Contract bridge

From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Declarer, near camera, plays dummy's hand as well as his own

Contract bridge, or just bridge, is a trick-taking card game. It is played by two pairs of players, one pair against the other pair.[1] Partners sit opposite each other at a table.

In face-to-face games, a convenient table size is from 32 to 40 inches (80 to 100 centimeters) square. The table is usually covered by green baize cloth. The point of the cloth is to stop cards skittering (sliding) across the table. In online computer play, players from anywhere in the world sit at a virtual table.

Millions of people play bridge in clubs, tournaments, online and with friends at home. It is one of the world's most popular card games.[2] The World Bridge Federation is the governing body for international competitive bridge.

The game is played in a number of "deals".[3] Each deal goes through four phases: dealing the cards, the auction (also referred to as bidding), playing the cards, and scoring the results.[4]

Duplicate bridge[change | change source]

Most club and tournament play uses duplicate bridge, where the cards are not re-dealt during a session. The same deals are played by most or all players. This allows comparative scoring. The method has one peculiarity: in competition between pairs, all boards count for an equal number of points. The same number of points are available on each and every board (hand). These points are distributed according to the scores. This is a fundamental difference between duplicate bridge pairs and rubber bridge.

In duplicate play between teams, the original scoring method is used. This is because teams play the same set of boards at each table, but with the seating of players changed (N/S to E/W and E/W to N/S). Thus both teams play the same set of boards.

History[change | change source]

Early history of bridge[change | change source]

It is played with the standard 52 cards in four suits. The game developed out of whist, which is a relatively old card game. Bridge developed in a series of stages from about 1890 to about 1930. The stages included bridge-whist and auction bridge, and the developments took place mostly in New York and London. The origin of the word "bridge" in this context is not really known. One possibility is that it is taken from an 1886 book, Biritch, or Russian Whist by John Collinson.[5]

Publicity in the 1930s[change | change source]

Contract bridge became one of the most popular pastimes when it was publicised by Ely Culbertson, a leading American player and organiser. Anglo-American matches got huge publicity in the newspapers, cinema and radio of the 1930s.

Playing method[change | change source]

Whist is played with the trump suit chosen by chance, whereas in bridge it is chosen by a process called "bidding". A trump is a card which can beat any card from the other three suits.

In whist, the winners had to get most of the tricks (a trick is a round of four cards), that is, seven or more tricks. However, in bridge the players bid in sequence to decide what the "contract" shall be. The contract is decided by the last bid, and will be in one of the four suits, or in "no trumps", without a trump suit.

The scoring rules and the bidding process evolved through stages between 1890 and about 1930. Bids at the one level are offers to make at least seven tricks. Bids at the seven level are offers to make all thirteen tricks. The lowest bid one can make is "one club" and the highest bid is "seven no trumps".

The scoring system for bridge is very much more complicated than it is for whist. Fundamentally, it depends on whether or not declarer makes his contract or not. If he does not, the defending side collect penalty points. If he does make the contract his side wins points. How many points are won or lost depends on the scoring system (not discussed here). Harold S. Vanderbilt played a key role in designing the scoring system, and in 1927 the Whist Club of New York produced a code for contract bridge. They and the Portland Club of London became the authorities who guided the later minor changes to the rules.[6]

The set-up for playing the cards is also different from whist. The side which wins the bidding sequence plays with only one partner ("declarer") controlling both hands. His or her partner is called "dummy", and that hand is played face up on the table so all players can see it.

Duplicate bridge[change | change source]

Like much else in the game, the idea of duplicate play was invented for whist. At "whist drives" North/South pairs sat in the same positions throughout, East/West pairs moved up the series of tables and boards moved down. This simple movement was invented in the 19th century. The first game of duplicate whist was organised by "Cavendish" in London 1857, but it was not followed up. It was played in Chicago in 1880, and the first book about it was written in 1891 by John T. Mitchell. His simple method is known as the Mitchell movement.[7]

Match for the Schwab Cup, 1933. At table, from left: Ely Culbertson, Lady Doris Rhodes, referee Col. GGJ Walshe, Josephine Culbertson, 'Pops' Beasley

Matchpoints[change | change source]

Duplicate bridge for pairs differs in one important way from rubber bridge or team-of-four bridge. That is: in duplicate bridge every hand is equal, and so every hand offers the same number of points. It is by far the most popular form of bridge today, but it is the form least like the original game.

