Bridge is a great game for children as young as eight to people who have passed their centenary. Research has shown that Bridge is excellent for developing concentration and problem solving skills, especially in children. It's also a very social game, so a good way to make new friends. You don't have to be a card shark to start playing either. Beginners can pick up the basics quickly, but there's huge scope to develop over a life time for a truly rewarding hobby.
What is bridge?
Bridge is a card game for four players, two against two. They use one pack of cards at a time and the pack contains fifty-two cards. Each player is dealt 13 cards, face down.
It is a trick taking game - namely four cards in each of 13 tricks - and thus has similarities with Whist, Oh Hell!, and Five Hundred. The last of these (“500”) is the closest game to bridge, and expert exponents of 500 will find that they have a lot more opportunity to exercise their skills when playing bridge.
The game of bridge is often referred to as Contract Bridge to distinguish it from its predecessor Auction Bridge. This was necessary in the early days of Contract (the 1930s) but today it would be difficult to find anyone who knows the rules of Auction let alone wants to play it.
Bridge can be played at many levels, and there is no reason why people cannot play it for pleasure despite the vast number of systems for bidding and play which have been devised. Basically bridge requires little more than an understanding of how to value a hand and some feel for how the cards should be played. At this level a player cannot hope to compete with the full-time professionals of the game, but how many weekend golfers would want to go head-to-head with Tiger Woods?
The pack of 52 cards comprises four suits in the order of Ace (high), King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (lowest). For bidding, the suits are also given ranks with No Trumps being higher than spades, which is followed by hearts, diamonds and clubs in that order. This ranking of suits does not apply once the bidding is finished.
When the bidding is finished, the highest bidder, or “winner of the auction,” becomes what is known as the declarer and this player’s partner puts all their cards face up on the table. This player, commonly referred to as “dummy,” now takes no further part in the play. The two other players both continue to hold their cards and are known as defenders. Once the “dummy” is “tabled,” all three remaining players can see exactly half of the cards that were dealt. For each trick, any trump card will out-rank any non-trump but all players must follow suit to the leader of a trick for as long as they are able to do so.
Bridge is a partnership game such that a world champion may not be able to shine in an average field of players if their partner is completely hopeless. Skill plays a major part in the results of any bridge tournament but luck is also a factor. Furthermore on any particular deal of the game a “couple of beginners” could, can and have been known to get the better of a “pair of world champions.” This is unlike the chances of a weekend golfer ever being able to beat the Tiger on any hole!
Bridge is a game about which no one can ever say “I’ve got it mastered.” In fact, the undisputed best player in the world over the last 30 or 40 years - an American by name of Bob Hamman - has been quoted as saying: “Keep this in mind: if you keep playing bridge, you’re going to look like a fool a certain percentage of the time - count on it!”
Both humbling and enabling, and occasionally a glimpse of beauty beyond anything you could imagine . . .
Bridge is a game that can be played at any age. The majority of regular bridge players are past ‘retirement age’ it is true, but those who learn the game young, never forget it and never lose it. That a man aged 89 can become a World Champion, as happened in bridge in 1998, demonstrates that the game is ageless and a player can keep enjoying it for a longer period than any other human pastime.
. . . when all else fails – sport, love, ambition – bridge remains a solace and an entertainment wrote W Somerset Maugham, which, coming from him, is praise indeed.
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