What does Warren Buffett, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, Bill Gates, Martina Navrátilová, and Margaret Thatcher have in common? They have all played bridge.

For Diana Crews, a River Landing resident, the true reward is in the game and the friendships you make. As one of our community’s many bridge players, she has played the game on and off over the years, having learned from watching her father and his friends play. She played socially in high school and college, but eventually, the game faded in exchange for responsibilities and other obligations.

“I took sanctioned bridge lessons later, and I’ve not improved much since,” she said with a laugh.

The game of bridge was derived from the game of whist in which English nobility in the 17th century played with four players, two pairs of partners, and a deck of cards. Each player was dealt 13 cards and played by placing a card down. The highest-ranking card won the trick, or round, and the player who won the most tricks won the game after the 13 rounds.

With whist, there was no auction to determine the trump suit such as there is in modern bridge, and the scoring was simpler.

The game spread in popularity throughout the world. Once players in Turkey in the 19th century caught hold of the game, they added doubling and redoubling betting stakes. The declarer across an exposed dummy also came about during this time. By the turn of the century, the French added plafonds, or ceilings, which required each pair of partners to say how many tricks it would take for them to win. Auction bridge also began with players bidding to determine the trump suit.

Finally, in 1925, contract bridge was invented by Harold Vanderbilt while aboard a steamship cruise. This style of bridge incorporated new features such as a sophisticated scoring table and different levels of vulnerability. Why “contract bridge?” Because partnerships have to commit to a certain number of tricks to win. Those who couldn’t fulfill their contract would have a scoring penalty while those who did would have a scoring reward.

Sanctioned bridge is the highest level of competitive bridge and involves many more rules, a director, and is played by certain movements. The American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) will sanction a game, which means that those who are playing may receive masterpoints, or points that prove a player’s skill level, based on their success at the game.

“Masterpoints are awarded all over the world at any given time,” Diana explained. “Everyone in sanctioned bridge is passionate about the game. They read, take lessons, study. They like the game and want to learn more to improve.”

Players compete in all levels while the directors of a sanctioned game do the boards and keep hand records.

“Sanctioned bridge isn’t like social bridge, which is the bridge for people who like to socialize and chat while they play. But, to me, all bridge games are social, even if you play competitively. After all, you have to be nice to your partner, or you won’t have any.

“All levels of bridge are brain fitness,” Diana continued. “It requires you to think, focus, and strategize. All that is good for your brain.”

Bridge can be played throughout someone’s life, and at River Landing, it’s played in all the levels of the continuum of care. For Diana, that was a big draw for her moving to the community: the many people who play and enjoy the game.

Crews started an ACBL-sanctioned bridge game every Thursday afternoon right on campus, the only game at a Continuing Care Retirement Community in the area.

“One of our other residents is a certified bridge teacher, and she teaches lessons for those who want a refresher course or to learn the basics all the way up. We would love to get more residents who want to play at the sanctioned level.”

Residents who are interested in watching or playing in a sanctioned game at River Landing, please contact Diana Crews to make reservations.

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