I wrote this piece when the game was still available. At the time, I had never played Duplicate Bridge. I didn't join a club until 13 years after these observations. But copies of the game do surface sometimes and I think it will be a good buy, if only to show visiting non-Bridge friends just how good a game like Duplicate really is. As I said, I didn’t join a club until years had passed, something I regret because club Bridge is just a great evening, almost every time. I moved to Germany in September 2010 and my partner doesn’t play Bridge, so I am not a member of a club – yet! My partner has never played Bridge before, despite being a keen and good board game player, so now she is taking lessons and falling in love with the game, as I did 16 years ago. Joining a club can only be a few weeks away…..
For as long as I can remember, games have been a passion. One of my first introductions to the world of adult games was through Bridge. Bridge is a very fine game, extremely skillful and full of subtleties that only the very best master. But it is strange that a game with the sort of reputation that Bridge has, is very dependent on the deal, which might decide your luck for the evening. If you are a player, you will know what I mean, some nights you just don’t get the cards and you spend the whole evening losing finesses, being dummy, or making the coffee. Now your savior is upon you. From America, there comes Challenge Bridge, a new idea that is truly ingenious and a ‘must’ for any Bridge foursome.
The game is manufactured by 3M/Avalon Hill and presented by Oswald Jacoby, one of the world’s foremost Bridge authorities. It is packaged in a bookcase style of box and the components include a standard Bridge pack with a special back design, a set of 100 different deals, a deal indicator and the reference manual.
Challenge Bridge allows you to play Tournament Bridge against 13 other tables who have bid and played the same hands in an American Contract Bridge League tournament. The unique card selector and the specially marked (on the backs) cards enable you to deal 100 different deals without knowing any card that any player is receiving.
This card is going to West
The system is extremely clever and virtually foolproof. Having dealt the hand, you now bid as usual and play the hand out. At the end of the hand, you calculate the score to the relevant side and then check this against how the other 13 tables fared, using the reference manual. You are then allotted a score between 13 and 0.
There are two reasons I consider this to be a great asset to any regular Bridge player. The first is that it takes the luck out of the game. You cannot receive a ‘bad’ hand. You may well receive a hand devoid of honors, a disaster in Kitchen Bridge, but in Tournament Bridge it is up to you to play this hand as well as the other tables or better; remember you are not trying to score games or win rubbers. You are only concerned with playing each hand better than your opponents. For instance, you’ve got the aforementioned hand and your partner hasn’t much. Your opposing pair obviously have the cards and, eventually, bid and make 4 Spades. They are very pleased and open the reference manual to see how many points they have earned. To their dismay that all the other tables bid either 5 or 6 Spades and most of them made 12 tricks. This means that they failed to exploit the hand to its fullest and means the scoring will reflect this, perhaps scoring 2 for them and 11 for you. The second reason is that it immeasurably improves all aspects of your play. It hones your bidding to a fine edge and your card play becomes far more important. Over-tricks in this form of Bridge are more valuable than in normal play. The constructive comments of Mr. Jacoby, which accompany every hand, are most helpful in working out just where you went wrong.
The system is such that you can continually replay the hands in the future, sitting in different positions (sometimes North, sometimes West, etc.) and not realize that you are playing a hand that you’ve seen before. Anyway, to give further variety, there is a pack of 100 extra deals available, to add on to your original set.
Finally, I would stress, this is not a ‘gimmick’ but a true Bridge innovation and I think it will prove to be one of the best purchases a keen Bridge player can make. Its retail price is high (12 pounds) but well worth it.
(Note from 2011: If you can get a Challenge Bridge today for under 12 pounds, you are doing very well!)