Bridge in New Zealand
No-one knows exactly how many people play bridge in New Zealand. We know there are around 14,000 players who are members of 107 clubs affiliated to New Zealand Bridge. Yet many others, a number in the thousands, play bridge online, at work, home or at other non-affiliated clubs.
Bridge is not just a game for all ages but is also a game which can be played both online and at a club, or somewhere where all the players are together in one location.
Bridge Online versus live Bridge
Playing bridge online enables people to play from the comfort, the safety of their own home, without having to travel. Sky Bridge Club and Bridge2go are New Zealand based online bridge clubs that welcome bridge players from all round the world. Many world-wide friendships have been formed through playing online.
Many players can practice with their partners online with computer-generated hands. Players can also watch bridge competitions played elsewhere in New Zealand or around the world. For the keen, Bridge is a great spectator sport.
A bridge club is or can be more than a place where one goes for a three hour session. While you can chat while playing online, face to face bridge enables players to meet and play with others who live in their area such as House of Cards in Christchurch and Royle Epsom Bridge Club in Auckland.
Why play bridge?
Bridge is a stimulating activity. It is a game of the unexpected. Every deal is different. It is an activity, a sport, an entertainment you can play whether you are 10 or 100 or any age in between.
At a high level, bridge is just as competitive as any physical activity. While some question whether such a non-physical activity can be classified as a sport, it is recognised as such by the International Olympic Committee of which Bridge is a member, although it has never been accepted for either the Winter or Summer Olympics. Nevertheless, it has a large structure of international and national competitions. At its top level, it is extremely competitive.
Whether bridge is played at home or in a club, it is a great way for people on their own to meet and socialise with other people. Many people find it hard meeting other people. Bridge offers such people a meeting place and an activity which they have in common. Not only can any two strangers meet and play together with little discussion but Bridge players at all levels of ability can enjoy the post-mortems, discussing the deals they have played during a session or evening of Bridge.
Bridge is an activity that transcends age. Although young players do pick up the game more quickly, it is an activity where age is irrelevant, a level playing field where older people can compete with and triumph over younger people. Your bridge partner can be 40 years younger or older than you are. Few sports transcend age in such a way.
Bridge stimulates people, keeps their minds active. It is not alone in this but as such, it appears to delay or defer the on-coming of Alzheimer’s. "Sport for the body. Bridge for the brain." As such, it is beneficial for people to play Bridge.
Learning to Play Bridge
Bridge players comment that they never totally learn the game. They learn something new every time they play. That is certainly part of the fascination of the game.
However, you can pick up the basics of the game after a series of lessons which, assuming one has one a week, would normally last around 8-10 weeks. Bridge is unlike most other card games in that one quick lesson does not give one the full basics of playing. It is much easier to learn if one knows other trick taking card games like whist or "500" though its rules are different from other games in many respects.
All clubs affiliated to New Zealand Bridge run lessons for those who want to learn. At the end of such an 8 or 10 week period, one is encouraged to try sessions at the club. The larger clubs have sessions just for newish players, called "Junior" in bridge terminology while smaller clubs involve the new players in sessions with players of all levels of experience. Bridge does have its own terminology, language, which one learns from the start, another reason why it takes time to learn the game.
It is really important that Bridge lessons are not just "sit and listen" but right from the start, players play and put into practice what they are learning.
Clubs would help players find partners though many will start off playing with someone they learnt with at the lessons. Clubs are keen to encourage new players to come regularly and should make their new players feel welcome. Although sessions of Bridge are played competitively, clubs pride themselves on having a friendly atmosphere which make new players welcome. Soon, hopefully, they meet and play with existing club members and start to feel very much part of a club.
Some players love competitive activities and the chance to win. Bridge can satisfy this need. Bridge in clubs offers players the opportunity to play for master-points and thus attain in time a new higher ranking. It can be a wonderful feeling, for instance, to become an Open rather than Intermediate or Junior player or indeed become a Local or Grand Master.
One deal of Bridge takes normally 6-7 minutes to play. Tricky deals can take a little longer though over a series of deals, that would be the average.
If one plays at a club, one plays a session of Bridge which normally lasts about three hours and consists of about 24-26 Bridge deals. Clubs have both daytime and evening sessions. With evening sessions generally finishing at about 10.30pm, early nights do not fit in well with playing the game.
A Bridge tournament will consist normally of two to three sessions, that is between 48 and 72 deals. Such a tournament is a daytime commitment starting at about 10am and finishing between 5and 7pm.
A Game for All
Bridge is a game for all whether you are young and keen on developing a partnership and playing at a high level, whether you go to a club for the friendship which the game offers, whether you play on-line, at home or in a club. You can be competitive and at the same time enjoy the social experience. It can be all absorbing or just something you do one session a week.
For so many, the pleasure of making a grand slam, even just making theirs or beating the opponents' contract is a neat experience. A well bid or played hand. A good score for a round of Bridge. A new friend made. A wonderful game.