- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
To the uninitiated, duplicate bridge players are speaking an alien language while in the midst of a game.
It sounds like English: “I’ll take the ten of clubs.” “Play your little diamond.”
Then they will go silent but continue to talk to each other using cards pulled from something called a bid box.
Bridge, thought to have its roots in the English parlor game whist, is the “chess of card games,” said Carolyn Kier, a player and wife of Porter Kier, one of the founders of the Duplicate Bridge Club that meets each Wednesdays at the Newburg Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department.
A game of partnership, bridge was played by soldiers during World War I and thanks to uber-wealthy fan Harold Stirling Vanderbilt — who is credited with popularizing the game via his social standing and the introduction of more rigid rules — the game took off.
“Every single move has a meaning,” said Lloyd Bowling, the co-founder of the club.
The game hit its zenith in the 1950s when it was a popular pasttime on college campuses.
That’s when the Newburg club’s Bowling took it up.
“It was very popular,” said Bowling, a professor emeritus at George Washington University. “When I was in the military, we played a lot and I just kept playing. In grad school. ... I was always in grad school.”
Graduate students are usually on a budget.
“It was a cheap way to spend a Saturday evening,” Bowling said.
Started about four years ago, the club was in answer to a community of card players that got together to play party bridge, Porter Kier said.
Players were open to another challenge — enter duplicate bridge, a variation where the same deal is played at each table and scoring is based on performance.
Bid boxes are used to prevent partners from communicating via body language or voice inflection.
While each hand should be played within seven minutes, the Newburg club isn’t very strict, Kier said.
“I don’t want to have to yell at Lloyd if he’s taking too long,” he said.
“Like I’d listen anyway,” quipped Bowling, as he placed bid boxes on each table — on a recent Wednesday there were 14 players (a couple sits a hand out if there are not enough players).
Duplicate bridge allows players to earn points which are kept by the American Contract Bridge League and let a player know how they stack up against other players around the world.
There are about 165,000 members in the American league that make up 3,500 clubs and 1,200 tournaments. But bridge is played by millions around the world.
Kier and Bowling teach the game on cruises and both have earned enough points to be regional masters.
Carolyn Kier likes that duplicate bridge is a thinking game.
“It keeps your mind sharp,” she said. “It’s better than being a couch potato.”
It’s a lifelong learning opportunity, she added.
And it’s addictive, said Cris Hinchcliffe of Swan Point.
“Play it once and you’ll be hooked,” she said.
“For the rest of your life you are learning,” added Sara Young of Pisgah, who is Bowling’s partner.
“That’s why it’s exciting,” Hinchcliffe said. “You’re learning something.”
While duplicate bridge can be daunting, the basics can be gauged in one sitting, if the player knows a little about the game.
“Once you play this you won’t want to play any other card game,” said Joan Dent of La Plata.
“I don’t know about that,” Young said. “You have to play Go Fish with the grandkids.”