Funding boost to bridge the gap between play and study

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A new research project led by the University of Stirling will highlight the benefits and skills gained from playing bridge.

Professor Samantha Punch, of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Stirling, is an international bridge player herself and has recently launched the ‘Keep Bridge Alive’ campaign in a bid to promote the advantages of playing the card game – and encourage more people, of all ages, to give it a try.

As part of the campaign, the University this month hosted a unique bridge experience, featuring writer, television presenter and professional poker player Victoria Coren Mitchell. The Keep Bridge Alive Pro-Am Tournament provided an opportunity for enthusiasts to bid for the opportunity to partner with players from around the world – including Zia Mahmood, Sabine Auken, Dennis Bilde, David Gold, Nicola Smith and Boye Brogeland.

Players flew in from 12 countries and other notable participants included ITV newsreader, James Mates; President of the World Bridge Federation, Gianarrigo Rona; and President of the European Bridge League, Jan Kamras.

A total of £56,000 was raised from the evening and will contribute to the new project, ‘Bridge: A MindSport for All’ – a sociological research project that explores interactions within the mind-sport, well-being, transferable life skills, mental health and social connections.

Professor Punch, who is leading the project, said: “We are delighted that the bridge community came together to fundraise for this research that is developing the sociology of mind-sports as a new academic field.

“Our initial research findings show that bridge is an endlessly fascinating, challenging and meaningful mind sport which has positive lifelong impacts on well-being and healthy ageing. The research is used by bridge organisations around the world to promote the benefits and life-enhancing nature of bridge to new players of all ages. Most people don’t realise that bridge is such an exciting, unique and ever-evolving card game.”

Professor Samantha Punch

Professor Samantha Punch, of the University of Stirling, welcomed Victoria Coren Mitchell to the event.

Professor Punch added: “Bridge has such a strong human element to the game; it is the only mind sport where a computer has never beaten a human. As a four-player partnership card game, bridge facilitates face-to-face social interaction, develops a range of deductive, critical, reasoning skills and brings individuals together all in a fun, supportive and engaging environment.

“Bridge may not have all the answers to social isolation and loneliness, but it enables and fosters communication and connection regardless of age, physical ability, gender or ethnicity. Bridge is a mind-sport for all ages and in today’s digitally focused but socially isolated world, bridge can help to combat loneliness by enabling a sense of connection and belonging.”

Victoria Coren Mitchell said: “I’ve been playing bridge since I was a small child – sporadically, enthusiastically and badly. Having said that, I never shout at my partner, which I believe all the experts will tell you is the main skill.

“Bridge is a really wonderful game, rich with twists and complexities that requires a modicum of effort but definitely rewards it. Like poker – which I’m better at – it is a coded conversation, a formal dance of a game, constantly stimulating and intriguing. Especially if you’re good at remembering which suit is trumps.”

World champion Boye Brogeland, said: “Bridge is condensed life. You need to solve a variety of problems, make a huge number of decisions and face emotional ups and downs. 

“The social aspect of bridge - interacting with your partner and opponents - is also challenging and rewarding. It’s a wonderful game.”

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