Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Some Insights from Howard Bigot-Johnson’s Bizarre World of Bridge

I was reading Howard Bigot John’s “Can Women Play Bridge” blog.  It was written a few weeks ago but I  am behind in everything.  My life is consumed by CLYDE E. LOVE and my head is full of COMPOUND SQUEEZES.  But this is a topic I can’t resist.

Obviously some women can play bridge, Howard.  A very few are in the ranks of top experts.  But there are very few.  So lets think about your ideas about why this is:

I think the argument that men won’t play with women is overdone, Howard.  In some ways some women have an advantage there.  A man may chose to play with a women because he likes her legs.  That is far less likely to happen in the other direction.   Junior girls in particular are few in number and very sought after as partners by their counterparts.

But lets go back to this statement: “there are almost no women juniors?” Why?  You didn’t really answer this question in your BLOG.  I think that young males like to play card games more than young females.  In general young males are more competitive in all things, as you do suggest.  I think this is partly to do with hormones and partly to do with societal norms.  I find it interesting that even as very young children girls favor dolls and boys favor cars and trucks.  Men are different.  I agree with you that they have difference in the brain.

But, women clearly have the ability to be good at logical reasoning.  These days a lot more women are mathematicians, engineers, doctors and scientists.  Almost all of the students in Canadian Veterinarian School are women.  So much so that if the percentages were reversed there would be shock and horror.  In fact, I would have to say that in the last fifty years” “You Have Come A Long Way Baby”.

But  my experience is that women are more intuitive and less aggressive and that does show up at the bridge table.

I contend that most women learn to play bridge too late in life.  Bridge is a learned skill.  As I work on Bridge Squeezes Complete I find that the only sensible way to become good at squeezes is to learn how they work.  You cannot possible figure it out at the table most of the time.  You need to learn and practice by yourself.  You need to do what I did when I was eighteen.  You need to lay the cards out (today you can do that on the computer) and think what things work and what things don’t and study it and so on.  As you say:

“Women’s Priorities : Most women quite rightly get their priorities right : looking after the family, and the family home, will always take precedence over bridge.”  Many women don’t really start to work on bridge until their forties.

I think some things are just easier to learn earlier.  The brain obviously changes over time.  But maybe there is a way that we could teach people to play good bridge in their forties.  They would have to be willing to put a lot of effort in.

I suppose another related problem is that there are very few coaches and teachers who are available to help people to transition from “BBO experts” to really good bridge players.  Juniors do that together.

Your comment about the “The Social Dimension” also described by Cyndi Lauper as “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” is true to some extent.  Maybe more in a prior generation but I do know a fair number of women that are quite happy to play social bridge but then I know quite a few men who feel that way too.

Much of what you suggest is true but I still think the problem is attracting more women to the game at a much younger age.  If you fill the bridge schools with 18 year old women, they will have no problem attracting partner and eventually some of them will become stars.


HowardOctober 13th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

I think you have a better grasp of the realities than I do. I was merely putting forward a few possible theories, some of which have a modicum of truth….others probably not. Anyway, you did raise an interesting question that no doubt involves a very complex answer. Anyway thanks for putting me right on a few points. Yours John Howard Gibson ( aka HBJ)

maggy simonyJanuary 5th, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Stumbled onto this website attracted by name Linda Lee –one of my favorite people in the world has that name as a FIRST name– and topic of women and bridge. Anyway . . .

My name is Maggy Simony, I’m almost 90 (March), and I’ve just written and had published a book about women (ladies) and bridge — sociable bridge clubs that last 50 years — called Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway? Sub-title: An affectionate look back at sociable bridge & ladies lunch. It’s a topic I got hooked on long ago as strictly a sociable player myself. I’ve always been struck by the invisibility (on paper) of any evidence we (us?) millions of sociable players even exist (outside of old cookbooks and women’s magazines) and yet we outnumber you-all serious players by the millions. I call us a “subterranean sisterhood” — and have collected trivia, bits and pieces of info, etc., etc. for years and finally got my damned book done before I die.

My intended market has always been for my book as a gift boomer daughters could give their old bridge-playing moms for birthday or mother’s day, etc. However, I sent out pre-pub review copies to the serious/and/or/establishment bridge types who are quoted in the book — apprehensive, didn’t know what to expect. Whether they didn’t want to be mean to an old lady, or really are much nicer people that I anticipated I don’t know — got uniformly good comments, much to my surprise. Audrey Grant did a 2-page article on the book in her Better Bridge magazine, and Tony Robson told me I had hit the nail right on the head — need better rapport (instead of an unbridgeable chasm) between sociable and serious players. So now I’m going to try to have it also be a premium book — you know something a bridge cruise organizer could give people who sign up for their cruises and such??

If you google you can see what others have said about Bridge Table. If you click on link to author page you can read Free Excerpts (intro, t/c, first chapter).

Why did I write it? Because I want sociable bridge to survive after all the bridge-playing old ladies like me die off. We’re the last gasp of the 50s-60s bridge generation. If our boomer daughters don’t take it up sociable bridge will die forever. Serious bridge has the ACBL to keep it going, but they don’t give a damn whether sociable bridge survives or not. [I think some of the curmudgeon old ty pes probably welcome our demise to thus purify the game as a whole.]

But as I say, I found enough people — Audrey Grant, Andrew Robson, David Scott (who’s written the only dissertation I know of on serious vs social bridge), Raymond of, Pamela Granovetter — who seem to share my view. Spreading sociable bridge amongst the boomer generation is the surest way that serious and competitive bridge will bloom to something of the level of interest it enjoyed in the 20s-60s. Culbertson figured that out by converting all those auction playing bridge ladies to contract. If women made contract bridge the socially “in” thing to do, serious bridge would also flourish.

The fact is — the only reason bridge was ever the frenzied fad it was back in the 30s, and through 50s and 60s is because of the sociable ladies-only bridge clubs!! We were t he ones who steered children into playing bridge — inevitably SOME will become serious players and competitive tournament players. Inevitably also–human nature being what it is–MOST won’t!

Sorry to run on — I type fast.


[…] just read a comment by Maggy Simony on my blog Some Insights from Howard Bigot-Johnson’s Bizarre World of Bridge.  Maggy will be 90 years old this March and has just written and published a book about […]

maggy simonyJanuary 9th, 2010 at 4:37 am

from maggy re your mom’s dementia free status vis a vis non=bridge playing family. In May there was a major article in the NYT (can google it I’m sure) on just this topic and about ongoing studies of bridge playing dementia-free nonagenarians (if that’s the word)–it’s of interest to the scientific community. They highlighted a group of such players in California==these were killer types (I call) and drank Red Bull. Not the sociable stress-free bridge clubs your mom and me belong to who drink coffee, tea, sometimes wine. These California ladies tossed out those who started to fade in their skills — we never do that. In the senior center where I play every week some are deaf, and one can barely see, but we do all we can to welcome them as long as they want to play.

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