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Subject: A Bridge Too Far? rss

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Jim Cote
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Bridge may be unique in the game world. Everyone owns it (a simple standard deck of cards), but it is one of the least accessible games there is. You can perhaps learn the mechanics of the game by sitting down with friends and playing, but to acquire even a minimal level of skill, you will need to take a class or read several books. In this review, I will discuss general Bridge concepts, but will focus on Duplicate Bridge (see below).

Once you understand the rules and mechanics of the game, you will need to learn the 3 main aspects of play: bidding, playing the hand, and defense. Bidding is the part of the game after the cards are dealt which determines the contract and who will play the hand. Playing the hand is done by one player at the table. Defense is done by the two opponents of the player playing the hand. I describe all these below.

Rules

Bridge is a 4-player trick-taking card game. Players sit at a square table in the 4 compass directions: north, east, south, west. Players on opposite sides are partners. Cards are shuffled and dealt, 13 to each player. The dealer starts the bidding. Players continue to bid in clockwise order until everyone passes.

The team that bid the highest wins the contract. The player who bid that suit first is the declarer, his partner is the dummy. The declarer gets to play the hand, trying to make the contract. The player to the left of the declarer makes the opening lead. Then the dummy puts his entire hand face up on the table, in columns by suit. In this way, every player sees half of the deck: his own hand, and the dummy. The declarer calls for cards from the dummy when it is dummy's turn to play. The dummy player remains silent throughout the hand.

The hand is played like most trick-taking games. You must follow suit if you have it. If not, you may trump (if there is a trump suit). The highest trump wins the trick. If no trump is played, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The player who wins the trick leads to the next trick. When all 13 tricks are complete, the hand is scored.

Bidding Rules

In Bridge, the suits are given an order. The easiest way to remember is that they increase in value alphabetically: Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades...then Notrump. Notrump means the hand will be played without a trump suit. Using the first letter to indicate the suit, all possible contracts in increasing order are:

1C 1D 1H 1S 1NT
2C 2D 2H 2S 2NT
3C 3D 3H 3S 3NT
4C 4D 4H 4S 4NT
5C 5D 5H 5S 5NT
6C 6D 6H 6S 6NT
7C 7D 7H 7S 7NT

Why only up to 7? There are 13 total tricks. Why would you ever claim that you intend to take fewer tricks than the opponents? It's like betting you are going to lose. Therefore, in Bridge, a bid of 1 says you will take 7 tricks--slightly more than half of the tricks. A bid of 7 says you will take all 13 tricks.

An example of a bidding sequence might be:

.N....E....S....W
---- ---- ---- ----
pass.pass..1D...1H
.1S...2H...2S..pass
pass.pass

Don't worry about what the bids mean. Notice how they increase on the bidding scale each time. If you make a bid, you must bid higher than the previous bid. The highest bid (2S) is the contract. The first player on the N/S team to bid Spades was North, so he is the declarer (will play the hand). East will make the opening lead, and South will be the dummy. North must win 8 tricks to make the contract.

Another example:

.N....E....S....W
---- ---- ---- ----
.1H..pass..1S..pass
.2NT.pass..4H..pass
pass.pass

This time it seems like N/S have much better cards. North is declarer again, and must make 10 tricks. If he does, he has bid and made a Game, and will get the appropriate bonus (see Scoring).

There are 2 other bids: double, and redouble. You can double the bid of any opponent. If it is left in (ie no one else bids higher), the scores for making your contract are increased, as well as the penalties for not making it. You can redouble any opponent's double. Again, if left in, the scores increase even more.

These are basically all the rules to bidding. Players are allowed to use the bids to mean almost anything they want as long as there are no secret agreements. When you play Duplicate Bridge, you are required to have a Convention card filled that describes your general bidding system (see image), and the opponents are allowed to ask the specifics of any bid on their turn. There are a handful of very popular bidding systems that attempt to efficiently find the right contract. Remember, you are not allowed to show your hand or say what you have. Bidding is the only language that you can use to communicate with your partner.



Scoring (with Duplicate specifics)

To provide some texture to the game, the "suits" are assigned different scoring values. Hearts and Spades are called Major Suits. Diamonds and Clubs are called Minor Suits.

Notrump. = 40 for first trick, 30 for each additional trick
Spades.. = 30
Hearts.. = 30
Diamonds = 20
Clubs... = 20

Note that by "trick", I mean a bid trick. If you bid and make 2 Hearts (8 total tricks), you get 60 points (30 x 2).

