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Bridge involves a lot of thought and teamwork. Players need to communicate with teammates to determine, based on their cards, whether they should bid to take certain tricks or sit back and defend.
It is also a card game that Los Alamos resident Jerry Flemming has loved since attending college in the mid-‘60s. “I find bridge to be an absolutely fascinating, challenging card game,” he said.
Flemming’s love of the game has taken him far in the bridge world. Starting Jan. 1, he will serve a one-year position as president of the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL).
As president, his primary duties will be to preside over the board of directors and their meetings, which are held at each of the three national tournaments held during the course of the year. He will also run a hospitality suite during the tournaments and assign board members to committees.
Becoming president, he said, “is an honor. It’s recognition of the work I’ve done on the board of directors.”
Flemming said he is finishing up his 10th year on the ACBL board of directors. He represents bridge clubs in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, southern Nevada, the west edge of Texas, half of Wyoming and a “little bit” of Utah.
He also served on the District 17 board in Los Alamos and District 18 board in Butte, Mo. Flemming has also served as a board member of Unit 406 and later as a unit president.
In total, 25 boards of directors represent districts in ACBL, which covers organized bridge in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Bermuda.
Within the districts, there are a total of 320 units, one of which is in Los Alamos. Also, there are 2,300 clubs located within the units. There are 160,000 ACBL members.
ACBL is a busy organization; Flemming said in the course of a year, 3 million tables are in play.
In addition to its games, ACBL was also involved in the Mind Games held in October in Beijing.
As president, Flemming has goals he would like to achieve to enhance ACBL even more. There are certain initiatives he would like to bring to board,
“I would like to see us become more active in making some technology changes that would improve the game for our players,” he explained.
These changes include recording points electronically as well as electronically posting results and pairings without having to do it manually.
“Most importantly, is the opportunity I will have to go throughout the ACBL land next year as a ACBL goodwill ambassador,” Flemming said.
As an ambassador, he will be able to talk to people and share their concerns and input with the board.
Flemming became introduced to bridge during college. He explained a bunch of his friends played the game and he concluded either he would have to learn the game or find new friends.
So, Flemming bought a book on how to play bridge and after reading it, decided he was ready to play.
At first, he wasn’t very good at it, but “(bridge) is a challenge,” he said. “It’s fun, it keeps you going.”
Plus, “bridge is not something you learn overnight … it takes time to become average.”
During the game, four people, who work in partners, play with 52 cards. According to the ACBL website, there are four suits: clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades. Each suit has 13 cards. In bridge, the deuce is the lowest card in the suit and the ace is the highest.
The goal of the game is to take or win as many tricks as possible.
The website further reports that a trick contains four cards, one contributed by each player. One player starts by leading a card, placing it face up on the table. In clockwise rotation, each player has to follow suit, by playing a card of the same suit. Only if a player doesn’t have that suit can that person discard.
The highest card in the suit led wins the trick for the player who played it. This is called playing in notrump.
Having a trump suit, according the ACBL website, is something like having one suit wild. The rules of the game still require that if a player can follow suit, the player must.
When a player can no longer follow suit, however, a trump can be played, and the trump is higher and more powerful than any card in the suit led.
The players also bid to decide whether the deal is to be played in notrump or in a particular trump suit. They can also pass.
Contract bridge got going in the 1920s’ with the help of Eli Culbertson, who was a master showman and took bridge to the media with all-star matches.
Another key figure was Charles Goren, who created a system for experts and began a value system for a hand, in this value system, an ace is worth four points, a king, three points, queen, two points and a jack, one point.
“It was so much simpler than what had gone on before, so it took the world by storm,” Flemming said.
To learn more about bridge, the local club hosts four games a week. Games are held at 1 p.m. Mondays and 7 p.m. Tuesday at the White Rock Senior Center and they are also held at 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 7 p.m. Thursdays at the Betty Ehart Senior Center.
Flemming encourages people to get active in the game.
“I want people to look around the game and come up with their own ideas …. To make it better for the people who play the game and make it more attractive for people have never played.”