Cards no laughing matter for bridge tournament players in Saanich

Pearkes Arena hosts about 160 of the best bridge players for semi-annual tournament March 28-29

Ele Gibson

Ele Gibson

A game of former Olympic glory will bring about 160 of the best players to Pearkes Arena this weekend for the Spring Sectional bridge tournament.

The annual spring and fall sectional tournaments are the biggest in the Greater Victoria bridge calendar, trumped only by the semi-annual regional tournament coming up in April at Pearkes, the region’s home to major bridge tournaments.

The Capital Region boasts some of Canada’s top bridge players, including national champions.

There are no prizes to the winner of the Spring Sectional – participants are just there for the love of the game, said tournament lead Ele Gibson, a board member with Unit 431 (Victoria and the Gulf Islands) of the American Contract Bridge League.

“We just play for the glory, the competition and for a good game of bridge,” she said. “You do your best and have fun like any sporting event.”

About 20 per cent of this weekend’s competitors come in from out of town, mostly up-island, and provide a significant economic impact to Saanich.

“We eat out all weekend,” Gibson said.

Contract bridge has found a niche with the over-45 population, but it’s no longer the weekend event that once led to marriages.

“The problem is people don’t play cards anymore,” said Gibson, who started playing 1984. “When I was younger, we played cards every Sunday night but TV and video games have taken over with young people.”

It’s still a social event, and there are some younger people playing the game, which is encouraging, Gibson added.

“Bridge takes a lot of time. When you’re done a day’s work, you don’t want to use your mind at night. You want to relax, whereas when you’re retired it’s an excellent way to keep your mind going.”

In addition to the social aspect, it’s the challenge and mental exercise that keeps bridge players coming back. The trick to enjoying yourself is always being patient with your teammate, in hopes that they’ll return the favour.

“If your partner has a bad day, it shouldn’t bother you, though it does bother some people,” Gibson said. “Everyone has off days. You just go with the flow.”

The International Olympic Committee continues to recognize the former Olympic sport as a “mind game,” though it’s unlikely ever to return to the ranks of the Olympics.

Despite being played by millions world-wide ,it just “doesn’t fit in with the faster, further and higher mentality” of the Olympics, Gibson said.

This weekend’s sectionals begin with open pairs at 1 p.m. today (March 27), and again at noon on Saturday. Sunday starts with the Open Swiss team event at 9:30 a.m.

editor@saanichnews.com