SO WHAT IS WRONG WITH BRIDGE ?......( Article by Bridgemeister Gibson )
In my opinion, bridge is the best game on earth. Its abstract beauty is something to behold. The endless number of adrenalin rushes you experience after steering home a difficult contract, or defeating an opponent's impregnable slam, makes playing the game the most pleasurable experience ever. Indeed, there are dozens of really good reasons why people should take up bridge. The most important being the mental demands of the game help you to retain all your mental faculties for much longer than would otherwise be the case. As a mental health issue this is massive, especially in a world where an ever-ageing population is plagued by Alzheimer's disease and senile dementia.
Years ago, in the 1940's, bridge was on a roll. In over two-fifths of American homes you could expect to find one or more of the occupants playing some form of bridge as one of their enjoyable pastimes. Sadly, the game has failed to maintain the popularity it had back then. So what then is wrong with bridge today?
Many commentators have suggested it's the game's complexity, which has become a barrier to any possibility of a modern resurgence. Has the game become just too difficult to learn? Or is it the case that the game has become even more difficult to master with its vast catalogue of approaches, techniques and stratagems, for playing the 635,013,559,600 possible bridge hands?
Well, when one has a passion for bridge, like myself, it is hard to understand why the "complexity issue" is a major turn-off. The main attraction for me is the game's endlessly unfolding complexity. No matter how much you know, there is still so much more to learn. Yet that aspect of complexity is not what some of the commentators are referring to : for them it is the new generation of over-elaborate bidding systems, with loads of artificial, two-way, three-way bids, leaving perplexed and confused opponents either bereft of effective counter measures, or terribly unsure as to how best to use ones they have. Trying to envisualise what the opponents hands might be only becomes possible later on, when clarification or confirmation bids are made. By this time, the opportunity has gone for the bamboozled opponents to compete. It's all very well having a 6 page convention card on the table for opponents to look at, but if they have never come across that system or that particular convention, they are seriously disadvantaged. Explanations may well be given, when alerts are queried, but they rarely include information as to how to defend or take counter-measures against them.
But if anything is more off putting to people initially interested in taking up the game, then look no further at the ever expanding rule book, and the endless deluge of alerts that the bidding rules now require. Then there is the complexity of procedural rules which attempt resolve the thousands of "situations" that can crop up during the play of a hand. So when a TD is called over for alleged breaches, there is much to be read and digested before a resolution can be made. Hesitations are a minefield, given the complexity of situations as to when, how and why a hesitation took a place. Was it unintentional, bad practice, or just plain deliberate. Did it convey unauthorised information, or not? All too often rules are used as a score-enhancing weapons against naive and ignorant opponents.
People who worry about the future of bridge despair when they see the growing popularity of poker, both on the net and in the big city arenas. If any card game is likely to appeal to the younger set, then it's poker. The simple truth is that poker is far less complex than bridge to learn. It takes 30 minutes to teach the basics of Texas hold'em, and in an hour many new players can be as good as fifty percent of those who have played the game for years. The rules also very straightforward, and the only time an umpire is called over is when there's an allegation of cheating. This in itself is very difficult to do, when the dealer is a non-playing participant. The problem for poker players is not so much about the card reading, and figuring out what the opponents have, but the reading of the way they bet with particular hands.
It has always been my view that bridge players are very complex characters, far more than poker players. If poker players lose a great deal of money, they rarely have tantrums and histrionics at the table. They get up, blame Lady Luck for deserting them in their hour of need, and quietly walk away. Bridge players with their complex personalities do not allow themselves to be so philosophical. There is always someone else is to blame : partners, the TDs, their unethical opponents, plus countless other idiots elsewhere in the room handing over gifts to pairs sitting their direction. One can not help but notice the bad press that bridge has got over the years, with so many players behaving so badly. The complexities involved in achieving perfect harmony and understanding with partner often prove too overwhelming. By taking the game far too seriously, the blips or slips partners make lead to irrational and inevitable outbursts. So any newcomers, who might well be looking on, will surely change their minds about joining the club......purely on the grounds of self-preservation.
So yes, there is a lot wrong with bridge....and it requires a massive culture change and revamped image to arrest its decline......and maybe bring about a resurgence in its popularity and appeal.