At matchpoints, all hands offer the same number of points when the result is scored. Points available for each board are the same, no matter whether they are bid to a part-score or a slam. Making one more overtrick than everybody else on a board gives the same result (the top) as making a slam that nobody else bid.

This has all kinds of consequences. Beginners are still taught the original game, but most bridge is duplicate. Many players never discover the difference, and few understand how to play this version differently from older types of bridge.[8]

Matchpoint scoring[change | change source]

The main features of the tactics are:

  • Matchpoints
    • All hands offer the same number of points.
    • Overtricks are important.
    • Safety play is often neglected in the hunt for overtricks.
    • Thin games and slams are avoided.
    • Sacrifices are more frequent; e.g. going down 500 points on a doubled contract is a good result if the opponents can score 620 points for a game.
    • Penalty doubles are more frequent. For example, "the magic 200" refers to the situation when a vulnerable pair's contract is doubled and goes one down — the score of 200 will outscore almost all part-score contracts played at other tables.
    • Playing in higher-scoring notrump or major suits is important, as it may lead to an extra 10 or 20 points.

Due to the above, it is often unclear to the defence, and sometimes even to declarer, what their goals are.[9] Thus mastering matchpoints play requires additional skills.

Example of a bidding sequence[change | change source]

A bidding box containing all the possible calls a player can make in the auction
West North East South
Pass 1 Heart Pass 1 Spade
Pass 2 Diamonds Pass 3 Spades
Pass 4 Spades Pass Pass

In the example above, West was the dealer and first to bid. The bidding goes as shown with South becoming the declarer in a 4 spades contract, he being the first to bid spades. East-West become the defenders and West becomes the opening leader, North becomes the dummy and spades the trump suit.

Ten tricks are required by North–South, six tricks plus the 4-level bid.

Mechanical dealing[change | change source]

Mostly, bridge is a social game played in clubs. A number of tables play the same set of hands, which allows for the scoring of individual pairs to be ranked. The deal is done by a computerised method. A pseudo-random algorithm sets the hands (the sets of cards held by each player). The computer is linked to a mechanical device which deals the cards and delivers them into the hands. These are put into the holding boards. The boards are then put on the tables.

Related pages[change | change source]

Sources[change | change source]

  • Daniels, David 1980. The Golden Age of Contract Bridge. New York: Stein and Day. ISBN 978-0812825763. Includes all stages from the history of whist to contract bridge, up to about 1950.
  • The ACBL Official Encyclopedia of Bridge (various eds) has a section on matchpoint tactics by Marshall Miles.

References[change | change source]

  1. Reese, Terence (1980). Bridge (7th ed.). United Kingdom: Teach Yourself Books. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-340-24884-3.
  2. Moore, Martha T. (19 December 2005). "Billionaires bank on bridge to trump poker". USA Today.
  3. The terms deal, hand and board may be used interchangeably in bridge literature. More accurately, a "hand" is one player's holding of 13 cards, a "deal" is the four hands from one set of 52 cards. A "board" is a term used in duplicate bridge and refers to a deal.
  4. Kantar, Eddie (2006). Bridge for dummies (2nd ed.). Hoboken N.J.: Wiley. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-471-92426-5.
  5. Collinson's 'Biritch' by Thierry Depaulis and Jac Fuchs, in The Playing-Card, volume 32, number 2.
  6. The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge. American Contract Bridge League. New York (various editions).
  7. The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, 4th ed. ACBL, New York. Entry for "Mitchell movement".
  8. Reece T. & Dormer A. 1968. Bridge for tournament players. Hale, London, p1–58. ISBN 7091 0003 5
  9. Kelsey H.W. 1970. "Match-point bridge". Faber's "Master Bridge Series".