Saturday, 27 October 2007

Barry's Blog 19

My days are so full currently that I don’t get a chance to play much face to face bridge. When I do I am finding, more and more, that people are approaching me with questions, mostly nicely, but sometimes not, which tends to spoil my next few boards. My usual partner, Mrs. C, has got rather used to this now….

So it is as well that I am very happy to play online bridge. I have been a member of a UK based online club for around three years. During that time my TV watching has gone down dramatically, but at the expense of wearing out my cordless mouse! Internet bridge will never replace face to face bridge; the socialisation aspects are naturally huge when playing at a club or in a tournament. However, in the 21st Century, online bridge has a major role to play in bringing people into the game. I recently played with a sometime online partner of mine at the Young Chelsea bridge club in London.

This man, self taught online, was playing in only his second face to face situation, so at least he was not quite so terrified by the complexities of bidding boxes and was not so put off by the general hubbub that surrounds playing bridge in the real world as he was the first time! After consulting with the club, I picked a strong night of the week to play, as my partner needed the challenge. It was a “butler scored” session, which was a first for me; needless to say it proved challenging enough!

We ended up in a position where my partner was able to pick up his very first EBU master points! He was delighted - as was I because finishing in a scoring position is not that common for me…… I was also interested that the “Young Chelsea” was, in fact, quite young on that evening, certainly younger than the average club nights that I attend, which is very pleasant to see.

He and I had a great time and the fact that we were there can be put down entirely to the fact that an internet bridge club exists. My friend would not be playing at all but for the existence of it. I am reasonably hopeful that he will shortly become an EBU member and a bridge club member.

My friend is relatively young; but that does not apply to everyone that plays bridge online. Indeed, along with face to face bridge, many internet players are also in the golden years of their lives. For some, age and infirmity means that the online club is literally a connection with the outside world and a continuity with a hobby that has kept their minds active for years, all without leaving the safe and comfortable surroundings of their home.

I am aware that some club members consider the internet a threat. I see it as the exact opposite. Encouraging people to play online and get better, especially in a club that has an active ethics policy (e.g. quitters get thrown out, unethical behaviour is tracked down and the perpetrators removed) and active coaching and supervised play, such as in my online club, can only help bring people of all ages into the game. Playing thousands of online boards has definitely helped my game improve (no emails thank you) and can only help develop newcomers and improvers to bridge.

Getting new players into bridge is proving a challenge to everyone, the world over. We must not allow prejudices over the use of the internet to override the potential benefits that online bridge brings to us all.