Stephen Burgess begins his Bridge-playing career

When Stephen Burgess first played Bridge[1]


Stephen lived and went to primary school in Kaitangata and so did his friend Gerard Shore  Stephen was, as you can imagine,  a scrawny kid but his mate was a lad of substance – the story goes that at eleven years old he wore size eleven shoes, at twelve years old size twelve, and so on. After primary school in Kaitangata they went off to secondary school in Balclutha and Gerard’s skills as a minder were sometimes called upon, his weapon being nothing more than a very expressive frown. The lads often played chess and cards together and with Gerard’s family, but it was one evening when they were fifteen that Stephen watched them playing Bridge for an hour. He turned up to watch again the next week, but one of the four was missing so Stephen was pressed into action for an hour.


The Balclutha Bridge Club ran its championships with the Gold division and the Bronze division playing on the same night. Gerard’s parents were off to play the next evening and suggested that the two young men accompany them. Stephen raced off home to obtain permission but his Dad said that his studies were much too important. Stephen despaired but at five past seven, his mother gave his Dad a flagon and told Stephen to run for his life. But he was too late. Gerard was there but his parents had already left, for fear of being late. Stephen and Gerard raced around to find his mate the milkman (Stephen used to make his pocket money by helping with the milk delivery rounds at 4am each day) and they climbed aboard the milk truck, raced in to Balclutha for their first night of Bridge. The Championships were ten weeks long, the flagon strategy was used many times and Stephen and Gerard won the bronze division!




[1] When this story was first told to me I thought it was about how Stephen learned to play Bridge but I realised later that, of course, he always knew how to play the game – it was just a matter of finding the right context in which to use that knowledge

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