King of clubs

Jen Wieczner

Ed Bacher does not play bridge the way children play “War,” college students play Nintendo or gamblers play poker. He does not play because he is addicted or because it is profitable.

He plays because that’s what it is to be a Bacher.

“You couldn’t belong to the family unless you played bridge,” the Weinberg ’06 graduate said. “When my brother brought home girlfriends, they had to learn.”

Bacher is among a handful of avid student players in the Northwestern Bridge Club.

Every Sunday at 7 p.m., seven to 12 of the club’s members gather in the Norris University Center faculty lounge, sometimes playing past midnight or until Norris employees kick them out. The club’s regulars are mostly men, but women occasionally come for a game.

Bridge is a four-person card game played by two teams of partners.

People began playing the modern version in the 1920s, and it was the game of choice for older generations.

Though Bacher completed his studies at NU last quarter, he commutes from Ohio every other weekend to play in tournaments and attend game nights.

The club’s Sunday games even attract people who have never attended NU.

“I play any game I can get my hands on,” said Chris Robinson, a sophomore at Kendall College. A friend who goes to NU introduced him to the club.

The non-sanctioned club is meant for learning and practicing. Robinson and Bacher usually are the teachers for less-experienced players.

There are rules, though. Members can say whatever they want. If one person leaves early, he must find someone to leave with him so that play can continue. Whoever wants to lead the club takes it over.

“We don’t really have a president so much as we have a lot of shouting,” Robinson said.

But he named Weinberg junior Will Shepherd as the bridge club’s de facto president.

NU’s original bridge club formed years ago, though none of the current players know exactly when. The club was virtually defunct until four or five years ago, when passionate players started meeting at Norris. They brought friends, and news of the club spread by word of mouth.

At one weekly meeting, they swapped stories about people who paid for college playing bridge and some who flunked out for playing too much.

“Bridge players cannot frequently remember when they’re supposed to be in class, what they had for dinner, where they live, what’s in their refrigerator,” Robinson said. “But they can remember every detail of a hand they played three years ago.”

Club members can only teach the basics of bridge, Bacher said, because “nuances take a lifetime to learn.”

One nuance they have learned is that the seven of diamonds is the “beer card.” If you win with it, your opponent owes you a beer, Bacher said.

The players believe that they’re much younger than typical bridge players. Robinson said bridge has lost popularity among young people, but that doesn’t stop him or other members from sticking to their old-fashioned game.

“Once you start, you’ll keep playing until you’re 80 years old,” Robinson said.

“Until you die,” Bacher added.

Reach Jen Wieczner at [email protected]