In Bridge, a "Game" is any contract whose score would be 100 or more points in tricks:

3 Notrump. = 100 points
4 Spades.. = 120 points
4 Hearts.. = 120 points
5 Diamonds = 100 points
5 Clubs... = 100 points

If you bid less than a game, it's called a "Part Score". If you bid 6 of anything, it's a Small Slam. If you bid 7 of anything, it's called a Grand Slam. Each different type of bid has its own bonus (if you make it) or penalty (if you do not):

Part Score: 50
Game:...... 300 or 500
Small Slam: 500 or 750
Grand Slam: 1000 or 1500
Down:...... 50 or 100 (per trick)

The bonuses for games and slams, and penalties for not making your contract, have 2 different values based on "vulnerability". This is a carry-over concept from other forms of Bridge. In essense, it is a further texturing of the scoring system to make things more interesting. On every board, each pair is either Vulnerable (indicated in red) or Not Vulnerable. These 2 states occur in all 4 combinations for each pair based on which board you are playing: NV/NV, NV/V, V/NV, V/V.

So if you are Vulnerable, you get a bigger bonus for making a Game, but also get a bigger penalty if you go down. Vulerability particularly affects choices related to sacrifices, which I won't go into here. There are also other bonuses and penalties associated with doubles/redoubles that I won't go into here.

Here are some sample contracts and scores:

2 Spades, making 2: 110 (30x2 + 50 for the Part Score)

3 Hearts, making 4: 140 (30x3 + 50, even though 4 is Game, it was not bid)

3 Notrump, making 3, NV: 400 (40+30+30 + 300 for NV Game)

6 Diamonds, making 7, V: 1390 (20x7 + 500 for V Game + 750 for V Small Slam)

4 Spades, down 2, NV: -100 (50 per NV trick)

Duplicate Bridge

The appeal of Duplicate Bridge is that almost all of the luck is removed. A card game with no luck? Yes. In most trick-taking card games, if you are dealt good cards you win, and if you are dealt bad cards you lose. Duplicate Bridge removes all of that. The down-side is that you need a lot of players.

For this example, let's assume we have a large room with 7 tables and 28 players. There are 7 pairs of players playing north-south, and 7 pairs playing east-west. There are 3 decks of cards at each table along with a board (see image below) for each deck. The cards are shuffled, dealt, and each hand is placed into a slot in the appropriate board.



Table 1 plays boards 1-3, table 2 plays 4-6, etc. The cards are kept in front of the players while playing rather than throw into the center like in most card games. This may feel strange when you start playing but is very easy to get used to. When the hand is over, the cards are put back into the proper slot in the board. When all 3 hands are completed and scored, the east-west players move to the next higher table, and the boards are moved to the next lower table. For example, during the first round, it would look like this:

N/S:.....1.....2.....3.....4.....5.....6.....7
E/W:.....1.....2.....3.....4.....5.....6.....7.....--->
Boards:.1-3...4-6...7-9..10-12.13-15.16-18.19-21...<---

After proper movement for the second round, it would look like this:

N/S:.....1.....2.....3.....4.....5.....6.....7
E/W:.....7.....1.....2.....3.....4.....5.....6
Boards:.4-6...7-9..10-12.13-15.16-18.19-21..1-3

At the end of the session, each north-south pair has played every east-west pair, and every board (hand of cards) has been played by everyone. Your pair's result on a given board is based on how well you did with your hands compared to everyone else (who played the same hands in the same direction). You get 1 point for every pair you beat, and a half point for every pair you tie. With 7 tables, the highest result is a 6 (beating all 6 other pairs).

Here's a sample result for a single hand at the end of the session:

Contract Made/Down Score Result
4S.........5........450....6
4S.........4........420....4.5
4S.........4........420....4.5
3S.........5........200....3
3S.........4........170....2
3S.........3........140....1
4S..............1...-50....0

There are 2 important points here. Bid and make your Games when they are likely, since the game bonus can make all the difference. Since the scores are all relative, it wouldn't matter if the 450 was 1000. A top is a top.

The results for all the boards are added together. Results are separate for north-south and for east-west pairs. Top pairs are awarded masterpoints (see ACBL).

