By Fiona Hurrell, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Invented in 1925, Contract Bridge, or simply ‘Bridge’ as it has come to be known, is the most popular card game throughout the world, amassing an estimated sixty million players globally. Like many cities, Rio has a healthy following and a Bridge Club dedicated to the game in Zona Sul’s Copacabana.
Founded in 1955, the Bridge Club of Copacabana has remained the most popular place to practice the game with a large number of members, eight of whom are world champions in the sport.
Often perceived as a game for the mature, Bridge does still attract younger participants and at Rio’s Bridge Club the rather glamorous group is made up of a mixture of expatriates and Brazilians who are more than happy to welcome new players.
Bridge enthusiast and expatriate, Mateen Thobani, was especially happy to discover the club, which he believes will allow him to revisit the game he first learned to play as a child.
He reveals, “I started when I was thirteen or fourteen and played a lot until college. Except for brief periods, I essentially didn’t play for forty years before starting again in earnest last year.”
The game of Bridge is played between two opposing pairs and consists of several deals broken down into four phases; dealing the cards, bidding, playing the hand and scoring the results. The object is to accumulate the most points out of each deal and therefore win the game.
Considered a game of wits, participants must remain vigilant of their opponents and focused on the game which is thought to be particularly beneficial by Thobani since it requires quick thinking. He explains, “For me it is keeping my mind sharp and improving my memory as well as being a very enjoyable hobby or pastime.”
Brazilian Marlene Politi has been an avid Bridge player for over thirty years and also recommends the game as a way of keeping the mind active. She states, “The game keeps me mentally stimulated as well as providing a good social atmosphere.”
However Politi is quick to add that Bridge is not only a game reserved for the older set and in fact, the club has recently been welcoming a greater diversity of members. She adds , “We really like having new people and are always very pleased to get different nationalities and ages in to the group.”
Administrator for the Bridge Club, Juliana Pacheco de Oliveiro agrees explaining, “In Brazil there does seem to be a greater following from the older generation but we are receiving membership from a wider variety of ages and nationalities. We have members who range from twenty to 100 years old.”
Having played Bridge at the club herself for more than sixteen years, Oliveiro adds “The game is great for the mind but it also benefits in other ways. You can make great friendships here and it is a lovely environment and great group of people.”
In order to draw more members, the Bridge Club is offering courses to instruct people in the rules of the game, from beginner through to advanced refresher sessions and of course the best practice is to enter in to a tournament. Politi reassures, “People need not be afraid of joining, we love to welcome new people to the club.”
Tournaments are held daily from 2:30 PM until 6PM and entrance fees for non members is R$25 for the day. To find out more about the club, its courses and upcoming tournaments visit the club directly on Raul Pompéia 12, Copacabana or call (21) 2523-01. Additionally, to learn the basics of the game, visit the rules and explanations site here.