If you’ve read this column even occasionally you will know that I think bridge is the greatest mind sport ever.
Today’s column talks about the advantages of introducing bridge to young and inquiring minds at an early stage, and is aimed not only at the youngsters but at their parents, who can encourage their kids to take up a game that will not only enhance their thinking but will give them years of pleasure and competition.
Bridge brings into play so many different skills — a bit of maths, a bit of memory, a bit of table presence and the ability to reach back to recognise certain situations or experiences. Almost as important, bridge is a social experience and exercises not only the mind but the emotions and — at a later age — provides some essential human contact. Not all of the contact is fun, but you take the rough with the smooth
Interestingly, child prodigies at bridge are rare — that essential store of knowledge held by an experienced player compensates for some declining skills and we have had many world champions in their sixties and seventies, and some in their eighties. So if you have a child who thinks they can buck that trend, let them loose.
Bridge keeps the mind working and it is widely accepted that bridge players stay sharper, more alert and feistier than their non-bridge counterparts, and bridge is very much the gift that keeps on giving.
So, if you are someone that wants to get into the game, or has a son or daughter who does, here is how you do it. If you are at any of these four schools here are the people to contact: Saltus (Mike Viotti); Berkeley (Sandra Stowe); BHS (Louise Neame); CedarBridge (Kalreta Conyers Steede).
If you aren’t at one of those schools, I would suggest your first point of contact should be John Burville, who has been spreading the bridge message for some time. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bridge teachers often talk about the “golden trump fit” — either 4-4 or 5-5 in the trump suit. There is a great reason for this and there is a hand to prove it.
Dealer South E/W vulnerable (see Chart #1)..
I’m not going to discuss the bidding of this hand in any detail as that can get complex, but what I want to do is illustrate the power of the “golden fit”, where both hands have an equal number of trumps.
There is always a great comfort in having a bunch of trumps between the two hands, but that isn’t always a good thing. On the hand in Chart #1, , once South opens one spade most N/S pairs will end up in 6 spades, some will languish in 4 spades, and some frisky pair will end up in 7 spades. Clearly those in 4 spades will get a below average score and the pair in 7 spades will get a zero as there is there is no way to avoid a diamond loser.
Take a look though at the “golden fit” in hearts, 13 tricks roll home with the losing diamond going away on the long spade, so declarer makes 5 spades, 4 hearts, 2 diamonds, 1 club and a diamond ruff in the North hand.
How does one get there after a spade opening by South? Very difficult on this hand, and it needs a well-practised partnership with the North player taking control and at some stage offering South a choice of hearts or spades, and South must be brave and trust his partner and choose hearts.
The main point of the column though, is to highlight the power of the 4-4 or 5-5 trump fit, and keep that in mind when the bidding allows you to explore a secondary fit.