|Updated 21st January 2020|
I LIKE TO PLAY BRIDGE
W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM
though I think everybody should learn bridge, I do not think everybody should
play it. Not lessons, books, or practice will make players of those who have no
card sense. These unfortunate creatures must look upon it as a defect of nature,
like tone deafness or colour blindness, and resign themselves to solitaire,
crossword puzzles, or what not.
is the most entertaining and intelligent card game the wit of man has so far
devised, and I deplore the fact that so many people go cut of their way to make
it a bore. There are the people who, after a hand has been played, will tell you
all the thirteen cards they held. Well, you'd seen them played, so you know; but
even if you didn’t., why should they suppose you care? Then there are the
people who during the deal or when you're sorting your cards start to tell you
about Aunt Annie's operation or the trouble they're having with decorators in
their new apartment. There is no stopping them"
heart," you say.
take no notice.
y dear, I've had three cooks in the last two weeks and not one of them could
boil an egg."
heart," you repeat
I’ll tell you what happened to me," says your partner. I got a couple.
They drove up in their car, looked at the house, and didn’t even come in. They
just drove away,, and I was expecting eight people to lunch on Sunday."
heart," you say.
know that Betty’s got a new beau?" the player on your right puts in.
you mean Harry," replies the player on your left. “I've known that for
months. She always has liked heels."
to get a little attention, you have a mind to say, "Seven no trumps,"
but of course it might be expensive and your partner wouldn’t
be sympathetic, so you meekly repeat, "One heart"
But this is nothing compared with the post-mortem. It is the commonest nuisance that besets the game. It is not only boring, but useless, for if you cannot see a mistake when you have made it, no argument will convince you of your error; and if you do see it, the probability is that your vanity will prevent you from acknowledging it; so the critic may just as well hold his piece and deal the next hand It is a very good rule, when your partner points out a mistake you have made, to agree with him promptly and when on the next hand he lets you down fourteen hundred by grossly overcalling, to tell him cheerfully not to give it another thought. Of such, you will say, is the Kingdom of Heaven, and I heartily agree.
time to time I have read books on bridge, profiting by them as much as it was in
my sinful nature to do and I have been surprised that they lay no more
stress than they do on the advantage it is to you to find out as quickly
as you can something of the nature of the persons you are playing with.
had a friend once who held the opinion that you could tell the character of
people by the way they played. 1 think he was generalizing, on the single
instance of himself .He played a bold. generous, and dashing game, and he liked
to think of himself as a dashing , generous and bold fellow. He was a picture
dealer and by the proper exercise of qualities
on which he prided himself succeeded for many years in selling many
second-rate old masters to the rich at fantastic prices, Well, I don't know
whether there was truth in this notion but I’m pretty sure
it is a distinct help if you can guess the peculiarities of your
partners and opponents with accuracy. There is the diffident player who
consistently undercalls, the aggressive player who as consistently overcalls;
there is the cautious player who follows the rule when it is obvious that the
ride doesn't apply; there is the sly player who thinks you are such a fool he
can fox you every time. All these you can size up pretty quickly and deal with
according to their idiosyncrasies. But there is one player whom I have never
learned how to cope with and that is the player who never stops to consider that
you also hold thirteen cards; he will ignore your bids, he will pay no attention
to your warnings, come hell or high water he will take command of the hand and
when he has been doubled and gone down several tricks, he'll ascribe it to
nothing but bad luck. You are fortunate if he doesn't smile blandly and say,
Well, I think it was worth it, partner. I am still looking for the book that
will show me how to deal with him. Shooting is too quick and too painless, and
besides, there might not be another fourth available.
As 1 look now at what 1 have written, it seems to me that the essentials for playing a good game of bridge are to be truthful, clearheaded, and considerate, prudent but not, averse to taking a risk, and not to cry over spilt milk. And incidentally those are perhaps also the essentials for playing the more important game of life.