Try your hand at bridge

  • So much more than a complicated card game: bidding is the language of bridge and by far the greatest contributor to success at the game (Photograph courtesy of chalfontsu3a.org.uk)

    So much more than a complicated card game: bidding is the language of bridge and by far the greatest contributor to success at the game (Photograph courtesy of chalfontsu3a.org.uk)

  • Figure 1

    Figure 1

  • Figure 2

    Figure 2


Bridge Results, for week for May 6, 2019

Results for week of May 6

Monday afternoon

North/South

1, Margaret Way/Molly Taussig

2, Peter Donnellan/Terry Martin

3, L Pollett/S Rayner/A Douglas/K Bell

East/West

1, Elizabeth McKee/Stephanie Kyme

2, Wendy Gray/Richard Gray

3, Gertrude Barker/Julia Beach

Monday evening

North/South

1, George Correia/Inger Mesna

2, William Pollett/Martha Ferguson

3, Lorna Anderson/Ernest Paynter

East/West

1, Ellen Davidson/Dianna Kempe

2, Scott Godet/Sally Godet

3, Nick Kempe/Delton Outerbridge

Tuesday evening junior game

North/South

1, S Lorimer-Turner/Noula Contibas

2, Peter Adhemar/Susan Adhemar

3, Betsy Baillie/C Lloyd-Jennings

East/West

1, Kevin Zhao/Leo Huang

2, Claude Guay/Sharon Shanahan

3, Nick Kempe/Samantha Pickering

Wednesday morning

North/South

1, Janice Trott/Molly Taussig

2, Gertrude Barker/Jane Smith

3, Richard Gray/Wendy Gray

East/West

1, Linda Pollett/William Pollett

2, Katrina Van Pelt/Sheena Rayner

3, Patricia Siddle/Julia Beach

Thursday evening open game

1, Gertrude Barker/Jane Smith

2, Elizabeth McKee/Linda Pollett

3, Judith Bussell/Diana Diel

Thursday evening under 300 game

North/South

1, Betsy Baillie/Lisa Ferrari

2, Scott Godet/Sally Godet

3, C Guay/S Shanahan/L Anderson/E Paynter

East/west

1, Tim Mardon/Burdette Coates

2, George Correia/Ellen Davidson

3, Sancia Garrison/Martha Ferguson

Friday afternoon

North/South

1, Judith Bussell/Linda Pollett

2, Alan Douglas/Martha Ferguson

3, Joseph Wakefield/Malcolm Simmons

East/West

1, Harry Kast/Margaret Way

2, Peter Donnellan/William Pollett

3, Lyn O’Neill/Dorry Lusher

Something a bit different this week. One of the most heartening things about writing this column is the number of people who tell me that they read the column even though they don’t play bridge and know little about it, other than it being a “complicated card game”.

There is clearly something about the game that fascinates people, so I thought I would use the column this week to talk about the game I write about and which has been part of my DNA for 50 years.

Bridge is played in three main forms: Rubber bridge, Chicago bridge and Duplicate bridge, the last-named being the game that is played each week at the Bermuda Bridge Club.

“Duplicate” can be played as pairs or teams and it is the pairs game that will be the focus for today. Bridge is played with four people sitting at the card table using a standard deck of 52 cards, with no jokers.

The players across from each other form partnerships as North/South and East/West.

Each deal consists of three parts: firstly, the auction or bidding, where the four players bid in a clockwise rotation describing their hands.

Secondly, there is the play, where the side that wins the bidding auction tries to take the tricks necessary to fulfil their contract.

Lastly, there is the scoring, once the hand is over.

Bidding is the language of bridge and by far the greatest contributor to success at the game.

A pair that bids well will, over the long term, easily beat a pair that can play the hands well but bid badly.

The purpose of the bidding is to relay information about the shape, strengths and weaknesses of each player’s hand to his partner.

A bid consists of a number and a suit: Spades (?), Hearts (?), Diamonds (?), Clubs (?) or no-trump (NT), a designation indicating no trump suit.

The suits are assigned value with no-trump the highest and clubs the lowest.

A one Heart bid means the pair intends to take six tricks plus one, or seven tricks in total with Hearts as trump, a two Heart bid means the pair thinks it can take eight tricks (6+2), etc.

In the bidding phase, the dealer makes the first call, either a pass or a bid, and the auction proceeds clockwise until it is ended by three successive players saying, “pass”.

The final bid becomes the “contract”, where one pair has contracted to make a certain number of tricks (six plus the number indicated in the bid) in a particular suit or in no-trump.

