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‘The best card game in the world’: A look at one of Sidney’s oldest bridge clubs

Local players say the game keeps them sharp and socially engaged
Becky Clark, Cam Ballantyne, Phyllis Aherne and Olga Sweet are enjoying a game of duplicate Bridge earlier in May at the SHOAL Centre. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

To stay sharp and socially engaged: play bridge – at least, that’s according to the duplicate Bridge club that plays out of the SHOAL Centre.

“I think it’s the best card in the world,” Becky Clark, 96, told Peninsula News Review, with a little spark in her eyes and a strong dose of conviction in her voice.

Clark, who started playing in the 1940s-50s in Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia) moved to Sidney with her husband with the goal of doing three things: volunteer, attend symphonic concerts and play bridge – a game she’s been playing since 1981, becoming the club’s most senior member along the way.

Over about five decades, the club, officially going by the name of SHOAL Duplicate Bridge Club, has grown to a mailing list of 140 players.

For club lead Edwina Bauer the game she’s played with the group since the early 2000s is not just about bids and tricks.

“It’s the social connection,” she said, as well as spending time with friends and social outings and travel.

Cam Ballantyne, also part of the club’s leadership, joined eight years ago and considers himself a newbie. At first, Ballantyne felt intimidated, a perhaps natural reaction given the game’s complexities.

Bridge in its most basic form sees two teams of two play each other using a standard 52-card deck of playing cards dealt out one at a time, clockwise around the table, so that each player holds 13 cards.

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The object of play is to win tricks, each trick consisting of one card played by each player. The game has plenty of variations, which has earned the game millions of fans around the world, its popularity on par with chess.

Financier Warren Buffet famously declared that he would not mind going to jail if he had three cellmates who played bridge. Former US president Dwight. D. Eisenhower, whose military background might bias him to chess, considered it the only effective form of relaxation, according to Sports Illustrated.

Ballantyne soon found himself enjoying the game and now too favours it over chess.

“The advantage over chess is that is a little bit more of a team game,” he said. “If you and I are partners, we have to strategize on how we communicate.”

Bauer said it does not take much to learn the game and club members are always willing to help along the way. And while players ostensibly communicate in silence, the atmosphere is friendly and jovial. Bridge is not a socially-exclusive game, contrary to its popular perception as such.

Its status as a non-sanctioned club creates less pressure to collect master points, said Ballantyne. The games are competitive, but not to the point, where the competitive drive exceeds other considerations.

When asked about her best piece of advice for players strikes a similar note, Clark answered: “Have fun and do the best that you can.”

The club hosts duplicate bridge three times a week on Tuesdays (starting at 12:45 p.m.), Wednesdays (starting at 6:30 p.m.) and Sundays (starting at 12:45 p.m.).

For more information on how to join, contact Cam at 778-426-2533.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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