My evolving bridge mission

This has been a fast-moving week here at Sea Island with the Audrey Grant Bridge Festival. We've done some things that have never been done, and that has changed me, personally.

When I created my own bridge club this year (last year) I gave it a mission statement. Part of that mission was to embrace, enjoy, and share the game of bridge as it has evolved in 2018, rather than 1978.

Today's bridge is more technological, complex, and challenging. It's also more exciting, accessible, and social. Bridge is a more interesting game today than it was fifty years ago.

Bridge at its core has changed. Modern bidding is more precise, competitive, and playful than it was in 1978 -- even while the play of the hand remains timeless.

The world surrounding the core game has changed tremendously. Here are some of the things I have seen come into existence since I started playing bridge:

  • Bidding boxes
  • Pre-duplicated hands
  • Hand records
  • Dealing machines
  • Wireless scoring
  • Online results
  • Double-dummy analysis
  • Random hand generators
  • Capable bridge-playing robots
  • Globe-spanning online bridge games

Web movements were invented 50 years ago by "Spider" Harris long before they became practical in the 2010s with the creation of inexpensive, precise, accurate hand duplication. Spider never got to see how he would affect the game fifty years later.

For my players at the Sea Island Bridge Festival, you've been witness to something new. With help from me and Spider Harris, playing bridge becomes a completely shared experience. We have been able to engage in "postmortems" that feed off of that shared experience with each other, and the effect is electrifying.

Instead of little islands of experiences (and scoring), we get to share, compare, and contrast our game with literally everyone in the room.

We learned some things along the way.

We knew that the double dummy results and "par" score common on hand records were somewhat misleading and misunderstood.

We learned how appealing a not-so-little thing like double-dummy analysis of a bridge deal can be. Even while discounting its accuracy, we neglected its value.

We also have not embraced the tools of online reporting and analysis. While it has the capability of enhancing the shared experience of a duplicate bridge game, it also has the danger of uncomfortably exposing all of our victories, losses, faults, successes, and shortcomings.

Both of those things change today. We're reprinting hand records for the remaining games to include double dummy analysis, and making game results available online. We're also doing the best we can to keep those results the special, private, and somewhat intimate things they are. Results will not be searchable on Google, and will be deleted within a few days after the end of the festival.

This game makes us like family here. I'm counting on you all to protect and support each other like family. In this point, we are all vulnerable! (Even on Board 1.)

Even so, this is the power and journey of bridge. It has the capability to be an intensely shared experience with our fellow human beings. It's so much more than solving a series of difficult puzzles, it connects people in ways that can be rewarding, euphoric, brutal, intense, and intimate. It really is like life itself.

This is the game that excites and energizes me. This is the game that will engage the next generation of bridge players.

My personal mission, now, is to fully embrace the bridge game of 2018, and help shepherd the next generation of bridge players.

We have a great thing here. Bridge is vital, growing, living, and changing before our very eyes.