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C O N T R A C T   B R I D G E
A short introduction for non-players

Contract bridge usually known simply as bridge, is a card game played with 52 cards (see box at right) . It is played by four players who form two partnerships; the partners ( N;E;S;W) sit opposite each other at a table. The game consists of dealing, the auction (bidding) and downplay of 13 tricks, after which the hand is scored; all this takes about ten minutes. All actions are done clockwise.

The bidding ends with a contract, which is a declaration by one partnership that their side will win at least a stated number of tricks, with a specified colour as trump or without trumps. The declaring partnership will try to make the annouced tricks, and the opponents - the other partnership - will try to impede them. This way a real competiton is established. Downplay: 52 cards ( 4 x 13 ) are dealt to the four players.

To the first trick each player places one card on the table, and the highest card wins. The winner is entitled to put the first card to the next trick. This downplay ends with trick # 13. The result is expressed in a score, a numerical value, which permits comparing to other scores. 

The detailed rules of play for tournaments are many, but millions of players have no difficulty to have the basic rules in mind. The special rule that one player's hand (dummy) is displayed face up on the table is the necessary exception from the basic rule, that no player must know the content of the other hands: the table view enables the declarer to direct the game. Bridge has special methods of counting and uses words/expressions/denominations with different meaning to public use: in consequence persons not connected to bridge have dificulties to understand.

Bridge players like to play many deals one after another. If a given deal is to be played by another for players - or again at a later time- , it must be conserved in containers(boards) at the end of the downplay. There are no proverbial "good or bad cards (fortuitousness)" in bridge, if deals are played from both sides (NS and EW). Each new hand asks for solution of the problems of the actual deal. No deal is the same as the last deal; by dealing more than 6oo ooo ooo ooo hands can be generated.

Bridge is played in private at home (one-table-competition), and a possible standard is 16 boards. ( old form : rubber) Players are free to use the rules set by the WBF and the usual boards and bidding boxes. There is no money involved.
[[Tournaments]], where two or more tables play the same deal of cards, are organised by small clubs with a handful of tables, or more tables in big clubs, regional, national and international Organisations. They follow the rules of the World Bridge Federation, at least in principle. Membership in Clubs is mostly paid (table fee).
In Tournaments duplicating of deals is necessary, if all participants are to play a deal at the same time (hence the name [[duplicate bridge]]).
The winner of a competition is found by interpreting the score. Several methods are in use. I.E. the own score could be better, equal or inferior the the score of other contestants.: 

C o n c l u s i o n : Bridge is a global universe, with leaders, heroes, fights, underlings, constitution, business, inventors, legislation, history and future, and more.

L A W S  O F  D U P L I C A T E  C O N T R A C T  B R I D G E

Any cardplay needs rules for the player to agree upon. For bridgeplayers worldwide, a set of rules called "Laws of duplicate contract bridge" is a kind of "magna carta " which settles the basic rules."The laws have surrounded a concept that produces one of the world's most fascinating activities with equity-preserving adjustments, and their global standardisation has made bridge truly universal. ( The BRIDGE WORLD, Oct.1998, Editorial)"

The actual rules ( 5/2010) are promulgated by the WBF, World Bridge Federation, as "International Code of Laws of Duplicate Bridge 2007 (LAW)", available under www.worldbridge.org/departments/laws.
There are 93 sub-laws.

O r i g i n : the laws were shaped, designed and tested by Harold S. Vanderbilt in 1925, based on the existing rules.

U t i l i t y: The knowledge of the laws is "condition sine qua non " for any organiser of tournaments and top players. Many procedures can be learned by doing (playing) and are sufficient for ordinary play.

P r o f i t a b i l i t y : These laws are base
to have a satisfactory social life
for earning reputation ( e.g. for those who collect "points" of medal-character),
for earning a living ( as teacher, effecting bridge cruises, etc.)
for exercing power ( e.g. directing a club, as TD,)
for play ( the most fascinating activity in card games.)

C h a r a c t e r : The word "Law" implies, that everybody is forced to follow these rules. This has indeed be a constant problem, only in 2007 by law 80, these rules became a kind of constitution, WBF, Zonal Authoritys and National Bridge Organisations were declared as " Regulating Authority".
National, regional units as well as clubs declare out of own independence that they will be subject of a given understanding, in this case the "Law of duplicate contract bridge". There are no treatys based on national law ( example of "globalisation").

I n c o m p l e t e : like nearly all "constitutions", the LAW does not regulate necessary details. In consequence, National Organisations produced the necessary by laws, often created by national "Laws and Ethics" Committees, e.g the Orange book in GBR. Groups were organised to discuss problems of correct interpretation, e.g the DOUBL mailing list ( international discussion). The WBF recognises the need for repairs by maintaining a "WBF Law Committee" . It works on a continous basis and is interpreting the laws as required.

At no time in the history has been an systematic effort by bridge bodys to eliminate weak elements of the LAW which are reponsible for - compared to world figures - the number of new players is little. Carmakers strip down their products each year to parts to find improvements.

