BASICS OF THE GAME
Playing bridge is fun and learning the game should certainly be fun as well. Although the only way to learn the game is to be serious about it, let's approach the game with a relaxed attitude.
The first magic number in bridge is 13. There are 13 cards in each hand, 13 tricks in the deck and 13 cards in each suit. If you can count up to 13 in one suit, you're on the way to playing bridge. If you count to 13 in two suits, you're playing good bridge. If you count to 13 in all four suits, you're an expert.
Bridge is played by four people. The players facing each other are partners. For convenience we will call one set of partners, North and South, the opposing partners, East and West.
One person shuffles the cards, and deals the cards -- starting to his left -- clockwise, one at a time to each person including himself until all the cards are dealt out. Each person winds up with 13 cards.
Each person then sorts his cards into suits -- placing all the spades together, all the hearts together, all the clubs together and all the diamonds together. To avoid intermixing the suits, alternate the red and black suits in the hand. His "hand" may then look something like this: *
The object of the game is to win TRICKS.
WHAT IS A TRICK?
After the bidding has ended and play commences, each player places a card on the table, face-up in turn clockwise until four cards are played. These four cards constitute a trick. As each player is required to follow suit, (that is, if the first card led is a diamond, each player must play a diamond if he has one) the highest card wins the trick.
Remember that this is a partnership game. Therefore, if partner's card is high enough to win the trick you do not have to waste a higher card on that trick.
The player who wins the trick then leads (makes the first play) to the next trick. If a player does not have a card in the suit led, he discards a card in another suit, or he may at his option, win the trick by trumping it -- that is, playing any card in the trump suit.
WHAT IS TRUMP?
Trump is the suit selected in the bidding process by the partnership that wins the final contract. It could be either clubs, diamonds, hearts or spades.
Which brings us to the basic concepts of Contract bridge. The object of the game is for a partnership to determine, by bidding, the trick-taking ability of the combined hands, and to arrive at a profitable contract.
If they are to play in a trump contract, they have to establish which of the suits they want to be the trump suit. A good trump suit is one in which the partnership has the majority of the cards, preferably eight or more cards in the combined hands.
They also have the option of playing in a no trump contract, where there isn't any trump suit.
The partnership arriving at the final contract is the declaring side. The person playing the hand is the declarer, his partner is "the dummy."
The opposing pair is called "the defenders."
Each hand is started by the dealer, who always makes the first call. He may either make a bid or a pass. The bidding proceeds to his left to the next player who likewise makes a bid or a pass. The process continues clockwise around the table. (If all four players pass, the hand is thrown in and the deal passes on to the player on the left who deals a new hand). If one or more players make a bid, the bidding process continues until a bid is followed by three consecutive passes. That last bid is called the final contract.
Here is a typical example of the bidding process.
Assuming South is the dealer, this is how the bidding might proceed:
The final contract is four hearts, requiring the winning of ten tricks with hearts as trumps. The declarer is South, because he was the first member of the partnership to bid hearts.
The play is started by the defender to the left of the declarer, who places a card face-up on the table. This is called the opening lead. After the opening lead is made, the declarer's partner ("the dummy") places all his cards face-up on the table with the trump suit at his right. The declarer has the sole responsibility to play dummy's cards as well as his own.
This is what the table would look like after the opening lead: *
The play continues trick by trick until all 13 tricks have been played. The declarer keeps all tricks won by his side neatly in front of him. The defenders' tricks are kept by one of the defenders, traditionally the partner of the defender who wins the first defensive trick. The tricks are placed alternately vertically and horizontally to make counting easier. At the end of the hand the table might look something like this: *
THE BIDDING LADDER
The higher ranking suits are spades and hearts. They are called the major suits. The lower ranking suits are diamonds and clubs, the minor suits. Ranking above them all is a category called, "No Trump."
You will note in the scoring table on page 18 that spades and hearts are worth 30 points per trick, while diamonds and clubs are worth only 20 points a trick. Therefore the major and minor suit designations. No trump (which is worth 40 points for the first trick and 30 points for each succeeding trick) ranks above them all.
Therefore you can bid a new suit at the same level as long as it is a higher ranking suit. For example: you can bid one diamond over one club. But you cannot bid one club over one diamond. With a lower ranking suit you have to go to at least the next higher level to overcall. You would have to bid two clubs over one diamond.
Actually there can be as many as five bids on each level. The bidding can go, one club, one diamond, one heart, one spade, one no trump. But if the bidding were in the reverse order the minimum bidding would have to be one no trump, two spades, three hearts, four diamonds, five clubs.
In addition to bids in various levels of the four suits and no trump, there are only three other legal calls. 1. Pass, 2. Double (of an opponent's bid). 3. Redouble (of an opponent's double).
The founding fathers of bridge developed the game quite logically.
With 13 tricks as the ultimate possibility, they established "Book" as six tricks (just under half of 13).
When you make a bid of one of a suit or no trump, you are obligating your partnership to win one trick above "Book" or seven tricks. A bid of two equals two tricks above book, or eight tricks, and so on until a bid of seven requires you to win all 13 tricks.
Therefore when you bid one spade, you are undertaking to win seven tricks with spades as the trump suit. Likewise, if you or your partner bids three no trump (for example) you are contracting to win nine tricks with no suit as trump.
OBJECT OF THE GAME
The object of the game is to win as many points as possible. You win points by bidding and fulfilling your contract. If you fail to make your contract there are penalties and the opponents win points (see chart pages 18-19). The main goal of the bidding is to arrive at the most profitable contract.
In order to accomplish this, it is necessary to evaluate the trick-taking ability of the combined partnership hands. As you can't show your hands to each other, you try to do so by informative bidding.
Copyright © 1978, 1980 by Harry Lampert