Design: Hardhik Pinjala
Editor: Siddharth D P
The Oracle of Omaha, billionaire Warren Buffett is reported to have said “Bridge is such a sensational game that I wouldn’t mind being in jail if I had three cellmates who were decent players and who were willing to keep the game going 24 hours a day.”
What is Bridge?
Bridge, or Contract Bridge is a popular card game based on a standard 52-card deck. The goal of the game is to win the highest number of tricks, which is a series of finite rounds or units of play wherein the player plays his ‘hand’. Generally played by four players forming two competing partnerships, it consists of several deals each consisting of four phases. The cards are dealt to the players in each deal and the players ‘call’ or ‘bid’ in an auction and establish a ‘contract’. They also specify how many tricks a partnership must play in order to score for the deal.
This might not sound too trivial, and sure, the task does entail a good knowledge of combinations and probabilities, but the fascinating part about Bridge is that the game in itself is quite simple to understand and could be learnt in just a couple of hours playing for the first time. However, it takes years of experience to master it.
There was a tournament where I participated with professional players and alums and ranked last! In my defence, they had 10+ years of experience. But after each game, they told me about my mistakes politely, which encouraged me to think more about probabilities in the game. This is what makes Bridge more fun despite being complex: getting those few extra points that make all the difference” says Vinitkumar Jain, Institute Bridge Club Convenor (2019-2020)
IITM’s Bridge legacy
A haven once brimming with Bridge players, IITM boasts of several alumni who are professional bridge players of the day.
Insti alumni walk down the path of nostalgia when they come down to the institute for placements and presentations, and ask about the Bridging culture in the campus. They share stories of how they spent hours playing the game in their undergrad and grad years at IITM. “Bridge serves as a great platform for networking as well. Interacting with our seniors and esteemed alumni in the tournaments, I picked up several life lessons and quips- especially from their 1990s dot com stories!” recalls Vinit.
Having been an extremely popular game at the Godavari Hostel in 2016, owing to the graduation of the wing housing Insti’s Bridge veterans, the next few years saw a decline in the number of Bridge enthusiasts on campus. To revive the game, the Bridge Club sought external help by tying up with the Tamil Nadu Bridge Association (TNBA) and brought in the Bridge Guru and renowned mentor, Mr Sunil Varghese, to teach Bridge in the institute. TNBA followed the progress enthusiastically, seeking the betterment of our players. This was solely due to the impressive legacy that our alumni left behind in the Bridging community.
“Inspired by my grandfather, I ventured into card games and parallelly used the concepts in my daily routine. Initially, Bridge was incredibly difficult to master. Fortunately, I was taught and guided by one of the finest teachers of Bridge, Mr. Sunil Varghese who simplified things. I’m glad that Bridge is now a part of my life” said Bhaarat, a former Bridge Club member.
Presently, there are about a hundred Bridge club members with some good participation from M.Tech students. Sadly, only ten of these hundred players are active and seven in those ten are UG and M.Tech freshies. The club conducts an Open Bridge Tournament where institute students play against alumni and professional players in a formal tournament setting. The most recent edition saw a team of students being placed third in the tournament.
A common misconception that majority of beginners fall prey to is: “It is a card game; I won’t fare well if the cards dealt are not good.” It is believed that Bridge is a sport that prioritises chance over skill, but Vinit dismisses this theory. In a tournament, the same combination is played by every team and points depend on your relative performance. Your points are compared with a person who has played the game with the same combination as you have, and hence, completely negating the luck factor in the game. (Here’s a quick shout out to the relative grading pattern in Insti!)
Governing Bodies and Beyond Card Games
Having been invited to partake in a Bridge tournament in the Madras Cricket Club with a chance to meet some of the best cricketers in the country was a highlight the club was looking forward to, but the current pandemic triumphed over. The World Bridge Federation, the international governing body for competitive Contract Bridge, recently introduced the ‘Under 21’, ‘Under 26’ and ‘Under 31’ categories, and given the resources provided by The Tamil Nadu Bridge Association, the teams from IITM now have a chance to represent the country at an international level. The Bridge Federation of India too will start conducting university championships from next year, wherein the winners will be trained to represent the country.
Overcoming deterrents such as COVID-19, Bridge club members and several enthusiasts have sought solace in several online portals and websites to play Bridge.
To the players, it is much more than just a card game. It is an integral part of their life: constantly honing their decision-making skills, and advancing their analytical and strategic calibre. It weaves into their personalities and provides them with a very inquisitive outlook on life.
I find bridge to be a very mind-absorbing game. For me, sometimes it becomes so intellectually demanding that I tend to forget all the worries and stress in my mind. A game or two of bridge online after a hectic day at work always refreshes my mind” believes Onkar, the former Bridge Club Convener (2018-2019).
 As of May 2020, during the interview with Vinitkumar Jain.
MyIITM series narrates and features out-of-the-ordinary interests and hobbies that students have taken up in IIT Madras. Do you know someone we should feature? Let us know! Mail us at [email protected].