Duplicate Bridge is also played using bidding boxes (image below). There's a small card for all possible bids, as well as several for Pass, Double, and Redouble. Players lay their cards in front of them, overlapping from bid to bid. There are some advantages to the system: everyone is silent (eaiser to focus, large rooms can get noisy), and you can see the bidding history. When the bidding is complete, everyone picks up their cards and puts them back in the box.



ACBL

The American Contract Bridge League sanctions club games all across the US. There are equivalent organizations in Europe and elswhere. For a nominal membership fee, they track your rank in the Bridge world. When you play in club games, your awards get sent to the ACBL system. Your total masterpoints determine what level (and title) you are.

This is not a merit system. You can play Bridge for 50 years and accummulate hundreds of masterpoints and still not be very good. To compensate for this a little bit, they have different colors of points: Black, Silver, Red, Gold. You need a certain number of each at the various levels. Silver can only be gained by doing well in a Sectional (local/state tournament), Red at Regionals (regional tournament, for example, New England), and Gold at Regionals and Nationals.

In a normal club game with 7 tables, if you come in first you would get 0.7 Black masterpoints. If you win a session at a National event, you might get 10-20 Gold masterpoints.

Bidding (Standard American)

The Standard American bidding system is one of the most popular systems--at least in the US--and is a great way to learn the game. Most bids are natural (ie a bid of a suit means you actually have that suit), and there aren't many exceptions. There are, however, hundreds of conventions that you can use to describe specific hands. There are billions of different hands for each possible combination of bids, so bidding systems are never perfect.

The standard way to evaluate a hand is the 4-3-2-1 system.

Ace.. = 4
King. = 3
Queen = 2
Jack. = 1

Add up all these points in your hand. This is the High Card Point (HCP) value of your hand. There are 40 in the entire deck. Statistics shows that if you and your partner have about 26 HCP, then you stand a good chance to make 3NT, 4H, or 4S (NT contracts are more difficult to make because you cannot trump tricks). Therefore, at least one of you should have about 13 HCP to bid anything.

The bids that follow this "opening bid" are used to further describe your "shape" and HCP values. The partnership is trying to determine what suit is best for them and how high a contract is makable. The "shape" of the hand is the distribution of cards in the various suits. A "balanced" hand is a hand with a shape of 4-3-3-3, 4-4-3-2, or 5-3-3-2.

In certain situations, other factors can alter the value of the hand, particularly shape. For example, if you have 8 HCP but 6-5-1-1 shape, your hand is worth much more than 8 points.

I can't possibly teach Standard American bidding in a review; libraries have been written on the subject. But I can give you an example of a bidding sequence with some description so you can see how detailed a dialogue 2 players can have with just a few simple bids:

.N....E....S....W
---- ---- ---- ----
.1H..pass..2C..pass
.3H..pass..4H..pass
pass.pass

1H: Partner, I have 13-21 HCP and at least 5 Hearts.

2C: That's great. I have at least 10 HCP and 4 Clubs. Please bid again.

3H: I have specifically 16-18 HCP and at least 6 Hearts!

4H: Well with my hand, we have at least 26 HCP between us, at least 8 Hearts, but not enough to try for a Slam. Let's play at the Game level.

Here's another bidding sequence with some conventional bids added.

.N....E....S....W
---- ---- ---- ----
.1NT.pass..2C..pass
.2H..pass..3NT.pass
.4S..pass.pass.pass

1NT: I have a great hand partner! I have 15-17 HCP and a balanced shape.

2C: Do you have 4 Hearts or 4 Spades? If so, we have a nice suit. (This is called the Stayman convention.)

2H: I have 4 Hearts for you!

3NT: Well I don't have 4 Hearts, but I have enough HCP that we should be in game regardless.

4S: Surprise! I had 4 Spades as well. You must have had 4 Spades to bid 2C, so let's play here.

Bidding is not a purely mathematical exercise, as you might think. Hand evaluation and re-evaluation is an art. You must take into account your partner's bids to determine if you hands together have the right stuff. You must take into account your opponents' bids to determine where key cards might fall and the shapes of the various hands.

Playing the Hand

You've just bought the contract. Now you have to make your tricks. You have an opponent on either side of you trying to prevent this, and only a silent partner across the table who can offer no help. Once the opening lead is made, the dummy comes down. Now you can see all the cards you have to work with. You can see if it's going to be a cakewalk, or if you will have to fight for every trick.

