Rob Richard­son is a lo­cal bridge player who takes part in com­pe­ti­tions around the coun­try. Here he de­scribes the game, ex­plains why you should con­sider tak­ing it up, and how you don’t have to travel far to do so.

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Why not learn a clas­sic card game?

There are many peo­ple out there with a com­pet­i­tive streak in them, who wish to pit their wits against like-minded peo­ple.

For them I would rec­om­mend bridge. All that is re­quired is a sharp log­i­cal mind, a part­ner of like mind and a few lessons to get started.

Bridge is played widely in uni­ver­si­ties, but is more com­monly taken up by peo­ple in their 40s. Oth­ers take it up in early re­tire­ment as a means to keep their brains in­vig­o­rated.

Many peo­ple and or­gan­i­sa­tions (in­clud­ing the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee) re­gard bridge as a sport. Games tend to be de­cided by luck, the roll of the dice, or what cards you are dealt. Sports are de­cided by skill. At this point the unini­ti­ated will be think­ing, “But are you not dealt cards in bridge?”

The an­swer is yes, but the el­e­ment of luck is re­moved be­cause the peo­ple that you are com­pet­ing against are dealt ex­actly the same cards, so it is not im­por­tant what cards you are dealt, but it is im­por­tant how you use them. This is the first thing that sets bridge apart from other card games.

On a typ­i­cal night at a bridge club there will be be­tween four and nine ta­bles with four play­ers sit­ting around it. You play with the same

part­ner in a pair all even­ing.

In the cen­tre of the table will be a flat plas­tic con­tainer (the board) with the play­ing cards. This will ei­ther have been pre-dealt into four hands of 13 cards, by a deal­ing ma­chine, or shuf­fled and dealt at the start of the even­ing.

Af­ter each pack of cards is played, they are re­placed in the board, ex­actly as they were orig­i­nally, to be passed on to be played by the next table, and so on.

There will be 20-plus boards dis­trib­uted around the ta­bles all played by ev­ery pair at dif­fer­ent times. Each player will also have a bid­ding box.

The sec­ond el­e­ment that el­e­vates bridge above other games is the auc­tion. Af­ter the four play­ers sat around each table have re­moved their 13 cards (their hand) from the board, an auc­tion com­mences to de­cide who will play the hand and how many of the 13 tricks will be re­quired to win in or­der to meet their “con­tract”. This auc­tion will also de­cide which of the four suits will be the mas­ter suit (the trump suit).

No words may be ex­changed be­tween part­ners dur­ing the auc­tion. The point of the auc­tion is that in or­der to reach the op­ti­mum con­tract un­spo­ken in­for­ma­tion is ex­changed be­tween part­ners and this in­for­ma­tion should then be used by op­po­nents (known as the de­fend­ers) in their at­tempt to thwart the player try­ing to meet the con­tract.

I have re­ferred to the player that will at­tempt to meet the con­tract (known as the de­clarer) and not the part­ner­ship, be­cause he is now on his own as the op­po­nent sit­ting on his left will play the first card and the de­clarer’s part­ner will lay his cards out on the table for all to see and take no fur­ther part in the hand.

This gives the de­clarer an ad­van­tage over the de­fend­ers as he or she knows which 26 cards his side has, and by de­duc­tion which his op­po­nents have.

Each de­fender can see the cards on the table, and those in his own hand, but has to use logic to try to de­duce which 13 of the 26 re­main­ing cards are in his part­ner’s hand and which are in de­clarer’s.

Af­ter all the cards are played the con­tract will ei­ther have been met or de­feated and one side will get a plus score and the other a mi­nus score.

At the end of the even­ing the scores of each pair will be com­pared to those other pairs who played with the same cards in or­der to as­cer­tain who did best. This is re­peated for all of the boards to ob­tain a win­ner.

A typ­i­cal ses­sion will take about three hours.

What I have de­scribed is known as du­pli­cate bridge and is the form of the game played most widely at lo­cal clubs. Other vari­a­tions in­clude rub­ber bridge and Chicago bridge, which only re­quire four play­ers and are usu­ally played at home.


Play­ers at the Af­ter­noon Bridge Club at Costessey. IN­TENSE CON­CEN­TRA­TION:

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