Area bridge players get a new, spacious home for their games

Bridge is a card game that is popular all over the world with millions of peo­ple – and aficionados will say it did not need tournaments – like poker – to get that way.

MP Frank Valeriote was on hand to cut the ribbon for the club, and said he is pleased to see that so many people are interested is such a mentally stimulating game.

In Guelph, bridge is so popular that Isabelle Spencer was teach­ing the game in her home. She started looking for a place for students, players, and the game itself.

The Guelph Bridge Club Inc. held its official opening on last month at Sennex Corp., the former Imperial Tobacco build­ing at 107 Woodlawn Road West. Sennex did not need all the executive space it had, and shares it with other groups, including some offices for Hospice Wellington.

“It was a dream of mine,” Spencer said as well over 100 people from the city and Well­ington County filtered in to see the setup that can hold well over 100 people for games of duplicate bridge. It can also be a cozy place for bridge lessons, ranging from beginners, to those who have not played for years, to those who love the game and want to learn even more about it.

Spencer said the first game on Sept. 1 attracted 12 tables, or 48 players for a Tuesday night league contest. The winners were all from the Fer­gus area. Bridge competitions are arranged by directions, with North and South teams playing East and West teams. In duplicate bridge, if there are 10 tables, the ten North-South teams all play the same hands, and they play them against the East-West teams.

The hands are dealt in advance and placed in card holders, with each slot desig­nated for each player. After they are played the cards are passed along

Because all the players are playing the same hands in duplicate, those who play the best will receive the best scor­es, and thus a winner can be determined.

The winners in the North-South seats in the first ever game were John Selig and Jim Bleaney, of Pine Meadows, and the East-West top team was Don McNiven and Shirley Scott, of Fergus.

Bridge is a trick-taking game, played either with a designated suit of trumps, or No Trumps. It is unique in that four players each hold 13 cards, but when the bidding is done and a contract determined, the declarer plays the hand, and his (or her) partner places the full hand, known as the dummy, on the table. Thus each player can see exactly half of the deck.

Spencer said that the by the grand opening on Wednesday afternoon, there had probably been over 100 people playing bridge in the room in two ses­sions.

The game can become fiercely competitive, but  most players behave politely, despite a strong urge to win.

“We have no tolerance for bad actors,” said Spencer with a smile. Each game comes with a director, who has full control and mediates disputes and can levy penalties for such things as not following suit.

She said the impetus for a hall for the game was simple. “We outgrew my house. I said, ‘It’s time for a central bridge area.’ ”

The game has been popular in Guelph for years. It evolved from Whist, and the first rules were written in the late 1920s or early 1930s. It was soon the most popular card game in the world.

Wikipedia states, “Compe­titions in duplicate bridge range from small clubs with only a few tables, to the World Cham­pionships and Olympiads where often hundreds of tables play the same hands. In the United States, a national tournament may involve 5,000 individuals playing a total of 15,000 tables over the 11 days of the event, whereas regional and local tournaments typically see 3,000 and 500 tables, re­spectively.

The game has attracted people like Microsoft boss Bill Gates, and actors like Omar Sharif.

The first bridge club in Guelph was formed in 1947, and there were several games being played on a regular basis every week when the new club began.

It has a nine member board of directors. The executive consists of:

– president, Spencer;

– secretary, John Liefeld;

– treasurer, David Estill; and

– legal counsel Peter Gifford.

It was Gifford, a lawyer, who did the legal work to in­corporate the club as a non-profit group.

Spencer said that every time she needed something to help create the club, someone step­ped forward to help. Adrian Record, of Fergus, for ex­ample, helped install the com­muni­cations equipment. A Guelph man set up a web site.

There are all kinds of bridge and all kinds of bridge players, and the new club is trying to cater to everyone.

The club offers a facility, guaranteed play, friendly dupli­cate games, games sanctioned by the American Duplicate Bridge League, stress free lessons, full accessibility, free parking, free hot beverages, a lending library (there are hun­dreds of books about the game, its strategy, bidding, playing the hand, and defence), as well as the club’s web site.

All bridge players are wel­come.

Games are $4 per person, and $6 for non members.

Courses, which will include booklets, are $80 for members, and $100 for non members.

Members benefit through low­er fees and free access to the library.

The annual membership is $60 per year, starting Sept. 1. The winter season starts Jan. 1, and the summer session begins on May 1. Memberships are avail­able at the club.

The club offers several typ­es of games, too.

Social bridge is open to all players, and there are three games per week in a stress free setting.

There are practice sessions, which include a mini-lesson and practice play, with guid­ance available. In that session, games are played and scored in an open, friendly format, and there are two such games per week.

There is also bridge for the more serious players. Those are sanctioned games. They in­clude open pairs games, with novice players welcome. Those who are members of the ACBL can accumulate Master Points as recognized by the ACBL. There are a number of players that have accumulated their Life Master designation, which requires 300 master points.

There are three sanctioned games per week.

There is also the Duplicate Team League. Teams consist of four to six players, there is handi­capping according to the num­ber of Master Points accumulated, advance regis­tration is encouraged, and that league plays every other Thurs­day.

The club has also made plans for future events includ­ing Swiss Teams, workshops, and weekend play.

All the duplicate results will be posted on the club’s website.

Learning bridge

It has been said that anyone who can add to ten and count to 40 can play bridge. That is true, but the game can become as complex as a player wants it to be.

There as several types of lessons available. Those classes are taught by Spencer.

Level I is basic bridge for beginners.

Level II is more basic bridge.

Level III takes students “beyond the basics.”

Level IV is called “well beyond the basics,” and there is a “refresher course” that teach­es common bridge con­ventions for experienced play­ers.

To date, the plans of the club are to be busy. There will be morning, afternoon, and evening sessions running from Monday to Friday, with only Friday nights left open. Events are being planned for week­ends.

For more information, call 519-763-7160, or email to info@guelphbridge­club.­org or visit www.guelph­bridge­