Note that if it is easy, then it will also be easy for everyone else who plays the same hand. If you want to get good results, you will still have to do better than everyone else. Can you get an extra trick? Can you make your contract when others will go down?

Playing a hand of Bridge is about making the most of the 4 suits in both hands, being able to get back and forth between your hand and dummy as needed, figuring out which opponent has which cards, and being able to deduce and use every bit of information available to you to. Some declarer play concepts:

Long Suits

Aces and Kings win tricks. But having a lot of cards in a suit means that even the small ones can win tricks. In Notrump hands, or once the opponents have no trumps left, long suits are goldmines. In all these examples, the top hand is dummy, and the bottom hand is yours (declarer's).

A9743

K862

There are 4 missing cards: QJ105. If they split 2-2 (2 card in each opponent's hand), you can win 5 tricks in this suit. If they split 3-1, you can still win 4 tricks.

The Finesse

AQ2

653

You lead the 3. If West has the K, what is he going to do? If he plays it, you win the A. If he plays something else, you win the Q. Either way you get 2 tricks. If East has the K, then you are only going to get 1 trick in the suit anyways (unless East leads it for you). This is called a Finesse. It's a 50-50 play, unless you have further information. Another type of Finesse is this:

Q83

A92

You lead the 2. Again, if West has the K, what is he going to do? If he plays it, you play the 3 and your AQ are good for 2 tricks. If he plays something else, you win the Q. Either way you eventually get 2 tricks. If East has the K, then you are only going to get 1 trick in the suit anyways (unless East leads it for you).

The Hold Up

...86
3
...A74

West leads the 3 against a Notrump contract. How many cards does he have in this suit? At least 4, maybe 5. If he has 4, his partner has 4, and they will get 3 trick in this suit no matter what you do. If he has 5, his partner has 3. You could lose 4 trick in the suit once your A is out of the way. But there's a way to prevent this.

What if you lose the first 2 tricks in the suit? If West had 5 cards in the suit, East has only 3. Now when they lead back you win your A. If East wins a trick in the future, he will have no more cards in this suit to lead back. If West wins a further trick in some other suit, then tough luck. At least you took the only chance you had.

Cross Ruff

In a suit contract, once the opponents' trump have been drawn, all the trump cards you have left are golden. If you have some in both hands, you can trump back and forth. Sometimes, you even get a bonus:

84
J75
-


97
-
863

Spades is trumps. Lead a Diamond, trump it in dummy. Lead a Heart from dummy, trump it in your hand. Lead a Diamond, trump it in dummy. Lead a Heart from dummy, trump it in your hand. Now guess what? The opponent are out of Diamonds, and your last one wins the final trick!

Ducking

Suppose you are playing a Notrump contract, and the dummy looks like this:

S: 832
H: 54
D: AK9653
C: 72

To go along with the six Diamonds in dummy, you have: 842. You need 5 tricks in this suit to make your contract. What do you do? If you play low to the A and K and the suit splits 2-2 between your opponents, you make 6 tricks in the suit. If the suit splits 3-1, you only make 2 tricks in the suit, and have no more in your hand to lead to get to the dummy. Oh no! Do you just cross your fingers?

No! You duck! Play a low one from your hand...and play low in the dummy! Now when you win any future trick in another suit, you can cross to the dummy and cash 5 Diamond trick unhindered. If the suit happens to split 4-0, bad luck.

The Squeeze

This is very advanced stuff, and normally only can be executed by players who can figure out the exact remaining cards in both opponents' hands. Here's an example:

.....A3
.....K
.....-
K2........9
A.........J6
-.........-
.....52
.....-
.....A

Say this is the situation on the final three tricks. You must lead from your hand, and you need to win all 3 tricks. If you know the exact layout of all the cards--because you were counting carefully during play--you can be a hero. Play your A of Diamonds, and watch what West does. If he discards a Spade, your A3 are both good, and you can discard your K of Hearts. If he discards his A of Hearts, then your K is good, and you can discard the 3 of Spades. Either way, you win all 3 tricks. Good job!

Defense

Defense is said to be the most difficult of the 3 areas in Bridge. The contract has been placed. You must make the opening lead with only the bidding to guide you. In many cases, you and your partner have said nothing but Pass.

One of the main lines of defense is to attack a suit that you have have the most cards in. If the declarer and his partner never bid a suit, maybe you and your partner have 8 or more of them. Against a Notrump contract, this will often setup small cards in your suit once the face cards have been knocked out. Against a suit contract, you can often force the declarer to trump in his hand, making him lose control enough to cost him a trick.

