September 25, 2009 at 8:42 am 6 comments

I’m not sure how many of you can answer the question I put forward today as you have to have had a particular relationship to bridge which few do. But still.

GM Ljubojevic once said ‘I have won many games that have not made me happy, and when I lose, I am also not happy. My friends ask “so when are you happy?” That’s the way chess is, you are happy only rarely, the rest is grief.’

And this, from GM Nigel Davies: ‘Several years ago at Wijk aan Zee, I asked GM Hulak why (his compatriot) Boris Ivkov seemed so bored. He looked at me in a rather concerned way and explained: “Chess is a very boring game and Ivkov has been a professional for thirty years. Now he has no choice but to continue and he hates it”‘

Do these comments fit into bridge? If not why not?

My first thought was that perhaps they don’t. Chess, after all, is about a monumental struggle on a game by game basis where you put so much in that it can’t but give back much hurt. Whereas bridge is about many little struggles, none of which matter on their own, any one or more of which can be brushed aside….

But then I went to the theatre last week and saw Ronnie Burkett’s new show, Billy Twinkle, which is autobiographical. The scene set is one where Billy, who is a puppeteer, is deeply unhappy and at a point he admits the inadmissible: he even hates puppets. The horror of this statement is not lost on the audience. Everybody could understand, even though almost nobody would have been in any sort of similar position. We all knew, though, that it was his life he really hated, not his puppets.

That made me think more about bridge and remember a professional player at a club I used to go to in London. He was a bitter, bitter man who saw bridge as something the very purpose of which was no more or less than to torture him. At some point, however, he was lucky enough to find somebody who fell in love with him and that changed his life. It followed that it changed for the better his relationship to bridge. His unhappiness in bridge was merely a manifestation of his unhappiness in life.

At the same time I think that there are people of whom we could say the opposite. It is genuinely the game they hate and when they free themselves of their attachment to it, their lives improve as a consequence.

I hope this is a worthy topic to while away some time on the weekend.

See you Monday.


Entry filed under: thoughts on bridge.

Angel of mercy The modern psyche.

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. sartaj  |  October 4, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Terrific piece of writing, Cathy.

    One of the charms of bridge is that there is enough scope for self-delusion.
    Unlike chess where reality stares you in the face every time you sit at the board.

  • 2. Peter Hainsworth  |  September 26, 2009 at 12:02 am

    for me this says it all :-
    Bridge is the most diverting and intelligent card game that the wit of man has so far devised

    I would have children taught it as a matter of course, just as they are taught dancing; in the end it will be more useful to them, for you cannot with seemliness continue to dance when you are bald and potbellied; nor, for that matter, can you with satisfaction to yourself or pleasure to your partner continue to play tennis or golf when you are well past middle age. But you can play bridge so long as you can sit up at a table and tell one card from another. In fact, when all else fails – sport, love, ambition – bridge remains a solace and an entertainment.

    W. Somerset Maugham

  • 3. jill  |  September 25, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    If you come to the bridge table thinking ” I’m the Ace of Spades, and I want the whole world to know it!” you won’t be happy.

    If you come to the table thinking “I’m the lowly 2C of clubs, I wish I were bigger and better”, you won’t be happy.

    bridge won’t provide self validation when it is lacking within

    If you come to the table as the 7 of Diamonds and just enjoy the moment you have a chance of happiness, and might even shout a few beers at the end of the round.

    the 2 of spades

  • 4. Richard  |  September 25, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I actually stopped playing bridge, for more than twenty years. I learned to play as a teenager, and for several years soaked up as much learning and playing of bridge as I could muster and afford. When I went to college, I played much less, partly in fear that my course work would suffer, but I didn’t quit. And yet five years or so after I left college I came to New York, and was faced with being in a strange country with a whole bunch of new challenges, and I quit bridge altogether. And I didn’t miss it too much, given everything else that was happening.

    But I never threw my bridge books away, and I still read the newspaper columns and stuff. And about ten years ago, I said to myself that I had been really silly, stopping doing something that I had enjoyed so much. So I re-read my books and started playing again. I’m not as infatuated with the game as I was thirty-odd years ago, but when push comes to shove, you can find me at the club three, four, five days a week, playing or directing or teaching. Maybe if I hadn’t stopped, I would have grown tired of it. Or maybe I would be a star, who knows. But I don’t think I would have ended up hating the game.

  • 5. david appleton  |  September 25, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Many years ago, I accidentally ended up essentially full time working (in Brisbane, no less) as a bridge professional. I have to say that even over that time period (less than a year), I recognized it as a go nowhere position, and got out (moved states to do it).

    Even given I prefer the teaching side of things (which was the basis I took it on, at least at the start), I don’t think it is a healthy thing to do in the long run. Then, those who know might suggest a lack of healthiness, too. Perhaps it depends on how much original input one needs in a job?


  • 6. Bill Jacobs  |  September 25, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    This does not apply to me. Perhaps bridge has an advantage in that the game starts differently each hand – with the randomized deal.

    In chess (and puppeteering?), you are always starting from the same point. Maybe it gets boring after a while.

    Here’s the reverse position, which certainly I associate with, taken from Grant Kilvington’s obituary to Charlie Snashall:

    “Charlie said that the biggest thrill he got from bridge was taking the first hand from the board at the start of an event and feeling the excitement of a new competition as he checked out his cards. It didn’t matter whether it was an evening’s duplicate or a national event – the feeling was the same.”


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