Bridge: a card game for the mind

By Roy Roberts
Trivia Too
There was a card game called Whist that was very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, so popular that it was mentioned in Jules Verne’s, Edgar Allen Poe’s and Jane Austen’s novels and short stories. In the 1890’s that game was changed a little and called Bridge Whist. A little later it became the game of Contract Bridge, and thousands of bridge clubs sprung up all across the country and also through Europe.
Eighty years ago Christine’s Mother was in a bridge club with seven other farm ladies. They would take turns having their card game in their homes, except for our neighbor Archie Dunn. Archie would let his wife Bessie go to play bridge, but when it was Bessie’s turn to entertain the group, Archie would not allow card playing in his house. The ladies would all bring their mending when they came to the Dunn house. That is the time that they darned socks so there was plenty of that to be done.
Bridge in Beardstown became more interesting during the 1960’s with four or five bridge clubs and also a Duplicate Bridge Club with fourteen couples, a two table ladies duplicate bridge club and another with ten men. They had ten members because there were three doctors in the club and it was the time when the doctors made calls to homes or to the hospital at any time. When they answered a call there was someone to take their place, and there would still be enough to play.

Duplicate Bridge is the same as party bridge except they use a board with slots for each bridge hand and the boards are passed from table to table so everyone is playing the same cards. There can’t be a complaint that you didn’t have good cards. It is competitive because you are trying to get more out of the hand than the other teams playing the same cards.
The recent generation wasn’t interested in learning what they thought was a boring game that old people played. It could be that there have been too many other challenges, entertainment and social options. The American Bridge League reports that their members have fallen off drastically, and likewise the number of bridge clubs in Beardstown has dwindled to two with older ladies and another younger club.
Believe me, there has been much shared over the bridge tables, having babies, raising those babies and now grand babies. They have solved the world’s problems, kept up with the happenings at schools, churches etc. They have gone through marriages losing one of their parents and even losing one of their members.
Some time ago Pat Day was asked to give bridge lessons in Beardstown and started with five joining her class. The group has now grown to two or three tables of bridge with a few ladies subbing who had played bridge in the past and wanted to review as well as enjoy the entertainment with the group.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have given $1 million to start bridge clubs in schools. I had heard of some states having classes in grade schools for chess players, which go on to have regional and state chess meets just as they do for football, basketball and baseball.  One of my readers sent me articles out of a Nashville paper about bridge for kids and suggested I write a column about it.
Gates and Buffet recognize that the mental skills developed at the bridge table are more valuable than the ability to navigate Super Mario through a maze with a joy stick.
Bridge is a very intricate, exciting game, because it challenges you to learn and better yourself. It is a complicated game that encourages logic, probabilities, memory, and you have to work with your partner to communicate information. No wonder Bill Gates and Warren Buffet enjoy playing bridge.
I have read, and our doctor has advised us that playing bridge helps keep the mind active and healthy. It’s one of 20 activities that helps slow down the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. That is all good but instead of the four hours or more we used to play, we find that 90 minutes is plenty long enough to play now.
The kids in the school bridge leagues discuss it during the noon hour and play after school. Parents and others volunteer to assist during that time. The kid bridge leagues for 4th grade through 8th grade are plentiful in New York and other Eastern states and the kids love it. The fifth grade students who play bridge at a Carlinville  school made better grades on a standardized test than those who didn’t play bridge.