A Game By Any Other Name…
The beginning of our beloved game came about in the 1800’s with Bridge Whist — continuing until it was converted in 1904 to Auction Bridge and continued that way until Harold Vanderbilt was credited when he brilliantly converted “Auction” into “Contract” Bridge while on a cruise in 1927. Then along came Eli Culbertson, Milton Work, Charles Goren and others who helped pioneer the game as we know it today. Since then Contract Bridge has appeared in many forms, including social at-home games. The American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) was created (in 1936) and The WBF (World Bridge Federation) at the urging and support of James Ortiz-Patino was formed in 1958 and under its auspices hosted many world championships/olympiads. Competition comes in all forms and shapes: individuals, pairs, teams … and more. Name your poison and pay your entry fee. At the duplicate clubs, the majority of events are focused on daily pairs with an occasional Special Club Championship (with an additional charge and extra masterpoints ala ACBL).
Judging from what we see locally here in Vegas, most play because of their love and enjoyment of the game enabled by leisure time. We also have Sectionals and Regionals. This Month (February 20th-24th), our Sectional will be held at The Plaza (which was the popular downtown site for the record breaking attendance of the 80’s and 90’s). I am pleased to add .. the advanced reservations are quite sizeable with nearly three weeks to go. All games (even at the neighborhood club level) allow the players to be ranked within their peers… new, intermediate and more experienced — depending upon their level of play). Obviously, it varies from social bridge all the way to the top .. National and International Competition where many high- level experts from both here and abroad compete … something like a Game for All Seasons. Bridge has shaped my life phenomenally beyond description (blessing me with both Norman and Bobby) and thus the necessity to express my concerns for the future distresses me!
Because of modern day technology, much has changed! I refer specifically to the current fabulous facilities employed to detect and document stealthy cheating (at all levels) with research and scientific methods not available previously. Early on .. perhaps sixty or so years ago, some adventuresome pairs illegally exchanged information and when discovered and corroborated .. some were booted out of our game .. many never to be seen or heard from again. Others paid a shorter period of penance .. but later resurfaced. However, with more experienced, clever, culprits (both nationally and internationally), it continued to thrive and is in the active stage of being proven and soon (I pray) to be stopped. I cannot go into the details myself, as I am not qualified to offer up proof .. but many top players (in 1963 when I came on the scene) KNEW and would have staked their lives on the undeserved wins of certain “glorious” teams (and pairs) whose names always appeared as No. 1. Many are familiar with the details after reading The Lone Wolff, but hold on to your seats .. there is more in the offing.
Since I truly believe the issue of deliberate underhanded, stealthy action is in the process of being squelched, we are exerting our efforts toward a new concern. On another site, most of you may have read about a second try (which failed over two decades ago) at introducing into universal bridge a proposed new contrived bidding system in conjunction with the striving for use of ‘Ferts.’ Yes, it is aptly nicknamed for the word ‘fertilizer’ which needs no elaboration. Just read between the drops. It is what it is! No doubt, most competitions are subject to change — and certainly favored .. IF in the interest of improvement (v. complicated bidding methods of confusion). Those of us old timers are appreciative and captivated by the majestic level to which bridge has ascended. However, there exist strong attempts to totally renovate our long-used methods of bidding where ‘this’ means ‘that’ and ‘that’ means ‘this.” If allowed (and we pray not), the game will go to hell in a hand basket — bearing no resemblance to what, for decades, we have proudly known as Bridge.
The most destructive element of this attempt at wreaking havoc on our long used, improved and rather simplistic bidding structure involves confusing techniques. Besides resembling a Halloween scene as it is very deceptive, it will cause contestants to play against trumped-up intentionally concocted bidding systems, slow down the game indescribably by unfamiliarity with the newly arriving chicanery, and force longtime players enamored by their favorite pastime to change their own bidding and defense to cope with it. And, how about all the extra time needed for those relatively in the dark who cause a delay of game. Certainly, they should not be penalized. With the revival of this second attempt to allow ‘ferts’ to infiltrate the system, I fear we will lose many avid players .. either giving it up or returning to relaxing mama-papa social coffee klatches. Is this attempted bridge revolution what you want? I didn’t think so!
Should (by some very dark and distant miracle) ‘Ferts’ and their accompanying ramifications officially ever sadly see the light of day … our once-great game’s replacement should be re-named GARBRIDGE!!