I love games! I love board games like Monopoly, checkers, Clue, Risk, Careers, chess, Chinese checkers, Parcheesi, but especially card games like poker, euchre, go fish, war, spades, solitaire, hearts and of course, bridge (or more specifically – duplicate bridge). The three greatest games in the world are considered to be chess, Go, and contract bridge. Chess is too slow and methodical and not much fun unless the players are evenly matched. Go is a Chinese board game 2,500 years old played with black and white stones. I have tried Go, but it never caught my fancy. However bridge, especially duplicate bridge, is a game that really intrigued me. With more than octillion possible hands, it is never boring or repetitious. I have studied and read and played it from eighth grade on.

Imagine my thrill when I became betrothed to Tudi, a fellow bridge player! However, our get-go partnership was not quite on an equal skill level. She was at the kindergarten level while I had my masters. When we started playing duplicate bridge together, she lamented, “I have never been at the bottom of my class, I have always been one of the smartest and best!”

So began her bridge education. It started out with dealing out and examining hands on the kitchen table. She had done this before, but now she had an expert commentator as the hands were examined. With the help of her patient and loving mentor, slowly but steadily, she moved through the elementary grades and matriculated into high school. The lessons became more specific and more advanced.

In 2005, she was presented with her first of five bridge calendars. Each day was a new bridge hand to solve with comments on the bidding and play. Every lesson ended with an affirmation to instill positive bridge feelings. Soon, she breezed through bridge high school and was accepted into the International Academy of Advanced Duplicate Bridge. With the introduction of hand records, opening leads and double dummy displays: the lessons became more and more precise and exact. Like a sponge soaking up water, she learned at a prodigious rate and soon earned her Masters. (Gold no less!)

We became a feared pair at the club level. Since I started keeping track in 2012, we have amassed more than 600 first- or second-place finishes. Going to regional and sectional tournaments, we always came home with a pocket full of masterpoints. Not only did we hold our own against some of the top players in the country, but we also earned their respect.

On this wonderful journey, she and her teacher-partner amassed a heap of masterpoints. How many masterpoints must be heaped together to be considered an expert? The Greek word for heap is sorites. In English, the sorites paradox refers to a heap of sand. As you remove one grain at a time, when does it stop being a heap? For example, if you take away one day at a time, when does an old man stop being an old man if you take one straw at a time from a haystack, when does it stop being a haystack?

Is this true with masterpoints? Is it just an ill-defined heap of points? Cleverly, the American Contract Bridge League has solved the sorites paradox with a series of numerical Master ratings; starting with Junior, and proceeding upward to Club, Sectional, Bronze, Silver, Ruby, Gold, Sapphire and eventually Platinum. When Tudi’s wonderful fiancé, bridge partner and love of her life, reached the level of Sapphire Life Master; he received a certificate from the ACBL, got his name in fine print in the magazine (John Gignilliat, Swansboro, NC), and got a smatterings of congratulations. But he knew that was only half the story. There would have been no Sapphire Life Master without his wonderful partner. Every point he earned, she earned too. He advanced towards this goal only because of her. So what sort of recognition should she get?

At the foot of her bed, is a treasure chest overflowing with expensive and beautiful bracelets, rings, brooches, necklaces, earrings and other fancy baubles. Out of this treasure trove, every morning when she gets dressed, she expertly accessorizes her self for the day. I don’t always notice her earrings, bracelets or rings, but sitting across the table, I am always aware of her necklace for the day.

So my epiphany was, “Why not for Christmas, get Tudi a sapphire necklace so every time I see her wear it, I will be reminded who the hidden factor was in my sapphire status.” Onto the Internet I went and checked on eBay. They showed sapphires priced from $5 to $3,000 and in a myriad of colors. This was overwhelming and very confusing. I knew that at one time my sister had collected gemstones, so I emailed her for advice. She said, “Don’t buy one, I have a sapphire I will send you!” So several days later, I received in the mail a tiny, beautifully faceted sapphire.

My next task was to convert this beautiful stone into a necklace. Luckily, I knew just the local artist for the task. (In fact, Tudi already has some of her exquisite work in her treasure chest). When I told her my story and showed her the gemstone, she was very excited to take on the commission. It was done before we left on our Holiday Bridge Cruise and that is the story of my Christmas present!

Postscript: the “local artist” is Tudi’s daughter, Debbie Pagliughi. She made a beautiful enameled silver heart with the sapphire set in the middle.

John Gignilliat lives in Cedar Point. He and Tudi Modestad are co-managers of the Cedar Point Duplicate Bridge Club that meets weekly.

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