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Duplicate Bridge at Abergavenny

Duplicate Bridge at Abergavenny

While Rubber Bridge is undeniably a game of skill, the random deal of the cards can affect the outcome in the short-run. To circumvent this, Duplicate Bridge is played at the Abergavenny club. Instead of shuffling the cards between each deal, the hands are preserved and played by every pair. Then the pairs' relative performances are judged. This makes for a much fairer game, where runs of high cards are irrelevant, and every hand can be crucial.

The Basics, Equipment, and Terminology

Duplicate Bridge requires some special equipment in order to work properly.  To keep track of all this, a director is appointed to answer queries, make judgments and ensure that things move smoothly.

A session of Duplicate Bridge can vary in length, but it's usual to play between 20 and 30 hands. Before the session begins, the cards are shuffled and dealt mechanically. Each hand is placed into a slot in a special card holder known as a board and is kept separate for the duration of the tournament. The boards are marked with a number, the four seat directions, and vulnerabilities for each pair.

After each trick is played, players keep their cards in front of them rather than gathering them all up. At the end of each hand, each player's thirteen cards are placed back into the board. This preserves the hand, so the next players to receive that board will receive an identical arrangement of cards. The player seated North records the results of the hand onto an app on a hand-held device. The hand-held device communicates with a computer which correlates all the results.

After playing a predetermined number of hands, the boards are passed to a new table. In addition, at least half of the pairs will move to a different table. Every pair is assigned a number which is used for scoring and working out where next to move. This rotation of boards and pairs ensures that everyone plays as many different hands and faces as many different opponents as possible, with no repetition.

Bidding Boxes and Convention Cards

Bridge competitions can have dozens of pairs playing simultaneously. To reduce noise levels, and to prevent players from overhearing the auctions for boards they're about to play, bidding boxes are used. A bidding box contains a set of printed cards, each with a different bid on it. Each player makes their bid by removing the appropriate card and placing it on the table in front of them. The cards are staggered, so making a bid will automatically bring all the lower bids with it, removing them from play. There are also cards to indicate passing, doubling (X) and redoubling (XX).

There are two other cards available to players, marked "STOP" and "ALERT". If a player makes an artificial bid, his partner must alert this to the opposing pair, who are then given the opportunity to ask the alerting player what the bid means. Different bridge organizations have different rules and procedures governing which specific bids need to be alerted.

The STOP card is used just before making any jump bid (i.e. a bid that isn't at the lowest available level for the chosen suit).


While scoring for Duplicate Bridge might initially seem far removed from scoring for Rubber Bridge, it's really just an added layer on top. Like everything about Duplicate Bridge, the aim is to preserve the rules while smoothing out the randomness. Because each board in a session of Duplicate Bridge is a separate entity, none of the persistent scoring from Rubber Bridge is retained. So there is no rubber bonus and part scores do not carry over from hand to hand. Vulnerabilities are pre-set, with all four vulnerability permutations appearing every four boards. To compensate for these changes, there are extra points in Duplicate Bridge for making a game or simply fulfilling a contract that's worth less than 100 points (known as a partial or part-score). These function much like the slam bonuses in Rubber Bridge, which are retained in Duplicate:

Contracts bid and made:



Grand Slam



Small Slam






Part Score



The contract and number of tricks made for every hand is entered into the hand-held device by North and checked by East. The scores are calculated automatically.


This is the most commonly used scoring system for Pairs competitions. At the end of the session, each score is compared with every other. Pairs are awarded 1 point for every pair sitting in the same direction who scored lower than them, and 1/2 point for every pair who scored the same.

These matchpoints are then added up across all boards to determine the winner(s).

Club website

Details of all the hands played and the final results will be loaded onto the Abergavenny club website.