Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Tony Deyal | Bridge gets Trumped

Published:Saturday | November 4, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Imagine a game where No Trump is worth more than any Trump and seven No Trumps is the highest you can reach. In fact, people who end up with Seven No Trumps rejoice more than those who are celebrating the arrests in the Mueller investigation. The game is Bridge and it is played by millions of people globally. Looking at the way things are going in America, it is easy to understand why Bridge players place so much more value on No Trump than Trump. What reinforces their long-held position regarding Trump is that Bridge is described as a 'trick-taking' game and nothing in the world these days seems trickier to deal with than Trump. The only major difference between Bridge and games like All Fours or Rummy is that in those games, instead of negotiating or bidding for Trump or No Trump, you actually get the satisfaction of 'kicking' Trump.

As a young man, I preferred to kick a ball or bowl one. In those days, life was divided into two distinct seasons - cricket and football. We did not have the money or live in a milieu where tennis, rugby, and competitive swimming were possible. Cricket and football were not sports as such. Sports were events that happened once a year in the school or took place at Easter in the village Savannah. In our village, apart from the cinema, there wasn't much to do or see. Sports were big. A couple weeks before the big day, we practised a bit and then ended up in the rum shop drinking a few beers. When the big day came, we hung out with our team-mates and took in the action. Some of us ran or jumped, but most of us looked at and commented on the legs of the girls who participated or, despite not being rugby players, tackled them.




In addition, all of us learnt to play cards. Some stopped at 'Old Maid' and even married them and a lot of us went on to Rummy and All Fours, the games not the way of life or positions. At that point we made absolutely no distinction between which were sports and which were games.

As far as we were concerned, 'Sports and Games' was a store with branches in north and south Trinidad and, I found out later, in Barbados and Jamaica. It was a place we passed and looked at the boots and bats, the flannel and 'cork' balls for cricket, the laced, leather footballs we could not afford, and the pads and gloves, the lack of which made us even better cricketers, strong off the legs and quicker to spot the rising ball.

I started playing Bridge accidentally. I was chairman of Canada Hall in the University of the West Indies in St Augustine, Trinidad, in the year 1970. This was the year of the Black Power revolution and the majority of students in the hall were from Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica. Most of them did not have the money or were not sure whether to return home and then come back to Trinidad if and when the situation was resolved. Some of us ended up playing cards in the common room. While now a threesome is something that many men consider the height of worldly sophistication, for Bridge players, it is not a situation devoutly to be wished. Bridge is a game for four players or two twosomes. It is a game of partners and, as May West said, "Bridge is like sex. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand."

Because I love cards and was willing to read about the game, something that Bridge shares with Chess, I was pounced upon by three desperate characters in search of a fourth. Then, I received a request from two younger boys who were learning bridge and was drafted into an ongoing game with an Englishman who was teaching at a local secondary school. We became better and more fanatical about it and went through entire weekends without sleep. In fact, one night we were held at gunpoint by local 'guerrillas' in the back room of a shop and still continued to play the game afterwards. I have a bridge programme on my computer and when I feel the need to mull over some problem, I immerse myself in the world of what I consider the most fascinating pastime in the world.




Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two multi-billionaires, are also avid bridge players and play together often. Buffet says, "Bridge is such a sensational game that I wouldn't mind being in jail if I had three cellmates who were decent players and who were willing to keep the game going 24 hours a day." Gates insists, "Bridge is one of the last games in which the computer is not better."

Financial entrepreneur, Malcolm Forbes, is sold on the value of the game, "Playing Bridge reflects intelligence. It's one of the really great pleasures of life. Anybody who's missing Bridge is missing so much in life." The problem is that while they and many more of us all play the game of Bridge for sport and recreation, we were astonished when the European Court of Justice ruled that Bridge is not a sport even when played competitively, because it lacks a "significant physical element." I am not sure if the judges were ever at games, especially involving married couples, where the physical element was not just significant but dominant. As one old Bridge joke goes, after dinner with a friend and his spouse, a man asked his wife, "Shall we all play a friendly game of cards?" His wife replied, "No, let's play Bridge."

- Tony Deyal was last seen saying that Bridge is a great comfort in your old age. It also helps you to get there faster.