Finding the philosophy of duplicate bridge

By James Plutino
Riderwood Resident

I enjoy playing duplicate bridge at Riderwood where one can find four sessions to participate in every week. I relish the card play and the usually friendly social exchange with other residents who share the same passion for the game.

I was recently reminded of a book on bridge I encountered in the 1980’s while I was avidly amassing master points in my paper chase to achieve life master status. The book’s title was “Bridge in the Menagerie,” by an English author, Victor Mollo. This delightful book was full of instructive hands and challenged the reader with bidding, defensive, and declarer problems that focused on tactics, technique, and good old-fashioned ability to read your opponents as well as the cards.

The book’s title was especially apt since it took the reader into a world, nominally a duplicate bridge club, frequented by a host of colorful characters whose “given” names represented a variety of animals. Actually, Mr. Mollo’s often humorous prose helped identify the primary characteristics of each character.

There was Secretary Bird, a stickler for all bridge rules, who often got terrible results at the table when his strict adherence to the “rules” backfired on him.

Hideous Hog loomed large as an expert player who masterminded the bidding so that he managed to be declarer on many hands since he did not trust his partners to play them as well as he could.

Rueful Rabbit was not a very skilled player but one who would invariably land on his feet despite lousy bidding and play, especially when he partnered with the Hideous Hog. It occurred to me as I read the book that these characters resembled some of the people I met at various duplicate clubs, replete with flashes of genius and human frailty.

So, it goes as we joust with our kindred spirits at the table with mixed success and regret. Games were invented to amuse and challenge our intellect and provide us with a brief respite from the sometimes-oppressive realities of life. What better remedy to meet the challenge, sometimes personally triumph, and sometimes congratulate your opponent for a well-done play or bid.

It is this undeniable feeling that makes us come back again and again, for duplicate bridge helps satisfy that urge we all possess to compete:  at the table as well as in life. If any of my fellow Riderwood residents would like to swell our ranks and join the welcoming fray, please contact Bob or Ginny Stewart at (301) 326-2805 or by e-mail at rjstew410@gmail.com.

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