Building bridges U of M PhD student opens up about playing competitive bridge in Manitoba

Jenna Tichon with her partner and opponents. Photo provided by Bridge Manitoba.

Jenna Tichon, a PhD student in statistics at the University of Manitoba, has been playing the card game Bridge competitively for some time now. Her initial interest in the game can be traced back to a simple desire to be included in family pastimes.

“I grew up in a card-playing family […] My parents often played Bridge with an aunt and her husband, or my grandmother and one of their aunts, and I was never included in the Bridge playing growing up. Near the end of my undergraduate they started playing again, and the weekly card games I was not included in because I couldn’t play. So I decided to pick up a Bridge book and learn to play with my family because I love playing cards and didn’t like the idea that there was a game I couldn’t play,” Tichon said.

Bridge is a card game requiring four players as two opposing sets of partners. The goal of the game is for partners to make “bids,” predicting the expected number of “tricks” they might win. For example, a bid might be “four hearts.” Some guesswork is involved, as partners cannot see each other’s cards.

A “trick” is a series of four cards, one played by each player in succession. A trick is won by the team with the player who discards the highest numbered card that matches the suit of the first card played.

Tichon’s family enjoyed playing Bridge casually. However, Tichon herself chose to dive straight into the more complex and competitive Duplicate Bridge after a chance meeting with a Bridge-playing U of M professor at a conference in Brandon.

The cards in their holders. Photo provided by Bridge Manitoba
The cards in their holders. Photo provided by Bridge Manitoba

“About a week later, he pulled me aside. I was a summer research student and had just graduated. He said, ‘you know, Jenna, I know you’re learning to play Bridge but you really don’t want to play kitchen Bridge with your family. What you really want to play is Duplicate Bridge’ […] We started off with some home games. I spent all my summer studying how to play Bridge. I went out to one Duplicate game at the club and I was absolutely hooked,” Tichon said with a laugh.

Tichon explained that Duplicate Bridge – as opposed to the more casual version of the game – “takes the luck out” to a degree. In Duplicate Bridge, the same hands of cards rotate through the room of players. When Bridge is played this way, the player’s scores are compared against other teams that have used the same hand. The margins between the scores determine the victors, with the players who scored highest placing first.

In the past, Bridge was played with relative frequency on university campuses. However, Tichon said that the game’s demographic is a much older one nowadays and she believes it would be a welcome return to the U of M campus as a regular activity, be it in a club or for recreation.

“With enough interest, [Bridge Manitoba would] love to start holding lessons again at the university. I think it’s a really great game. It’s a lifelong hobby and I encourage anyone who’s thinking about it to dive right in and don’t be afraid to call up Bridge Manitoba or if they come my way, I’m happy to talk to them.”

Jenna Tichon participates regularly in Bridge Manitoba tournaments. She has competed regionally and in the largest North American Bridge tournament (occurring tri-annually), in both Canada and the United States. Find out more about local competitive Bridge at www.bridgemanitoba.org.

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