Bridge over troubled water

Read Tim’s first and second articles in previous newsletters

As I write my third and final article on the development of our 2011 and 2012 bridge beginners’ groups the River Meon is a raging torrent. Our small (but now larger !) country bridge club nestles in a village hall set in watercress beds on the banks of the, normally, beautiful and peaceful River Meon. Sometimes the speed of change at Meon Bridge Club over the last three years has mirrored the speed of today’s river current. We all know that the river will settle back down and , as I will explain, we too are at the end of our cycle of change and development.

Keen readers may recall that we, at Meon Bridge Club, decided to follow an EBU teaching initiative in the late summer of 2011, as I wrote in my first article titled “ Midsummer Madness” and over the next two winters and autumns some 32 beginners were introduced to “our” game.

By early 2013 the majority of this group, with some friends and others of similar standard, were playing in a separate intermediate session at the Club. They had also become firm friends. They met on a Monday afternoon and played a mixture of scored and supervised duplicate. There were controls in place to dissuade our more experienced players from boosting their Masterpoints by participating in the scored sessions but we did introduce a number of joint sessions when the more experienced partnered the newer players. These were a great success. Not only were the improvers able to discuss the hands with more experienced players but it was also a valuable social occasion.

As in 2012 we ran a series of tuition and set hand sessions in the autumn of 2013 which attracted up to 40 participants each and were very well received. New players continued to join the group and all became full members of Meon Bridge Club. Some readers may recall or may be interested to know that we had considered how to deal with the membership of these improvers in the spring of 2012 and, with the help of the EBU, the decision was taken that they should have a full and equal membership of the Club. It is fair to say that this decision has not proved universally popular but there again nothing ever could be and we are satisfied that it was and remains the right choice.

However the most important consideration during 2013 was the future of the “improvers” group in the context of the Club. A number of factors had to be considered at the forefront of which was the need to ensure that we had contented players. This involved careful thought about the risk of “Masterpoint shoppers” at the one end to the related risk of losing some of the less able improvers through fear at the other. It was certainly felt that we could no longer justify the formal division within a club of equal members.

The Club’s Committee had this item high on its agenda throughout the year and was benefitted by having three of the “improvers” as Committee members. In the end the Committee came to the unanimous conclusion that we would open up both sessions to all members of whom there were now about 100. We decided that an element of differentiation would continue in that one session would be played with Level Two conventions only, with the other at Level Four. We would retain a supervised session each month and would put in a monthly tuition session where possible. In light of the small size of our hall with a maximum of 10.5 tables, some thought was given to retaining a priority in bookings for a year but this was dropped at the AGM which otherwise approved the development unanimously.

So over a 3 year period we have developed from a small bridge club with an ageing membership of around 50 into a much larger club with two playing sessions, around 100 members and a younger age profile including a substantial percentage who are new to the game during this period. We are proud of what we have achieved even if it has on occasions had its problems. We are not just hopeful for our future but thoroughly optimistic.

One can never be bored by sitting on the banks of a river watching its changes and flows. In the same way no-one could say that our journey as a bridge club has been boring and it too has had its changing currents. However we hope and believe that we will now have a period of stability which will continue to allow enthusiastic newcomers and experienced players alike to enjoy our game and that the friendships which have been made will widen and develop.

And Me? Like a Bridge over Troubled Water, I will lay me down!