‘A hidden gem’

Allegheny College bridge club offers an outlet for players of all ages and experience levels

Allegheny College offers its students a number of different clubs and extracurricular activities, such as Alpha Pi Omega, Student Athlete Advisory Committee, the Game Room Pool League and multiple other organizations. While some of these clubs are well-known, some clubs on campus are not.

For example, many students are unaware Allegheny College even has a Bridge Club, let alone an award-winning Bridge Club.

The Bridge Club has met in McKinley’s Private Dining every Tuesday at 7 p.m. for the past four years and is open to all students. Students who have no prior experience playing bridge are encouraged to join.

Although the club has only been in existence for the past four years, there is a much richer history surrounding students playing bridge on the college campus.

“There used to be a grille on campus. In the bottom of where the alumni center is now, there used to be a grille with tables and tables of students playing cards. That’s where I learned to play,” Barbara Grzegorzewski, ’73, said.

The club was brought back to the campus four years ago by Grzegorzewski, her husband and Professor Phillip Wolfe.

“We wanted to encourage students to play,” Grzegorzewski said.

The American Contract Bridge League offers various scholarships to students who express an interest in playing bridge. In fact, there are numerous students at Allegheny who have received these prestigious scholarships.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are two avid bridge players who have made generous donations to develop more programs for students to learn bridge in college.

“It’s a card game where four players sit down at a table and there is a North, South, East and West,” Grzegorzewski said.

Although bridge might seem like a complex and challenging card game, it can be easily simplified into three different phases.

“Each deal consists of three parts – the auction, where the four players bid in a clockwise rotation describing their hands, the play, where the side that wins the bidding auction tries to take the tricks necessary to fulfill their contract, and scoring,” according to the American Contract Bridge League website.

Every Tuesday night you can expect McKinley’s Private Dining to be separated into two tables, which will compete against one another. The two tables plug their bids into computers that compare the numbers to generate scores that will show how well each table is competing and distribute rankings.

Allegheny College is one of a handful of colleges with a successful bridge club that has been granted the opportunity to enroll in the American Contract Bridge League’s Bridge Initiative.

The members of the Bridge Club have even been given the opportunity to play against robots.“Basically you just play some hands, except everybody else but you is a robot,” Grace Connolly, ’18, said

Once each student has had the opportunity to play against the robots, the scores are compared to see who competed the best against the robots.

“It’s pretty fun. Sometimes the robots are annoying, if I’m being honest,” Connolly said.

Although the two tables are competing, you won’t find any tense energy. Instead, the room is filled with laughter.

“Here, it’s more of a social arrangement,” Grzegorzewski said,” “we talk, eat candy and animal crackers, have pizza parties,”

“I’ve been playing bridge for four years. It’s a good time,” said the President of the bridge club, Allison Ganger, ’18, who is hoping to get more first-year and sophomore students involved in the club.

“It’s fun once you start,” Grzegorzewski said.

“It seems like we have a pretty high retention rate,” Ganger said. “People come here, and they either decide after a meeting or two that it’s not their thing or if they stay, they stay for years.”

The Bridge Club even hosts a tournament once a year. At the end of each school year, members of the Meadville Bridge Club are brought to the Pelletier Library to match professional-ameature.

“We make a big tournament out of it. We play in the library, eat pizza and make it individual,” Grzegorzewski said.

While bridge club can be socially engaging and competitive, many do not know the game or how it is played.

“Most people don’t know what bridge is, or that’s fun,”  Grzegorzewski said.

In a CBS News interview in 2008, Warren Buffett said, “If I’m playing bridge and a naked woman walks by, I don’t even see her.”

Buffett has also been known to say that he would not mind going to jail as long as he had three cellmates so that they could play bridge all day.

“It’s a chill club. It’s fun,” Ganger said.