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By Tim Smith 

Games of Bridge and Chess can help keep your mind sharp 

When lockdown forced Bermuda Bridge Club to shut its doors, some of its most enthusiastic members set about proving you’re never too old to try something new. 

Diana Diel, 90, a bridge club member since the 1980s, turned to the Internet to get her regular fix of the mentally stimulating card game. She’s since formed new friendships with bridge players from all over the world. 

“It’s the most wonderful game in the world,” she said. “It’s kept me sane through this whole pandemic. After I started playing bridge every day online, I have met all sorts of different people. I can play with Chinese people, Americans, South Americans. It’s amazing! 

“Although I have loved the club and still play in the club, it’s a whole new world.” 

Bermuda Bridge Club has about 170 members, most of whom are seniors. 

Researchers say playing bridge has many benefits for the human brain and can even help fight off dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

Alan Douglas, 76, a bridge club member since 1972 who has represented the island in locations including Costa Rica, Monte Carlo and China explained, “bridge is probably the most challenging game in the world. 

“There’s a lot of cut and thrust. One side is attacking and one is defending. The thrill of the game is if I’m defending, I need to work out what the attacking person is trying to do. It’s my job to stop it. A lot of bridge is memory work, working out who did what.” 

Ms Diel added that the bidding system “never ceases to evolve” which means that players are constantly learning new skills. 

It’s also a fun way to spend an afternoon and make new friends. 

Tony Saunders, 90, who has played bridge for more than six decades said, “it’s nice to sit down at the table and play the cards and chat.” 

Mr Saunders recalled his first introduction to the game when he was a teenager in the UK. “My schoolfriend and I decided to take our first holiday overseas,” he said. “We stayed in Palermo. Our landlord had two attractive daughters our age. Every night they taught us how to play bridge and how to speak French playing bridge.” 

Chess is another game that can sharpen the mind. 

Bengt Nygren, one of about 50 members of the Bermuda Chess Association, described himself as a late starter because he began playing at 60. 

“I have been playing chess twice a week for 30 years,” the 90-year-old said. “It’s a challenge to try to win. I don’t know what it is about it, but I feel it’s interesting. I have five or six people who have become very, very good friends by playing chess.” 

Mr Nygren, originally from Sweden, has been playing chess on his computer since Covid-19 restrictions closed the Association’s headquarters. 

Playing chess benefits the brain by helping develop perspective, improving memory, creativity and planning skills, as well as staving off dementia. 

Bermuda Bridge Club welcomes new members of all ages and levels. As long as Covid-19 restrictions are not in place, sessions take place at 7 Pomander Road, Paget, five days a week. For more information, call 541-0551 or visit www.bermudabridge.com 

The Bermuda Chess Association hosts sessions every Tuesday evening at 44 Church Street East, Hamilton, when Covid-19 restrictions are not in place. Other options for chess players, Covid-19 restrictions permitting, include Don Dacres’ barber shop on Front Street and outdoor tables set up by the City of Hamilton. Contact the Chess Association through www.bermudachess.com or its Facebook page. 

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