process with literally hundreds of conventions, signals, systems to indicate how many points you have and the distribution of cards. And then you play the cards to make the contract.
(Well that’s as clear as mud but we reckon it’s starting to make sense – basically it’s all about gaining points through tricks and trumps…we think.)
Why is it usually so serious? Because it would be easy for partners to have a set of secret signals and communicate information the other parties would be unaware of – to cheat ! What’s made you decide to challenge the norm? Because bridge is a great card game, players want to learn about the game – and the best way to learn is by playing and social activity should be enjoyable. And because of the horrible experience I had in going to a club (I mention only my last trauma – it happened twice before when I took the plunge to move from party to club bridge).
How are you going to go about it? I’m sure there are many people out there who love the game, want to enjoy it as a social evening and want to learn. There is zero learning at a bridge club: discussion and post mortems are strictly forbidden…you only have the result to go on. I want to reintroduce fun, enjoyment where you CAN discuss bids, rules, outcomes, you CAN talk about business, vacations, football and the weather, you CAN get a drink and a bite and have a laugh and enjoy and you CAN learn how to improve your game.
What sort of age group does bridge usually attract and are you expecting to attract the same? Party bridge is a great social activity attracting a wide range of players both male and female aged in their 30s and upwards. It will appeal to singles and doubles.
Have you been playing a long time? 40 years - with decades between - obviously playing very badly!
What makes bridge so popular? It’s a combination of challenging skills and hugely competitive. It can be great fun when punctuated by discussion and continuous learning in a supportive social environment.
But note, feedback, discussion and critique is positive. Criticism is not, so a coaching environment must be maintained with rules of behaviour emphasising enjoyment, constraint, helpfulness and kindliness
Where’s your party bridge club going to be? I am testing the waters. I will hold a meeting and by consensus decide venue – most probably a hotel or bar.
Anything else you think our readers should know? The people who respond will know exactly what I am talking about, others will be curious to learn more about the game.
After my experience I became convinced there was a huge market niche… For details contact Graham on (32 233 629).
More brain teasers
Bahrain Boardgame Group Want to get the grey matter working, have some fun and maybe make a few new friends? Bahrain Boardgame Group meets on Wednesday nights at the Bapco Club, Awali, from 6.30pm to around 10pm to play various games such as Puerto Rico, Empire Builder, On the Underground, Rummikub, The Russian Campaign, Washington’s War and lots of others. It’s run by Mark Hodgkinson who’s world champion at Empire of the Sun! Call (39 461 889).
Quiz nights Don’t fancy bridge or board games? You can still get a regular brain workout at any of the island’s many pub quiz nights. Pit your wits agains the DJ at JJ’s on Sunday, Corners at the Dragon Hotel, Amwaj or Kicks at Diva Hotel, Juffair, on Wednesdays and lots of other places around the island throughout the week. Also keep your eyes open for regular charity fund-raising quiz nights. call (39 967 896)