Bridge is a partnership game. You play with the person sitting opposite you (your partner) and cooperate to win as many tricks as possible.
If you have played Solo or 500 before you will understand the concepts of a trump suit and tricks. If not, suffice to say that one suit can be chosen, during the bidding, to be the boss, or trump, suit. Any card played from that chosen suit will beat any other card in the pack except, of course, a higher trump. Four cards played, one from each player, constitute one trick, and the highest card played (or highest trump), wins the trick.
There are two phases of play – first the bidding, then the play of the hand. During the bidding (or auction), each player has chances to tell his partner which suit he prefers to be the trump suit. The auction can very often be a lively prolonged exercise, with opponents competing with each other to choose the trump suit. (You can also choose to play in No Trumps, which means as it sounds, that there is no trump suit chosen, and the highest card played always wins the trick.) Unlike Solo and 500, you may re-enter the auction after passing.
Once the final contract is chosen, the next phase of the game begins. Now the cards are played out and the partners who won the auction have to win the number of tricks they said they would win. One of the partners is the declarer and it is she who actually plays the cards. Her partner places her cards face-up on the table so that all three other players can see them. She is called the ‘dummy’ and takes no further active part in the play of that hand. Declarer plays both her cards and the cards from the dummy, attempting to win at least the number of tricks she contracted to win.
If you are a Solo or 500 player, you will know the frustration of having a poor hand, or, particularly in Solo, having a good hand, but not good enough to come into the bidding. When you play Bridge in a Club, a form of bridge called Duplicate Bridge is played, and it no longer matters whether you hold good or bad cards. There are many tables in play and the same cards are played by up to ten different partnerships – the cards are passed from table to table in plastic holders called ‘boards’ (See photo). The poor hand you just played is played at every table in the room, and if you played your poor cards well, you will beat all the other players who also played your cards. Scoring is done throughout the room and you are competing against the other players sitting in your seat, not against the other players at your table. About 27 hands are played in one session of Duplicate Bridge. You can hold 27 awful hands, and if you play very well, you will win. It may be a little frustrating to keep getting poor cards, but defensive play is one of the most skilful and ultimately satisfying parts of the game.
Part of Bridge’s charm is its infinite variety: you never stop learning and can enjoy play as a beginner or expert. Unlike Solo and 500, the bidding is complex and fascinating. Calls such as Double and Redouble are used and add spice and tension to the game. Partnership understandings are very important, and, without cheating, you can evolve a signalling system – by the order in which you play your cards – to tell your partner much about what cards you hold in your hand. If you have ever endured a particularly boring game of cards with friends, Bridge is the game for you!
Come along and join us at Waverley Bridge Club. Have a look at the page on training for information on the next lesson course. We look forward to meeting you.