Carol Novis (right) with fellow bridge players at the Kfar Saba Bridge Club

The object of my affection is a constant source of delight. When we are together, the hours fly by. If things go well between us, I am on a high. If they go badly, I blame myself and determine to do better.

When we are apart, I think longingly of the time when we will be together again.  Never boring, our relationship exerts endless fascination; like Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, age cannot wither, nor custom stale my love’s infinite variety.

Alas, the passion I feel is not reciprocated as often as I would like. Can our relationship be maintained? I never give up trying, no matter how hopeless it seems.

Who would have dreamed that at my age, I would fall in love?

Of course, my husband can rest easy. My new love is… bridge. Yes, a card game, though many, myself included, would call bridge not so much a card game as a whole world in 52 parts. 

This new passion has come as somewhat of a surprise. I don’t particularly enjoy board games or cards or even Mahjong, which I play simply for social reasons. I am no good at crossword puzzles and a dud at Scrabble. I am not very mathematically inclined, nor do I have a particularly good memory. But a few years ago, I was intrigued by an advertisement from the Kfar Saba Bridge Club which offered a series of eight introductory lessons. The fact that it was free attracted me, as was the fact that the club was located a short walk from our home. What did I have to lose? Of course I might very well make a fool of myself, but no one I knew was going, so what did it matter?

When I entered the Kfar Saba Bridge Club for the first time, I realized how passionate people can be about this game. The premises take up the entire floor of a building and most days sessions are held three times. The session I attend attracts perhaps 80 people, who each pay 30 shekels each time. You do the math; this is a great business!

I hesitantly sat down at a table with three strangers.  Freddy, a man who alarmed me by announcing that he already knew bridge and just wanted to refresh his memory was my partner. Bad luck for him. I was a total duffer.  The others at the table were Jill, another English speaker, and… to tell the truth, I have forgotten who the fourth one was.

Our instructor, a young man, who I was to discover had an infinite number of ragged T-shirts but apparently only one pair of jeans, began by asking what the word “bridge” meant to us. Some of the answers included “complicated”, “interesting” and “a good hobby.” I ventured “hard”. That turned out to be true in my case. What followed was eight weeks of lectures on a subject that seemed so all-encompassing that I soon filled up a notebook with notes and tables. Learning how to bid was incredibly complicated, let alone actually playing. There were terms to learn in English, such as Blackwood, Stayman, finesse, takeout double, as well as in Hebrew: “movila, me’uzenet” and many others. In the beginning, I used to pray to be the dummy so as not to incur the wrath of Freddy.

Each week I would learn something new, and promptly forget it by the following week. Freddy would grit his teeth and stare at the ceiling when I made yet another mistake. Fortunately, I wasn’t his wife, so he couldn’t tell me exactly what was on his mind.

The eight free lessons were designed to suck us in to the bridge universe and were followed by eight more “intermediate” paid lessons, then eight more, and a further eight more. At that point, we were on our own. Freddy, to my relief, promptly ditched me for a better partner, but Jill, who was on my level, suggested that we partner. And we have ever since, become not only bridge partners, but friends.

Slowly, I learned. Things that I never thought I would remember, such as responses to a one no-trump bid, became second nature. Jill and I realized how far we had come when one day we played with a couple who were still in the early learning process and apologized for their lack of knowledge. We graciously said that of course we understood – and proceeded to wipe the floor with them.

Bridge has become part of my life, even though because of family commitments, I don’t always manage to play every week. I look forward to the lectures at the bridge club, which are given by a world-class player, Ron Pachtman, who also has a brilliant sense of humor. In spare moments, I play computer bridge at home against a robot (who of course wins every time, and keeps me from becoming complacent.)

These days, when the new ESRAmagazine arrives, I turn to the bridge column before even looking to see how my own articles turned out. Now that’s true love.

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About the author

Carol Novis

Carol was born in Winnipeg, Canada and after university, worked for the Canadian government in Ottawa and then London, England. She came to live in Israel in 1976. Most of her career has been spent...
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