Bidding usually follows one of the major “systems” that are used by the majority of players; on this side of the pond, the most popular system is “2 over 1” which grew out of “Standard American”, a system still played by many.

In Britain, the most popular system is “Acol”, while in Europe many players play a “Big Club” system.

Systems can be custom built by a pair and can be complicated, but they cannot be “secret”.

A pair must explain their system to the opponents and hope to gain from how good it is, as opposed to gaining from some secret code.

When one of my best partners, the late Ernie Owen, and I played Power Precision, our system took constant study and development and consisted of over 40 pages of computer printout!

Systems don’t have to be that complicated, and “2 over 1”, which is a superb system, and can probably be summarised in half a dozen pages.

It has a structure that is easy to follow.

My favourite system is Precision Club, but 2/1 is a close second. Once the bidding is over, the game moves on to the “play of the hand”.

The first player to name the suit of the final contract, or the first to bid “no-trump”, if that is the case, becomes the “declarer” and has the responsibility of playing the hand on behalf of his/her partnership.

The person to the left of the declarer makes the opening lead, and the declarer’s partner, the “dummy”, places his hand face up on the table.

At this point, the “dummy” becomes an observer while his partner, the declarer plays the cards from his own and the dummy hand.

The goal of the declarer is to take as many or more tricks than his side contracted for, and the goal of the opposing pair, the defence, is to try and stop them from achieving that goal.

A trick consists of four cards, one from each player’s hand, played in clockwise order.

When a pair does not make its contract, does not take the tricks required by the level of the bid, they receive a minus score.

What made bridge so popular was the introduction of the “duplicate” aspect, where most of the luck is eliminated — all the luck can never be eliminated, just as in a net-cord at tennis or a lucky bounce at golf.

In Rubber bridge one pair could end up losing heavily by getting all low cards dealt to them while the opponents get all the powerful cards such as the Aces, Kings and Queens.

In “duplicate”, however, this does not matter as each pair in the room will at some time play the same hands as every other pair sitting in their direction.

So if there are eight tables (8 North-South and 8 East-West pairs), all the pairs will play the same hands.

The hands are dealt into a board with four different pockets, and after it is played at one table the four hands are replaced separately in the pockets and passed to the next table, where the hand is played again and this is repeated eight times.

Each North /South and East/West pair gets 1 point for every other pair in their direction that they beat and ½ a point for every pair they equal, so a “top” on a board in an eight-table game is seven, which is achieved if a pair beats every other pair on the hand.

So if the pairs play 24 hands (the usual number played each session) there will be 24x7 points available or 168 points.

A pair amassing 84 points (50 per cent) will have an average session, 50-60 per cent will be good, 60-70 per cent will be an excellent and often winning game.

Anything above 70 per cent is superb, given that even the top result on a hand will be matched by others in the room making the top score less than 7.

The elimination of the luck factor is the most compelling feature of Duplicate bridge as it then puts a high premium on skill and practice, which is how the players like it.

So where can bidding go, given that it crucial part of the game? Anywhere a pair wants to take it, if they are prepared to put in the time and study.

Every year the company Romex, founded by the great George Rosenkranz from Mexico who is a great friend of and visitor to Bermuda, presents a prize for the best bid hand of the year.

The sequences are usually very complex, but this hand which won the award for Kyle Larsen and Ron von der Porten back in 1980 should be one that modern day players can relate to.

See figures 1 and 2

(1) Strong hand of any shape

(2) Waiting bid — some good cards

(3) Shows values, with a bad hand he would bid a second negative of three Clubs

(4) Second suit

(5) Great — I have a fit

(6) Cue bids

(7) Roman Key Card Blackwood asking for Aces

(8) One Ace

(9) RKC Blackwood for Kings

(10) No Kings

(11) Final contract

Larsen’s final bid was spot-on, there are only 12 tricks available in NT, but a Diamond ruff provides the 13th when Clubs are trumps.

Good bidding is almost as much fun to listen to as listening to Springsteen!

More on this at a later date.

I have received word of Alan Douglas and Ed Betteto’s great win in the ACBL-wide Charity Game held on April 3 over a field of 1,465 pairs!

That’s a superb win and more coverage next week.

Also, Alan and Ed travel this week with David Sykes and Fabian Hupe to the CACBF Bridge Championships where they will represent Bermuda.

This event runs from May 17 to 25 and I’ll bring you the results next week.

I think this is the strongest team we have sent abroad since the Eighties and Nineties and I am hopeful of a great performance.

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Published May 18, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated May 18, 2019 at 7:27 am)

Try your hand at bridge

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