Bridge is a refined form of Whist in which the interest and skill are increased by the introduction of a number of features. First, instead of turning a card for trumps, in Bridge players bid for the right to choose trumps. Then the objective is not merely to win the majority of tricks, but win at least the number they nominate in their bid.
In the actual play, one member of the contracting team lays their cards face up on the table, and leaves the partner to do all the playing from both hands.
Bridge is also characterized by its scoring system. Only those points made for tricks contracted to be won. Any extra tricks or bonuses are kept on a separate ‘account’ and not added in until the game is won.
Bridge has also introduced a bidding system which really underlies the character of the game. Although players bid on what they can see in their own hands, they also convey information to their partners. Books upon books have been written about the subtleties and nuances conveyed during the auction. It has been said that the complexity of Bridge lies less in its play than it does in the use of the bidding system to convey information.
Number of Players
Four players in two fixed-partnerships.
A standard deck of 52 cards. Cards rank A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
In Bridge, the suits also have rank giving them priority in value and bid. The suits rank Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs.
Spades and Hearts are major suits, Diamonds and Clubs are minor suits.
Deal and play are clockwise, the deal proceeds to the left after each hand. Each player is dealt 13 cards one at a time, face down.
The objective for the ‘declaring side’ is to win as many tricks as they bid. The objective of the ‘defending side’ is to stop them.
There is an increased score for declaring and winning 12 tricks, a Little Slam, and all 13 tricks, a Grand Slam.
In any contract, the only points which count towards the game – points made below the line – are those made of tricks contracted and won.
All other bonuses that you make score above the line. These scores don’t determine the winner or loser. Score above the line are used to reflect the margin of victory.
Dealer first, each player in turn may pass, call, double or redouble. If everyone passes, the cards are thrown in and the deal proceeds to the left.
A player passes by saying “No bid”, but this does not prevent them from bidding on their next turn.
A player calls by saying how many tricks more than six they reckon they can win, and in the suit they want make it in. Thus a call could sound like, “One Diamond” which would mean the player intends to win 7 tricks of the 13, with Diamonds as trumps.
Each call must be higher than the previous. Thus, “One Diamond” can be overcalled by “Two Diamonds”. But also, because of the rank and value of suits, “One Diamond” may also be overcalled with “One Heart”.
An opponent’s bid may also be overcalled by an announcement of “double”. That effectively doubles the point value of the bid, and also any penalties that may be incurred if you don’t make your contract.
A call of ‘double’ can, of course, be overcalled by an announcement of ‘redouble’ against your opponents. This effectively doubles again the bid, making its point value quadruple it’s original value and any penalties that are incurred for not making that contract.
Once three players have passed in succession, the last named bid becomes the "Contract".
That player, whose contract stands is now called the ‘Declarer’, and it will be for him/her to play both hands of their partnership.
The opening lead is made by the player to the Declarer’s immediate left. Once the first card has been led, the Declarer’s partner lays out their hand face up, arrange neatly in suits. This hand is called the ‘dummy’, and it is played in it’s natural turn, by the Declarer. The partner takes no part in play, except that the Declarer may indicate to him/her, by touching or saying, the card to be played.
Standard rules of trick taking apply:
If the Declarer succeeds in their contract, their side scores the appropriate point value of that bid below as set out in the table below, doubled or redoubled as had been bid. If the Declarer fails in their contract, the Defenders score the appropriate amount above the line.
For many people the most confusing thing about Bridge is the scoring system, and this "above the line" and "below the line" score.
Below the Line
This is the real score. The score that contributes to winning the game. The bids you made, the tricks you took. We can only score points below the line from the tricks we take in the contract. Anything extra, if you can imagine for a moment, counts for nothing. The first team to 100 wins the game. Then a new game is started with the (below line) score a zero.
A 'rubber' is the best of three games. The first to 100 wins the game. A new game starts with score at zero. The first to win two games wins the rubber.
Above the Line
This "counts for nothing" as was said above. We no, actually. The 'above line score' counts all your bonuses, extra tricks, or rewards for taking the Declarer down. These are not the hard stone points made from tricks declared and won. These are not the points that win the game. This score, is the icing and confetti if you like. It's the little bonuses you get for taking more than you declared, for being the first to win two games, for beating the Declaring team. If below the line is the "hard score", above the line is the "soft score".
The above line score is really just a barometer of the margin of victory. If you ask someone, "How much did you beat them by?", in Bridge they will have an explicit answer.
At the end of each game played to 100, the 'above line score' does not return to zero. This score carries on across the games in the rubber. Thus, below the line returns to zero, above the line continues throughout the rubber, measuring the relative fortunes of each side, and at the end, we can gain an insight into just how close or just how comprehensive one's victory was.
Any overtricks, those are tricks taken in excess of the number bid, are scored above the line. As are any bonuses for taking Slams.
If the declarer is beaten, “goes down”, and fails to fulfil their contract, the opponents score above the line a specified amount for each trick by which the declarer fell short.
This amount is also depends on whether the contract was doubled, redoubled and whether or not the Declarer’s side was vulnerable.
When a side’s score below the line reaches 100 or more, which may take one or more deals, they win the game. A new game starts with a score below the line at zero.
By winning a game, a side now becomes vulnerable. What does that mean? It means that now certain bonuses for both you and your opponents are worth more. Now that one side is vulnerable, there are more points on offer above the line.
A ‘rubber’ is the best of three games. Naturally, each game may require one or more deals.
A side that has won a game is said to be vulnerable and is subject to increased bonuses and penalties as outlined above.
Once a side has won it’s second game, it has also won the rubber, and scores a bonus 500 above the line for it.
All the above and below the line scores are totalled and the difference is the margin of victory.