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Novices

Introduction to Bridge

This page is intended for players with a fundamental knowledge of bridge who would like a few pointers.
It is not intended for players with a great deal of experience as they will already have systems and conventions built up over the years.

There are two main areas to develop in bridge expertise, bidding and the play. Unlike some card games, the bidding is particularly critical as it can influence the score to a very large degree. Also, in Duplicate Bridge, the play requires a pair to outperform other pairs that play the same boards.
The following briefly descibes some areas of the game of bridge.

Types of bridge

  • Rubber Bridge - played as a friendly game, not in competitions, althogh often played for money stakes. Cards are dealt for each hand and the scoring is as other types with part scores, game scores and slams. The game starts with all players non-ulnerable and vulnerability is dependent on a pair reachin 100 points in any of a number of hands. A game of rubber bridge ends when one partnership has reached 2 games (best of three) in a 'Rubber'.
  • Chicago Bridge - similar to Rubber bridge but each hand is played independently of previous hands. The vulnerability is predetermined and play consists of four hands with non-vulnerable, each pair taking turns in vulnerability and the final hand where both pairs are vulnerable.
  • Duplicate Bridge - played with pre-dealt hands where the hands are retained at the end of each round. A round consists of, usually 2-4 hands. The hands are retianed and passed on to another table at the end of a round with pairs also moving. There are a wide number of 'movements' to avoid people playing either the same person or the same cards. Unlike Rubber and Chicago, the main aim of Duplicae bridge is to achieve a better score than the other pairs playing the same hand. In these cases, gaining an extra trick, could gain a high score. It is also possible to achieve a top score, even if not achieving the conract, by losing less tricks that other pairs playig the same contract for that board.
  • Teams - there are a number of other competitive games, notable teams of 4 (4 pairs). This is used in inter club competitions as well as within some clubs as an occasional change to Duplicate.

Bidding

  • Systems - The most common system used in the UK is ACOL, which together with the equivalent Standard American, now being superceeded by the 2/1 club, are both used throughout the world. There are a large number of other systems, prticularly those based on a 'fake' one club or one diamond opening such as precision Club and opening bid, such as Moscito and Precision. One particularly famous system was used by the Italian 'Roman Club' used with great success about 50 years ago.
  • Conventions - are used with a system to provide partnerships with additional information not necessarily covered in the System used. The most common is Stayman developed in 1930s, that now has a number of variations. Other commonly used conventions are Gerber and Blackwood conventions used to identify slam potential, both of which have a number of variations. It is important that a partnership agrees the full detail of any convention, responses and folow-up bids.

Playing the game

Recommended by the EBU is a practice program for beginners/improvers is MiniBridge.
It is a free download for Microsoft Windows users. There is no bidding but just provides card playing opportunities with hint options if required.

Another free download from the EBU site is 'Learn to Play Bridge'. This is based on a US system but has been modified, and now sanctioned by the EBU.

Signal conventions

During play, a partnership may use a wide variety of signals by playing a card that shows a preference in some way. Many of these are commonly understood such as a high-low, indicating a doubleton, or MUD (middle up down) indicating a three card suit. During play discards (normally only the first discard) are used to show partner a suit preference on a subsequent lead.

Free Bridge Games

There are many free bridge games available but people need to be aware of the systems and conventions (or lack of them) in many of these programs.
One web site that purports to have a program that allows the selection of conventions is Acol Bridge but people should be aware that the variants of the conventions may not be the same as used by the partnership.