The defense can also use signals to communicate during the play of their cards. No, I don't mean winks and coughs. You communicate through the cards you play.

The Rule of 11

One of the most common opening leads is "4th best in your longest and strongest suit". If you do lead 4th best, your partner can learn some very useful information. The Rule of 11 says to subtract the card led from 11. The result is the number of cards above the one led that are in all the other hands. For example, your partner leads the 6 of Spades, and the dummy comes down (only Spades shown):

....Q97

6........AJ53

What can you learn from just the opening lead. If it is 4th best, then the declarer has at most 2 Spades. From the Rule of 11, you know there are 5 cards (11 - 6) above 6 outside your partner's hand. You can see all 5 of them (Q97 and AJ). Therefore, your partner has the K10 for sure. If declarer calls for the 7, you can smoothly insert the 8! Then play a low one back to partner's K. Partner plays another back to your AJ. Four tricks in the bag.

Attitude

Play a high card if you like partner's suit, and a low one if you don't. For example, Partner lead an A. This indicates that he has the K as well. If you hold Q82, play the 8. If you hold 862, play the 2. This will help partner know what to do next.

Suit Preference

In situations where a change of suits is indicated or required, a high card asks for the lead of the higher ranking of the other 2 suits, and a low card asks for the lead of the lower ranking of the other 2 suits. Here's an example of both attitude and suit preference in action:

......Q94
......9764
......KQJ6
......AJ
K2..........AJ1083
J32.........Q5
9853........A42
8753........962

North-South reach a 4H contract, East bidding Spades along the way (don't ask me how). West obliges his partner and leads the K of Spades. East plays the 8 (attitude). The K wins the trick, so West continues, leading his last Spade. East wins his A. Because West played the K, followed by the 2, East knows West had only two, and that declarer therefore has one more left. He would like to lead another Spade for West to trump.

This is a great time to show suit preference. East leads the J! This tells West that East would like a Diamond back (the higher of the 2 remaining suits). West trumps with the 2 of Hearts, returning a low Diamond to East's A. East now leads another Spade! If South discards thinking he will trump it in the dummy, he is in for a disappointment: West's J is higher than dummy's trump. If South trumps it in his hand with the A or K, then the defense will get another trump trick later no matter what. Down 2.

Summary

Bridge is a phenomenally rich game that rewards a lifetime of study with a lifetime of enjoyment. You can play it for fun, socially, or with the obsession it deserves. It is definitely a lifestyle game, even for casual players. I only rate it a 7 on BGG because it's a game I just can't play with any other gamers I know. You have to find a partner who will learn with you, and with whom you can gradually adopt your own set of systems. You also can't play Duplicate Bridge without going to a club.

If this review didn't scare you off, maybe you should take some lessons or get a beginner's book. If you like Spades, you will like Bridge. To find a club near you:

http://www.acbl.org/play/findClub.html


- ekted

http://ekted.blogspot.com/


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Philip Thomas
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Very nice work! I'm scared to evangelise bridge too much among other types of gamer. I mean, everyone playing it would be fun, but I like some variety!
 
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Brian Bankler
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Great article. Nitpick, though in the Rule of 11 section. The 6th can't be fourth best, since we can see the K97 and AJ8 (in dummy and our hands). That only leaves KT above it. Make it the 5 and it works out [lead would be from KT65]. But a great article, all around.
 
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Jim Cote
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Bankler wrote:
Great article. Nitpick, though in the Rule of 11 section. The 6th can't be fourth best, since we can see the K97 and AJ8 (in dummy and our hands). That only leaves KT above it. Make it the 5 and it works out [lead would be from KT65]. But a great article, all around.


I made up the hands as examples. I'll fix it.
 
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Geeky McGeekface
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Very nice introductory article to a great game, Jim. I'd just like to make a couple of points.

The first is that while Duplicate Bridge removes one type of luck from the game (whether you're getting good cards or not), another form remains (whether, for example, you play that sharp East-West team in the flat hand, where everyone is reaching and making the same contract, or in the critical hand, which requires excellent defense to defeat the contract). It's also somewhat wonky in that small differences in results (like one overtrick) can be worth a ton of points. There are other tournament modes which handle these problems (the best might be Team of Four, where two of your teammates play N-S against two of the other team's and your other two team members play the same hand E-W in another room; whichever team has the higher combined score wins points), but as long as you play enough hands to remove the vagaries of card distribution, simple non-tournament rubber bridge is also excellent, and you and three buddies can easily play it at someone's house.

