Saturday, May 31, 2008

Houston Bridge & Games Studio

The B&GS was a thriving place in the '70s. Thursday nights were 'Unit' games. The competition was strong, and it wasn't a bit unusual to have between 40 and 45 tables in play each week on that night. No classes were held on Thursdays. We needed that room to accommodate all of the duplicate bridge players.

We were located on the top (6th) floor of an office building along the Southwest Freeway. There was a club at ground level, and sometimes a group of us would go down for a drink after the game. We'd listen to the music, talk a little, but mostly we'd dissect all the hands we'd played that evening.

I was delighted, but very surprised when Steve Honet, Paul's partner, asked me to work there part-time. In addition to my other duties (described briefly in my last post), I also match-pointed, adding up the scores and recapping the game's results so that winners could be announced and master points awarded.

In those days it was all done manually. Steve was probably the fastest match-pointer, but I wasn't far behind. Paul didn't like to match-point at all. You seldom saw him doing it.

One of the really neat fringe benefits of working at the B&GS, even part-time, was that I got to play for free. That was nice!

Because duplicate bridge is highly competitive, various rules and regulations have been drawn up over the years in an attempt to both maintain an atmosphere of civility and keep the playing field level for all contestants. Inflections of voice and secret partnership understandings are not allowed. Everyone has to play by the same rules.

In more recent years, there has been a more concerted emphasis on courtesy and even friendliness, particularly towards newcomers to the game. It was long ago recognized that we were going to die off, quite literally, if we didn't attract 'new blood'. Mentorship is encouraged.

A 'director' is in charge of each duplicate game. (At tournaments, particularly the larger ones, many directors might be on the floor at any one time.) The director's decision may be questioned, but there are proper procedures for that. At NO time are threats of bodily harm or verbally abusive attacks tolerated!

One night I was in the office working, Lucy (Paul's wife) was in the 'big room' directing, and Paul was teaching a class. The office door was closed, as usual. (We only kept doors open when nothing else was going on.)

All of a sudden, the office door burst open and Paul came in, just BEET red in the face, slammed the door behind him and shouted, "I'm going to throw the SOB out of the window!" (We were on the 6th floor, remember.)

It took me a few minutes to calm him down. I thought I knew who he was probably talking about. I had noticed who all was playing that night, but I had to ask. "Who?" His reply confirmed my suspicion.

It seems that Lucy had been called over to a table to make a ruling. "Ernie" (not his real name, but that'll be his name for this post) vehemently objected to the ruling, casting aspersions on her ability to direct, her intellect and anyone else's within hearing distance who was so thoughtless as to look over to see what was going on!

Lucy ended up running into Paul's classroom in tears, Paul had to leave his class to deal with Ernie -- and no, he didn't throw him out of the window, but he DID bar him from the B&GS for six months -- and that's when I came into the picture.

A really ugly event. I probably filled in for Ernie, who had been ejected from the game, but I don't recall.

It was the only time I saw Paul truly enraged.


Tammy said...

How many players minimum do you need to play bridge?

Goldenrod said...

Four is the ideal number. Bridge is a partnership game, and you and your partner sit across from one another, the other partnership perpendicular. You and your partner will be referred to throughout the game as either North-South or East-West.

You keep the same partner for the whole game, usually. At duplicate games, there are always four players at each table in play.

Altho bridge was originally intended for four players, some creative folks have devised Bridge for One, Bridge for Two, etc., for those people at home who're having trouble finding a fourth player.

Charles Osgood had a really nice feature on his Sunday morning show within the last couple of months.