It can be hard to explain to people who don’t play bridge why it’s quite such a beautiful game. And yet, with fewer young people taking it up, and numbers declining, it’s vital that we do: otherwise, we face the heart-wrenching prospect that it might die out. Bridge organisations worldwide are doing what they can to reverse the trend, of course. And countless individuals are helping. But I don’t believe anyone is doing more than Sam Punch, professor of sociology at the University of Sterling.
Sam, who plays for Scotland, has decided to spend the next 15 years establishing a new academic field: the Sociology of Bridge. By exploring ‘how the bridge world works’ and highlighting its benefits to wider society, she hopes to develop enough evidence to persuade governments, teachers and employers to introduce more bridge into schools, universities and community projects. I’m sure she will. Quite apart from connecting people and keeping brains healthy, think of the skills that are transferable to other areas: focus, problem-solving, communication, co-operation, patience, team-building. And on top of the serious stuff, bridge is undiluted fun and makes us happy.
Few pleasures in life exceed bidding and making 7NT. This hand was played by Sam during the recent Scottish trials:
West led a diamond. Sam won with the ♦K, cashed the ♣J, then crossed to the ♦A and cashed the ♣AKQ. Sam discarded hearts and West discarded a heart, diamond and spade. He had already been squeezed in the majors! Now Sam cashed the ♦Q, then the ♥AK, then played the ♠K, took a spade finesse, and made the last two spades.
A quick plug: Sam’s Keep Bridge Alive Crowdfunding campaign runs till the end of March. The money raised will support two researchers to work alongside her for a year: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/u5c0e5e7810869.