Sunday, September 11, 2011


Archer has recently shown a keen interest in the game of bridge.  He has read the basics in books about card games that he studies, and he frequently asks to see the bridge column in the daily paper.  So for his birthday, I suggested to his grandparents that they get him a book on bridge.

When his schoolwork started coming home with bridge layouts and bidding sequences drawn on the back, I knew he was reading the book and absorbing some of the intricacies of the game.  The grandparents' visit this week turns out to be a good chance for him to play for the first time, since there would be three other people around with some experience and knowledge.

I'm a rank amateur when it comes to bridge; I enjoy the game, but it frightens me because of the ever-present potential for letting someone else down.  When we dealt out the first hands, with me partnering Archer at his suggestion, I wondered if we'd end up in situations I didn't understand or couldn't cope with.

Turns out we had three very interesting hands, with Archer acting as declarer twice (and therefore playing both his and my hands) and us defending once.  I coached Archer through each hand with suggestions on what suit and rank to lead when, and reminders to keep count of the trumps.  As he executed a perfect back-and-forth from his hand to the dummy in order to mesh high cards in both hands, I could see the light bulbs going off in his head and the excitement of the elegant pattern and rhythm in his demeanor.  When he overtrumped a trick his grandparents were counting on, he was jumping out of his seat with the thrill.  The hands he played were not slam dunks by any means, but we accumulated overtricks on both of them, and we set our opponents on the only hand where we played defense.  I could tell that he felt most challenged when it wasn't clear how to lead when we were out of guaranteed tricks, but heck, that's when I'm most at sea, too.

I think he'll be good at the game, and really enjoy it as well.  When the pattern is evident and the cards are flowing from one side of the table to the other, when you can see several moves ahead and your opponents' hands contain few surprises, it's highly satisfying.  And when you can pull out some surprises of your own and find tricks where none seem to be hiding, it can be a thrill.  Archer should be able to hold a lot of the detail that bidding and play reveal in his head as the hands unfold.  If he can find some people to practice with, he might have found another gaming obsession.

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