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Bridge: A game played by 200 million people - 19 November 2020


'What would I give my viewpoint about?' asked Rhondda Sweetman.

'At the moment, people are still focused on the American elections. I would have loved to have said something about Donald Trump and how he is reacting to his loss. Enough said. You have heard it all before!

'Instead, I am going to talk about the benefits of playing the game of Bridge and why it does not receive enough recognition in New Zealand.

'I spent the weekend playing in a 15A Teams Championships, in Auckland- with mixed results. Players ranged in age from the early ’20s to the late ’80s. Present were at least two former world champions: Ashley Bach and Michael Cornell. Have you ever heard of them? New Zealand Bridge tried very hard to get publicity for them, but it is very hard competing against Rugby, Netball, etc. Ashley is a relatively young man (about 40) and is a professional Bridge player. We send teams overseas to world championships and they often do very well. Do you hear about it and are they feted on their return?

'There are about 14.000 players throughout NZ and about 115 Bridge Clubs. These numbers do not include all the people who play online Bridge. The demand during lockdown was so high, that sites such as Bridge Base Online (based in the USA), had to split into two separate sites.

'Why play bridge?
'Played by over 220 million people worldwide, bridge is the most popular card game in the world. James Bond, Omar Sharif, Bill Gates, Martina Navratilova, Mike Gatting, Radiohead, and Blur are numbered among its devotees. Just what is it about bridge that inspires such passion?

'Bridge is social.
'As a social game, bridge is unparalleled and a great way to meet new people. It can be played at many different levels, ranging from a social foursome, right up to local, national and international competitions. At whatever level you play, you are guaranteed to make a new network of friends!

'Bridge is a game for all ages.
'Bridge is probably the only competitive activity that all generations can do together and all have an equal chance of winning. It is a myth that bridge is an old person’s game. It is a game best learned when you are young, and enjoyed for the rest of your life. It is a game that you can spend your whole life studying, learning, and playing yet never fully master!

'Bridge is good for the mind.
'It is a mental workout unlike any other and is one of the few activities to stimulate both halves of the brain in equal measure. Playing bridge uses and develops logical thinking, inferential analysis, problem-solving skills, sequencing, visualisation, lateral thinking, long and short-term memory, observation, and psychology (or cunning). Bridge is already on the national curriculum in some enlightened countries such as China and Poland. In the UK, a simplified form of bridge, known as mini bridge, is beginning to be introduced into schools.

'Bridge brings health benefits.
'It is believed that bridge can boost the immune system through its stimulation of the dorsolateral cortex, which is involved in the higher order brain functions needed to play the game. Playing bridge regularly will keep your brain young and your mind alert and recent research has suggested that it may even stave off degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

'Bridge is great fun and is exciting!
'If you can play bridge you will never be bored. It combines the best qualities of all games – the cerebral challenges of chess, the suspense and psychology of poker, and the excitement of a competitive football match. Bridge truly offers a unique combination of challenges and, with every deal different, success depends on a combination of technique, teamwork, and tactics.

'Bridge is good value for money.
It requires very little in the way of equipment and is thus a relatively inexpensive pastime. Unlike poker, it is not usually played for money.

'Bridge is a great leveller.
Bridge is played by people of all ages, from all walks of life, and from all social and ethnic backgrounds. When four people sit down at a table to play bridge together, none of the usual prejudices apply, all that matters is the game and the challenge

'My Viewpoint is that Bridge needs to be taken more seriously by the news media. New Zealand has a large number of players and we do very well on the world stage.'

Bridge: A game played by 200 million people - 19 November 2020

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