Bridge - A sport based on skill, not luck

Action from the World Bridge Championships

Fortune may favour the brave, but when it comes to bridge, luck has little to do with who wins or loses. While most card games aim to be the cynosure of all eyes on the internet or in a casino, bridge is definitely a sport, arguably the most sophisticated of the lot, and is trying to become an Olympic sport in 2020.

While you might wonder what place a sport based on cards has at the Olympics, bridge can’t be compared to other ordinary card games. In fact, in many countries it is recognised as a sport. Even the International Olympic Committee has long recognized that bridge is in fact a sport.

The 42nd World Bridge Teams Championships, sponsored by HCL and going on at Chennai currently has been a competition full of engaging matches, with most being very evenly contested. This shows how well the sport of bridge is received around the world, and how important support from conglomerates such as HCL is, as the sport has been given a platform to thrive and attract more interest.

While there is little doubt that it involves little physical activity, unlike many card games, where luck decides whether you win or lose, bridge is a sport that prioritises skill over chance.

Most card games are won and lost based on the cards you are dealt, but bridge, like life itself, gives you the opportunity to make the best out of any given situation and sometimes even win, if you are dealt a bad hand.

Given how easy it is to fear what we don’t understand, it is easy to dismiss bridge as just another card game, one that should be enjoyed at your leisure time and not played competitively as a sport. But doing that would be depriving millions around the world of a sport that has provided them both social engagement and mental stimulation.

For it was less than a century ago that bridge was played by nearly one-third of all American adults. It is a sport that unites people of all ages, promotes social spirit that is almost absent in many people today and most important of all, provides more mental stimulus than kicking a football or hitting a cricket ball ever does.

As a result, strategies are an integral part of bridge, as is the case with many sports. So let us take a look at them, so that you can decide for yourself, that bridge is in fact a sport that makes you think, adapt and become versatile irrespective of the situation.

Much like how the early stages of any football match is about assessing the opponents and how they will play, the early bids in bridge are more about exchanging information and not just about setting the final contract.

More often than not, calls are made to evaluate the strength of the opposing player’s hand and coming to an informed conclusion. Sometimes, calls are even made with the sole intention of obstructing or delaying the opponents’ bidding.

As a result, the early stages of any bridge match are more about the players’ powers of deduction and evaluation and not just about the final contract. And while this may not always be the case, strategizing how to go about winning the match usually happens in the initial bids.

While the early stages are about analysis, the rest of the match is about out-thinking your opponent. While that might immediately make you think of going on the offensive, that isn’t wise.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful British manager in football, once said “attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”. While that was said about football, it isn’t an entirely inaccurate description of the importance of defence, when it comes to bridge.

When you are the declarer, you can plan your plays much more easily because you have access to your partner’s hand. But, when you play defence, it is more about intuition and ability to analyse the situation because you are unaware of your partner’s hand.

As a result, a good defence takes time to develop. Not only do you need the experience that comes along with playing a lot of matches, but also have to have played with your partner enough to understand the cards he/she is holding.

But if you know your game and your partner’s as well, the opening lead takes on greater significance for it gives you the opportunity to not just survey the landscape but cripple your opponent as well.

Bridge is a sport based on skill rather than chance. What drives this point home emphatically is the fact that in Duplicate bridge, the cards dealt in each hand are preserved.

This ensures that the hands played by each team are the exact same as their North-South or East-West opponents, placing importance only on how teams perform relative to each other. Therefore, it focuses on eliminating chance and emphasizes skill.

Only in Bridge do you have the opportunity to strategize and plan your move to perfection. Only in Bridge do you have the opportunity to stay in the game, even if you are dealt a bad hand. And that is just some of the reasons why bridge is a sport unlike any other. It is a mind sport whose beauty can only truly be understood when played.

Edited by Staff Editor
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