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Coming up trumps at Leaside’s Bridge Club I'll Try Anything Once!

Bridge Cards

Photo by Karli Vezina

Card games have never been my strong suit. Outside of Uno, I’m most comfortable around basic games like Go Fish or better yet, board games. In my mind, playing bridge was equivalent to the ancient Chinese art of Mahjong – a game of skill passed down through generations, a true battle of superior mental strength. That intimidation aside, I’d always been curious about the game of bridge, and thanks to the Leaside Bridge Club, I had my chance to watch the pros in action…and maybe try my hand.

There are several types of bridge, but Contract Bridge has remained the dominant form since the 1920s. Duplicate Contract Bridge is a variation where the same cards are played at more than one table, used for competition and tournament style games. It was Duplicate Contract Bridge that I was to learn about on this newest adventure in Leaside.

I arrived early to the Seniors Room of the Trace Manes Community Centre in search of Lauriette D’Souza, president of the Leaside Bridge Club. D’Souza had graciously agreed to be my mentor for the evening, at the risk of losing points because of distractions by yours truly. I had studied the rules of bridge, but learning on your own can only take you so far. Eventually you need to sit in on a game to see how the rules apply.

Karli Vezina learning from Lauriette D’Souza at the Leaside Bridge Club.

Karli Vezina learning from Lauriette D’Souza at the Leaside Bridge Club.

Players started filing in. Jackets were hung, knuckles were cracked and the game was most definitely afoot. I met a gentleman named Fred Tibbet, who has played bridge for about 40 years. Fred allowed me to run over my notes with him and clarify some terms. Joan Dollact, who has been in the game for 30 years, said many at the club have been playing since their university days. For them, bridge is a part of life.

After a pep talk with my pre-game coaches Fred and Joan, this is what I could confirm:

There are four players, two teams of two and 13 cards for each. The objective is to score the most points by winning rounds or “making tricks.” A “trump” is the decided suit worth more than others. “No trump”(or NT) means no suit is worth more than the other.

The cards you want to see in your hand are the “high cards,” which consist of aces (4 pts), kings (3 pts), queens (2 pts) and jacks (1 pt). The more high cards, the better chance of scoring top points.

My neck now craned over Lauriette’s arm, I watched as the game began. Teams “bid” first, which is a silent speculation of how many tricks or rounds each team thinks they can win. Then each team attempts to “make contracts.” Bridge player Martha MacNeil told me, “You bid a contract, then you either make it or you don’t.” Sounds easy enough, I think. If you make your contract, your team wins points. If you don’t, you lose points.

Understanding bridge is like trying to remember a dream. For a moment you think you have it, then something grabs your eye and you realize you don’t know much after all. After a few rounds the game did start to make sense though, and if I had lessons, I could see myself playing bridge in the future.

The Leaside Bridge Club, now 56 years old, always welcomes new members. They meet every Wednesday from 7-10 p.m. at the Trace Manes Community Centre on Rumsey Rd. The LBC is technically for seniors, but I’ve been told that if a younger person wanted to play, they would be welcome to join. If $4 for a few hours of snacks, cards and good company sounds good to you, consider a game! If you have any questions about joining the LBC, call Beth at (416) 444-0020.

If you’d like to learn about bridge before joining this or any other bridge club, check out www.acbl.org/learn_page/ to see the rules. There are also options to download bridge how-to software to your phone or computer. To learn more about bridge terminology, visit www.acbl.org/learn_page/bridge-terminology/

My apologies to all bridge players if I explained anything wrong; I’m definitely still learning.

Until next time…for science!