You also need to take another look at your first bidding example:

Quote:
.N....E....S....W
---- ---- ---- ----
.1H..pass..2C...3H
.3H..pass..4H..pass
pass.pass

1H: Partner, I have 13-21 HCP and at least 5 Hearts.

2C: That's great. I have at least 10 HCP and 4 Clubs. Please bid again.

3H: I have specifically 16-18 HCP and at least 6 Hearts!

4H: Well with my hand, we have at least 26 HCP between us, at least 8 Hearts, but not enough to try for a Slam. Let's play at the Game level.

Not only are two players bidding 3 Hearts, but if everyone is telling the truth with their bids, the deck has at least 14 Hearts in it, which will definitely get the Director called to your table. Even if you meant for West to bid 2 Hearts, in reality no West player would make such a bid, since North has already declared he has five Hearts in his hand. With the cards so weirdly distributed, no one wants to be playing a Heart contract this hand. So a wise West will keep his mouth shut and hope that N-S stumbles into an unmakeable Heart contract. Because a West player with Hearts would never bid them, many bidding systems would then use the 2H bid by West to mean something very different (like maybe a good hand with one or no Hearts), but now we're getting into more advanced conventions. But I do think you ought to change the example so it says what you really want it to say.
 
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Jim Cote
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Larry Levy wrote:
The first is that while Duplicate Bridge removes one type of luck from the game (whether you're getting good cards or not), another form remains (whether, for example, you play that sharp East-West team in the flat hand, where everyone is reaching and making the same contract, or in the critical hand, which requires excellent defense to defeat the contract).


That's why I said "almost". There's no getting around that terrible feeling when you just got set by the only pair in the room that could have found the right switch, or when the new players bid wrong and got a top.

Larry Levy wrote:
You also need to take another look at your first bidding example:


Thanks for the catch. It was a typo, partly caused by the silly way I have to pad text here. Hopefully Aldie will be fixing the "code" formatting type.
 
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(ron lee)
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That's an excellent article. Thanks.
 
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Praises to you for taking the time to do this.
 
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Jeff W
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Quote:
You also can't play Duplicate Bridge without going to a club.


Actually you can. You can get doop (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/18245) , which allows you to experience duplicate bridge with just 4 players. This would be a way to introduce people to duplicate without the "intimidation" of going to a club.
 
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Karl Rainer
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There are tonnes of duplicate bridge internet sites, the best one probably being

http://online.bridgebase.com/

... you can play for free, the competition is really good, and you don't have to go to the club if you don't wanna!
 
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Brad Miller
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Also, Challenge Bridge:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/4664

Has a bizarro marked deck that will allow you to deal out set hands, and score them against the way they were played out in a duplicate tournament.

And I'm not just telling you this because I have one for sale...blush
 
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Jim Cote
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junesen wrote:
Quote:
You also can't play Duplicate Bridge without going to a club.


Actually you can.


I was just trying to imply that you need many players for duplicate. Doop and online play isn't as satisfying as a face-to-face game in a club.
 
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Asher D.
United States
Lexington
Massachusetts
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Excellent article. You might just re-ignite my interest in Bridge. I haven't played in years.

A couple of nits to pick:
1. The rule of 11 fix still leaves the example flawed, as now east doesn't have the 8 to insert, as the text specifies.
2. In the scoring examples, you forgot to add the value of the overtricks.

Thank you for the great summary/review.
 
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Jacko Lantern
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One of the best card games, but IMO nowhere near one of the best board games. Believe me, I've played this a lot. At club level the rules against bluffing etc mean you need a referee (the dreaded "director") who can be called in to penalise almost any successful forms of unconventional bidding and play.

More generally if you take into account the long learning curve, the fact that to be fun it must be played by two teams of two players (of reasonably matched ability), and of course that it is abstract - there's no way this deserves to be as high up the rankings as it is.
 
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Richard Hills
Australia
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In my opinion it does not matter that Duplicate Bridge has a long learning curve. After eventually learning the game you are rewarded when you cunningly manoevre the play of the cards to execute an aesthetic Vienna coup.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vienna_coup
 
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