Successful bidding happens all the time in the game of contract bridge, a card game that can be dated back to before the start of the 20th century in Great Britain and likely gained its highest popularity when Charles Goren started writing about the game in newspapers and even had a television program nationally broadcast from 1959-1964.
The game remains quite popular today and its governance and promotion falls to the American Contract Bridge League, based at 6575 Windchase Blvd. in Horn Lake, which won the “bid,” if you will, when the organization was seeking a new headquarters in 2010.
This summer, a new CEO for the ACBL, as it is called, took over the organization’s leadership, as Bahar Gidwani assumed the position held by Robert Hartman since 2011.
Gidwani, who has been in several other business activities, brings a passion to the game, along with several skills the ACBL Board of Directors were seeking in a new leader.
“I’ve been a member as long as I can remember and I’ve played periodically in events and in clubs,” Gidwani said. “I happened to know some of the people involved in the ACBL that I’ve met in one way or another and a couple of them said that I might be a good person to be involved in the ACBL’s management. They had a lot of candidates, but I had the right mix of technology background that they wanted and the marketing and customer relations stuff they wanted to have.”
Although millions of people worldwide play the game, there are about 170,000 members of the ACBL today, Gidwani said, adding the organization runs more than 1,000 tournaments annually.
“We have 150 people out in the field running tournaments every year and we have about 50 people who are based here in Horn Lake,” Gidwani said.
Contract bridge basically is a four-player game made up of two-player partners using the standard 52-card deck. Players are dealt the cards and, based on what was dealt, bid on how many “tricks” they can win. From there, the hand is played with the winning contract team seeking to fulfill the contract while the other team tries to prevent it from happening. Points are scored based on what took place during the “hand.”
Gidwani said the game attracts people of all ages.
“We find that people come to us often early on when they are in college,” he explained. “Even some of them now are coming to us from elementary school or high school, because it’s thought of as being a 'brain game,' but there’s also reasoning and math benefits that you can present to a school system as something other than chess. Bridge is a great thing for that.”
Even if life gets in the way, players likely will return later in years and pick the game back up as a fun, social, yet challenging way to spend time with friends and family. It has even become more popular for servicemen and women overseas, Gidwani said.
“There are a number of ACBL clubs that are technically in the U.S., but are in places like Germany, Guam, and so on,” he pointed out. “Armed forces people have time and playing bridge is a lot nicer thing to do than sit around and drink or play dice all the time.”
The ACBL oversees the game in the United States, Bermuda, Canada and Mexico, hence the four flags flying in front of its headquarters, where a free museum allows visitors to see many artifacts and items explaining the growth of the game.
Gidwani said the ACBL also helped form the World Bridge Federation in 1957. Today, the ACBL wants to help promote and grow interest in the game, adding there’s an increasing interest from college students.
“There’s an understanding that people in college like the idea of competing against other colleges,” Gidwani said. “We just had a very successful Bridge Bowl, where 17 teams were entered and it was Georgia Tech that won. They beat the University of Chicago in what was considered an upset.”
Gidwani pointed out, however, there are bridge clubs everywhere and those who want to be connected to the game won’t have to look far to do just that.
“We have 3,000 clubs in our area of Bermuda, the U.S., Canada and Mexico,” Gidwani explained. “You would be hard-pressed to find a town that isn’t within 20-30 miles from a bridge club. You would also be hard-pressed not to be able to play bridge any night of the week, if you didn’t mind driving 40-50 miles.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.