Luise Lee

What happened to the good ol’ days?

I wasn’t around the time that my father played tournament bridge, some 35+ years ago — long before my time on this earth.  My father’s introduction to the game was from his friend Ken Murray, who back in the day and in my father’s small circle of friends, was quite an accomplished bridge player.  One day he went with his friend to a tournament where Ken handed my father a single sheet of paper with various scribblings of opening bid requirements:  With a strong hand (16+), bid 1C.  1D response waiting, etc.  1H opening shows 13+ with 5 hearts.  1S, same with spades, etc…

My father was quite a good poker player and eucher player at the time, but had never tried his hand at bridge before.  He watched a few games and quickly got the hang of it, and then sat down with his new partner to play in a pairs tournament.  His poker experience served him well at the bridge table. With his reference sheet of paper and his experience at reading table presence, Ken and my father had a very good game and ended up winning the event!

Things sure have changed since then… I went with my dad on the weekend to play in the Barrie Regional tournament.  My dad hasn’t played compettitively probably since I was born.  His sole exposure to the game these days is through playing online at BBO.

At first, my father seemed quite pleased to be at the event.  As usual, he was the social life of the pre-game party, chatting up everyone who passed by about the good ol’ days and his past bridge adventures with his friend.  My dad has an amazing ability to strike up random conversations with practically everyone he meets and become friends instantly.  I wish I could do that!

Then we get to the table before the game is about to start and my dad immediately starts focusing on the bidding boxes.  “They didn’t used to have these when I last played — how do these boxes work?”…  Then the tournament directors came around with the boards for our table to set up — we played 4 boards per round so there was lots of work for us to do.  My father was obviously intimidated about trying to help set up the hands and was very clearly confused, constantly putting cards in the wrong hands or making mistakes. 

When we started playing, my father struggled with learning how to use the boxes.  We did play in the newcomer game, but of course the event was stratified, so we also played against experienced bridge players, some of whom were not very forgiving or patient, and visibly just unpleasant to play against.  We started the game late because both my father and I had to go in the washroom just before the first round started. By the second round, we were quite behind and the tournament directer asked us to skip a board because of late play. 

In our third round, since the director rushed us along and made us skip, we hadn’t even written down the scores from the previous round yet.  The next couple that faced us was an elderly couple, obviously a husband and wife.  I was sitting North (my father can’t walk around very easily so we had to be stationary) and I was trying to keep up with the scoring and playing/bidding at the same time.  Our opponents had been bidding and I was trying to write down the score sheet from the last round while they were bidding.  A couple times, the bidding got to me and I had to take a second to review what had happened, and then dutifully passed with my 2-count balanced garbage.  When the auction ended with my father’s last pass, my LHO  said impatiently “It’s your lead, dear!”.  If she had stopped there, I wouldn’t have been frustrated, but then she proceeded to say, (while I was thinking about the bidding, the contract, the scores from the last round that I still hadn’t finished writting down yet, etc., etc.), “You can’t hold up the game like that — you should make your opening lead and then write things down after the lead has been made — someone might say something to you about that”…  My dad couldn’t contain himself and was obviously very frustrated at this point, and retorted “I think you just did.  Isn’t this supposed to be a newcomer game?”.  I returned to thinking about the lead and she was still talking, and my father responded “She’s allowed to think though, isn’t she?”.  Her husband was playing particularly slowly at the time as well, so it was quite ironic that she was annoyed by our mild (by comparison) delays.

Anyway…  all in all, we had a decent game.  I can post more about the results later, but I think that it is a shame that my father was so intimidated by the people we played against and by the new system of using the bidding boxes, and about all of the rules about what he’s allowed/not allowed to do.  I asked my father if he wanted to come back the next day to play in the afternoon, but he clearly had had enough.  I was sad to hear him say so — I was hoping it could have been something we did together on a regular basis.  I guess we will have to stick with the impersonal connections offered online.

1 Comment

Ross TaylorSeptember 22nd, 2009 at 8:02 am

Hey Luise – I didn’t realize you were at Barrie – me too – would have been nice to meet.

I recall Ken Murray well from back in the day – he was a formidable pairs player – which of course requires a unique skill set

It is a shame how things went for your dad. Don’t give up though. Maybe you can buy a fw bidding boxes and practice at home and also work on “table etiquette” so that he can approach his next tournament or even club game with confidence

I had my first game of bridge as a school boy in the UK 35 years ago. Even though it was not standard, the local club playing area was so small, that even then they had silent bidding – which was all new to me

They had a plastic card in the middle of the table with all the suits and numbers 1-7 on display, and each player would point at the card with a pencil what their bid was !

Half way through the game, they had a ten minute break whereby tea, coffee, and fresh home baked goodies were served at the table with plates and napkins !

I came fourth with the local expert, and was rapidly on my way to becoming hooked!

Best, Ross

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