BRIDGE THAT GAP
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.
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: