Luise Lee

A tale of a young bridge player, spirit crushed by “DIRECTOR!”

I posted this story before, but never as a post on my own blog.  So I am writing it here now to preserve it for eternity, for I fear I might forget where I initially posted it:

Did I ever tell you why I quit playing bridge in the first place? I remember I was in university at the time. My parents and grandparents had tried to teach me bridge numerous times prior, but it was not until I actually saw my peers playing at the card tables that I actually took an interest in the game in the first place. Anyway, I took a few lessons from Eric Sutherland, who was a senior at the time that I knew him… I learned enough that my friend and I used a simple system, and there was a university tournament being arranged in the “big city” (Toronto) and we were all going on a field trip! As a small-town girl, it sounded like great fun to me. I was looking forward to it.

I was so nervous that I would make a mistake (This was well before I learned the lesson that every mistake is merely an opportunity for learning). Anyway… on the second or third board that we played, the dreadful sound “DIRECTOR!” emitted from my opponents mouth. I had never heard this before… What does it mean? The harsh tone that it was spoken with clued me in that this was not a pleasant word and that something very bad was about to happen. A very tall and intimidating gentleman appeared, spoke to my opponent, spoke to me (which was impossible because my brain shut off and I was rambling jibberish by then) and the director ruled against me.

It didn’t help matters that this particular director behaved inappropriately, was curt and rude to me, and said directly “I don’t believe you” after I gave him my explanation for my line of play.  Eric Sutherland was also a director at that same event.  When he noticed the goings on at our table, he came by.  I proceeded to give the same explanation, and he made the same ruling as the first director, but at least he had a meaningful explanation: When you said “Ace, no small…  No, play the ace”,  you paused after you said “play small”, so that must be the card that we accept”.

I was distraught with the whole experience. It took all the strength I could muster to make it through the rest of the board, going down in a cold 3NT, before I had to excuse myself and go have a good cry in the hallway.

That was my one and only experience with playing in a bridge tournament.  It will be a very, very long time before I choose to go back to that situation again.


Dan NeillMay 28th, 2010 at 3:41 pm


Agree, though it was not mentioned in your case, for me everyone at the club was 60+ years old when I was 18 in the mid-90’s and there was a lot of anti-youth / anti-beginner bias. I remember a woman laughing at my play and at how bad it was, to my face! Director calls were similar trials, but it has improved as the old guard has died in the last 15 years. Now it is more boomer-oriented who I think are nicer to X’ers, particularly as they tend to be new learners as opposed to the Greatest Generation who played their entire lives and were never required to restrain themselves by ZT or other efforts required to save the ACBL. Hope you return at some point.



maggy simonyMay 29th, 2010 at 2:09 am

Just discovered this bridgeblogging site this evening, exploring idea of setting up a blog myself and/or finding a suitable website/blog to run an ad for my book on the history and pop culture of sociable bridge (as opposed to the serious bridge of your experience).

Luise, you’re the personification of my late-life cause, and why I wrote a book–which is to rescue the future of bridge from the clutches of the bridge establishment. Do you know that saying, “Living well is the best revenge?” I say “Playing sociable bridge is YOUR best revenge!” Don’t let the misanthropes of the serious bridge world drive you away from this wonderful game.

Dan’s probably right–atmosphere is better when boomers are running things and greatest generation dying off. I understand, for instance, that non-ACBL duplicate games at homes, with food part of the event (just like the couples dinner-bridge clubs of my day) are flourishing.

I’m of that generation–90–but I want those boomers to take up SOCIABLE BRIDGE so that the ladies-only sociable bridge club survives when all the bridge-playing old ladies like me, who learned to play in the 50s and 60s, are gone. Tradition! Let the ACBL worry about survival of serious bridge.


LuiseMay 29th, 2010 at 6:29 am

I never took an interest in bridge in the beginning because it was my parents who were trying to teach me… and seriously — what teenager wants to hang out at home and play bridge with their parents?

I think the biggest problem for me, and why the above event was so damaging to me, is that it WAS against my peers. This was a University event, all of the players and directors were undergraduate or graduate students.

howard bigot johnsonMay 30th, 2010 at 9:16 am

Dear Luise, If you like the game you should play it despite the aggro that will inevitably come your way. Part of the challenge is to rise above it and not let it “destroy” your confidence and desire to play. Some directors of course are pompous officious arseholes, who love pampering up to the big boys. Well, let them…but many others try to do a fair and honest job. You are voicing what many others have experienced, but the game is too beautiful to let others put you off. Yours Howard Bigot-Johnson

JoaquimJuly 7th, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I actually cant stand how few players my age (22) there are around. I have been playing the game since I was 5, and been playing relatively competitively for the past 5 years roughly. Id love to enter bridge tournaments/leagues, but having no luck.

I have been playing on , and people are amazed at how young I am in regards to how I play.

Waterloo, ON


John GooldJanuary 28th, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Dear Luise, Let me add a couple of comments.

Maggy has a very good point. Both of you have feelings like my wife.

I like “competitive bridge”, it’s the only kind I have ever, really played. Also, after I retired, I became a certified director (but not in the ACBL zone), so I’ve seen both sides of the coin.

My wife doesn’t have an issue with the director (at least not here in St. John’s, NL) but with the attitude of players, many of whom seem to have a win-at-all-costs attitude. Unfortunately, I understand her perspective perfectly. I have adopted the philosophy that bridge is just a game and that I can play a game within a game. My game is to prove to myself that I can play better bridge than my opponents and win despite their “competitive advantage” (I’m not supposed to say “cheating” and many cases it’s not — it’s ignorance of the bridge laws or subconscious picking up of clues from their partners).

However, that doesn’t decrease the nasty feeling when opponents are intimidating (against the bridge laws) or rude (against the bridge laws). It only takes care of opponents using “unauthorized information” (UI — against the bridge laws). It can be very difficult to make a case when UI occurs, especially if, like me, you have difficulty interpreting what the UI has conveyed. Even in the “top levels” (world bridge championships, for example), pairs can have a difficult time demonstrating they have been hurt by UI.

On the other hand, I’ve played the odd social game (with and against my wife) and had a very enjoyable time. I also play “social bridge” with my long-time partner from Toronto — we play online on Bridge Base Online (BBO), generally once a week. On BBO we avoid any unpleasantness by only playing against pairs we know. We’ve had various pairs that know our schedule and are almost always waiting for us for our regular game. I also play (on OKBridge) with my partner from Costa Rica. Again, it’s the same situation, but there it is an arranged, regular game against a pair that our bridge peers). Although the BBO pair tend to lose most of the time, they seem to enjoy our company and, more importantly, they are pleasant, friendly players (and their skills are improving — we don’t always win!).

I have been encouraging my wife to play bridge socially in “home” games. We still have to see where it goes, but I hope she does. Oh, by the way, she won’t partner me — I’m “too competitive” 🙁

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hhJanuary 6th, 2015 at 1:53 am

I am 74 yrs old and have been playing for about 4yrs so I am a late comer to the game. I must know about 20 casual players and not one is willing to play acbl duplicate with me because they are afraid. I am playing in acbl sanctioned games as a fill in but it seems as though no one wants to partner up with me. How can I find a partner?

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