Video: Felixstowe club reveals all about the gentle game of bridge
12:30 09 February 2014
Bridge – it’s just a gentle game that happens after dinner in films isn’t it? Well there’s a bit more to it than that, as James Marston discovered when he tried his hand at the game.
Apart from an annual game of Newmarket at Christmas and the odd hand of whist as a youngster I’m not much of a card player.
I’ll admit that once, after a boozy night in the Isle of Man of all places, I once played blackjack in a casino and lost - I’m no James Bond.
But Bond was a bit of a bridge player and it is a game that always looks so civilised in the films.
Hercule Poirot was always making up a four when there was a scream from the study wasn’t he?
So it must be worth giving it a go.
And that’s why on a Tuesday afternoon I found myself at the Felixstowe Bridge Club’s weekly session at the Royal British Legion Hall trying to not to get muddled up between spades and clubs.
Bridge teacher Tony Shearman was on hand to show me the ropes.
He said: “Bridge is a partnership game. The aim of each partner is to get the highest score they can for each hand.
“The whole pack is split between four hands.”
Woodbridge-based player Jan, who was nominated dealer, was my partner and it was she who opened the bidding – the first part of the game.
She started by bidding one club.
As I sorted out my cards I puzzled about what this meant, Tony filled me in.
He said: “Each player has 13 cards and there are 13 tricks in each hand. Bidding is a way of nominating suits to be trumps so from Jan’s bid we can deduce she probably has some clubs in her hand.”
Fellow player Terry Howard, 68, and treasurer of Felixstowe Bridge Club passed on the bidding, I bid a spade – I think – and the fourth member of our game Joan Mayhew, of Kesgrave, bid a heart.
Jan then bid two spades and the bidding was over – she was declared the “declarer” and I was the “dummy” which effectively meant I had to lay our all my cards and Jan told me which cards to play.
Somewhat like an auction, the bidding carries on until the other players pass. The last person to bid has then a contract to fulfil – the amount of the bid plus six – so in our case we needed to win 8 tricks.
Its sounds complicated but as soon as play started I felt I began to understand at least something of what was going on.
Quicker, stimulating and involving far more thought than I realised, bridge really is rather good fun.
By the end of the game though we had scored only seven tricks which meant we hadn’t fulfilled our contract and the other team won.
So onto game two and with a fistful of spades it was my turn to open the bidding.
I played a stop card and, as Tony said – raised the roof with a bid of four spades. We had to win ten tricks.
Jan was “dummy” and I was “declarer” and play ensued.
By the end of it we scored all ten tricks and 620 points – though I admit the scoring system was a little beyond me at this beginners stage.
In the third game Jan and I made our contract again and, to be honest, I was pretty pleased with myself.
Jan, 74, said: “I’ve been playing about 30 years. I enjoy the intellectual challenge and it is very social.
“Its somewhere you can come on your own and its gets you out and about. I play a couple of times a week.”
Terry, also a keen golfer, has been playing for about four years. He said: “It keeps your brain working and it is exciting. It is fun and it’s competitive.”
And for Joan, 74, who has been playing for about 40 years it is a way of keeping the mind active.
She said: “I am passionate about it.”
So how did I do?
Jan was full of praise. She said: “You did very well James, for a first attempt.”
And Tony generously said I showed promise for a beginner.
Club secretary Sylvia Burgess said the club has about 60 members and is open to new members.
She said: “We can offer classes and the opportunity to learn bridge and we welcome anyone who wants to play. Our session starts at 2pm and usually we like to finish by about 5pm. We play about 26 boards in a session.”
Sylvia, who said the club has been going for more than 20 years, said it is part of the English Bridge Union and players also take part in occasional tournaments. Membership to the club is £5 and the club charges £1.50 per person each session – it isn’t a very expensive pastime.
As I was leaving Sylvia passed on some tips.
“The trick is to try to remember what has been played and work out what cards are in the opponents’ hands.
“The big thing is the bidding; there are lots of different bidding systems some quite simple, others quite complex which you learn about the longer you play.”
A really fun afternoon.
Felixstowe Bridge Club - Best behaviour at Bridge
Bridge is an extremely enjoyable game. Courteous behaviour is an exceptionally important part of that enjoyment.
This guide serves as a brief reminder of how to behave at the bridge table.
We are sure that all players naturally follow this code of conduct, but there are times when concentration and pressure can take their toll and it is for these situations that we issue this as a reminder
•Greet others in a friendly manner prior to start of play on each round
• Be a good ‘host’ or ‘guest’ at the table
• Make your convention card readily available to your opponents and fill it out completely
• Make bridge enjoyable for yourself, partner and opponents
• Give credit when opponents make a good bid or play
• Take care of your personal grooming
• Ensure that your mobile phone is turned off
• Enjoy the company as well as the game
Remember that it is rude to criticise your partner or opponents in public, to be less than polite at the table, to gloat over good results or object to a call for the tournament director or to dispute or argue about a director’s ruling.
Source: Felixstowe Bridge Club