Test Yourself with a New Game of Skill: Bridge

Summer Bridge Open Play

When’s the last time you tried something new? Something complicated? You’ll have the chance on campus this summer with a new program to teach and play (and eventually master?) the strategic card game, bridge.

Phoebe Lostroh, associate professor of molecular biology, is leading the effort to bring this challenging game to campus. “It is a way for us to learn together and play together this summer,” she says. “It’s open to students, faculty, and staff. I’m also trying to get the local high school to participate, especially to bring disadvantaged students on to campus to meet college students. Bridge can be played by anyone and everyone — and in fact it is played all over the world.”

Check out http://www.worldbridge.org with the motto “Bridge for Peace.”

“I’m very interested in activities that make better local communities, and that help people feel connected to one another across boundaries like citizenship and religion,” she says. “Toward that goal, I am working with a local bridge center of primarily senior citizens who will help teach and mentor anyone on campus who wants to learn the game.”Local bridge masters John Dukelis and Ann Parker both are retired K-12 teachers and part of the American Contract Bridge League Unit 360.

Lostroh also cites research on K-12 students, which shows that playing bridge improves communication and conflict-resolution skills.

Bridge is a four-person card game with similarity to spades, hearts, euchre, and pitch. Pairs of players sitting on opposite sides of a table compete to take the most tricks (which consist of four cards, one from each player in turn), or to defeat the other pair from taking as many tricks as they had planned. Before any cards are played, there is a complex negotiation, called bidding, to arrive at the contract, which determines the number of tricks one pair must try to make as well as the suit that will be the most powerful during the play of the hand. You have to count cards, and you have to consider the odds of an important unseen card being in one of the other hands. Lostroh points out there are no shortcuts to becoming an expert bridge player.

Lostroh says she was inspired to start up a bridge group on campus afterreflecting on her own experience learning the complex card game. “There are many parallels between learning bridge and learning in college,” she says. “In addition to practicing, it pays to listen to experts and to study, and to avoid getting distracted by charlatans who claim they’ve found an easier, faster way.  You have to play the hand you’re dealt. Sometimes that means you get the most organized biology professor in the department — sometimes not. Sometimes the hand is perfect for the new bid you that your partner just learned — sometimes not. Either way, the only way forward is to keep trying.”

Participate in the kick-off event Saturday, June 2, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in Tutt Library Room 105; open play is happening every Wednesday in June and July, 6-8 p.m. in Worner Campus Center.

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