Bridge: Learn The Eco-system Of The Game

Bridge: Learn The Eco-system Of The Game

The game is often equated with gambling or considered as a non-constructive activity. However, playing competitive or social bridge is far away from gambling

Arvind VaidyaUpdated: Saturday, December 23, 2023, 11:51 PM IST
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The basics of bridge have been covered in the previous columns. Readers have been made aware of the basic setup and the mechanics of the game. The rules of bidding and card play were explained. The outline was given about the bidding system and bridge scoring was summarised, too.

In today’s column, we will learn about the eco-system of bridge — various layers of the game and the scenario in India and abroad. The game is built around 52 playing cards. But, bridge has faced a perpetual challenge of taboo — playing cards is not looked upon favourably by many, at least in Indian society. It is often equated with gambling or considered as a non-constructive activity. However, playing competitive or social bridge is far away from gambling. The social taboo is a challenge for several bridge federations and the bridge fraternity.

The World Bridge Federation (WBF) is an apex body for governing the sport across the world. With more than 100 nations affiliated with it, WBF is one of the largest sports federations. Bridge has been recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and by the World Mind Sports Organisation. Each member nation under the WBF has a national federation (like the Bridge Federation of India or the BFI). The BFI has many state associations as its members. Bridge was part of the last two Asian Games and in both, India won medals.

Another important aspect of its eco-system is the development of the game through education. Unless adequate facilities for learning the game are created and sustained, large-scale awareness for new players cannot happen. Competent teachers are needed in adequate numbers. Here, bridge faces a unique problem which most other sports do not. There is no retirement age for a bridge player and, therefore, most players remain busy playing the game till older age. Thus, there is no exclusive pool of retired players who can become full-time coaches to teach aspirants wanting to make a career in the game.

While bridge is for all age groups, one of the recent phenomena worldwide is the junior bridge development programme. The WBF has taken initiatives in this regard and a few member nations have been making efforts. The World Youth Bridge Championships are held every two years for U-16 to U-31 age groups. While some of the European nations have been at the forefront of youth bridge, in India, such effort is relatively new. To make inroads, BFI will need the involvement of school and college authorities across the country, which will in turn require parental acceptance. The promoters of the game must convince the stakeholders about the benefits of learning bridge for youngsters, not just as a competitive sport but also in studies. Last, sponsors are another important element of bridge’s eco-system. Government funding is received for official international tournaments and corporate or individual sponsors have been around too.

Next column we’ll learn how and where to learn bridge.

(The writer is a National Championships winner, advanced Life Master rank holder, and bridge teacher. You can reach out to him on arvindv22@gmail.com)

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