 I m p r o v e m e n t s : The LAW is a tool to have organised competitions, this activity could be considered of profession of its own. Procedures and adequate standards are needed. Due to Vanderbilt were the systematic concept of scoring, the introduction of boards; the standard for bidding; the institution of a TD Tournament Director and more. Missing were "movements", a set of instructions to fix where, when, against whom and how often to play. The inclusion of contradictionary elements for giving information had negative effects: tournaments were won by contesting incorrect information, judged by a "court" established under national rules.


"Rubber" is an old standard to play a limited number of deals, full in use up to 1925 and part of the laws in use at that time. These included much discuted procedures to establish the score. Many terms with exiplit meaning created in these laws, i.e."game" are still in use today.

The concept of "rubber" is simple: a defined number of deals (manche/section/inning) is played. If you (and your partner) win, then a second manche starts under more difficult conditions to win . If you win again, rubber ends. If you dont, a third manche is started. Rubber is won by the players having to manches won.

A manche is won, if 100 trick-scores are made within the downplay of one or more deals. Players have to keep account of theses values. They must be aware that each score is a composite of trick-values and premium scores. And they must know the basic concept of scoring: you win, when the contract is fullfilled. Else you loose by undertricks. A partnership must have made six tricks (the book) before trick number seven counts as won.

"More difficult conditions to win" are based on the fact that "scoring" includes values for not fulfilling a contract. The standard "rubber" introduces higher losses for the second manche to the winner of the first manche in case of undertricks. In general, the double value is applied. This procedure was baptised as " beeing in danger" resp. vulnerability. To a certain extent, this concept diminuishes the effect of good or bad cards (fortuitousness).

If we regard "bridge" as a system, "being in danger/vulnerability" introduces a new factor to be considered for every action in bidding and downplay. If you are "vulnerable" you will not try risky actions and play safe. "Vulnerable" was kept in use when the new "laws of contract bridge" ( the LAW ) were shaped in 1925. It was incorporated in the boards, each board prescribing one of the four possibilities of vulnerability.

The use of the procedure rubber became rather obsolete for two reasons: players could go to clubs and play without fortuitousness, because boards were either played from both sides (team of four), or the "Mitchel" movement cared for identical conditions if the movement had more than six tables. The procedures of Rubber were substituted by "movements", indicating number of deals, opponents and more.

The second reason is of technical nature. Up to 1925 bridge was played with two decks of cards, and the rules of scoring rested in the mind of the players. Now, in private play at home, boards were used and score was taken from the backside of the bidding box-cards.

In private play, the basic ideas of the "law of contract bridge" were followed and adapted to local needs, and this form was baptised "chikago". Trick-score is substituted by the score as laid down in the law. This type of game is subject to "good and bad cards". In the process of shaping the LAW, Jean Besse (1914-1994) a former member of the Laws comission, recommended playing from both sides. ( Bridge Bulletin ACBL Dec.1999), thus eliminating fortuitousness. This idea was proposed anew by the ACBL ( fun with one table): Besse bridge. Today, ( 2005) if two pairs want to compete in private, they play a minimum of eight boards from both sides. The summed up scores give a clear winner, and there are no good or bad cards. This form of play is facilitated by the fact, that bridge became a silent game by the use of bidding boxes and boards.                                                 

G A M E   P L A Y ,   introduction:

The card play bridge consists of several interlaced activities, usually described as
dealing (law 6) ; bidding or auction (law 17 ); downplay (law 22) and scoring (law 77) . It takes about 8 minutes to play and is referred to as "deal " or "board".

The mechanical aspects are laid down in the "Laws of duplicate bridge", editet by the WBF or the result of common agreements. The law numbers show where to start in the Law-book.

The strategic aspect (which card to take in a given situation) is not mentioned in the rules and must be learned by each individual player. There are thousands of books and many homepages to this aspect, inclusive computer simulated play of deals, e.g www.bridgebase.com .

This here described concept is base and valid for any type of bridge play, in private and in tournaments, independent of the quantity of deals played.

The general objectiv of each card play (deal) is to make as many tricks as promised in auction, and - if possible - more. Detailed aspects of dealing, auction, downplay and scoring see below.

Why do people like to play bridge: see "profitability ", above in "laws of duplicate contract bridge"

The quantity of deals to be played is a matter of personal agreement by the four players in private game play. In tournaments, the quantity is proposed/fixed by the organising unit. By this, the used time for playing bridge has some importance. Organised multi-table-competitions need 3 to four hours presence; one-table-competitions need two hours.

Properties which distinguish "bridge" from other card games are " the dealing of 52 cards to 4 places and their reunion in 13 tricks" (trick taking game) and the "contract", which establishes a defined goal to be "made" ( the number of tricks which a party promises to win). This way bridge becomes "competitive" as the two parties ( NS ans EW) fight for the most possible tricks.
A pregnant property is the fact, that bridge is a game for two persons, they must
act as unity. This implies communication between the partners. But during the game play informations must come from the cards played, resp. the bids made. The "unauthorised infomation " (LAW 16) is a great danger for the correctness of the play and a prime concern of "laws and ethics" committees and alike.

The term "duplicate" is used by the WBF (World Bridge Federation) to distinguish their activities from others. There is no fundamental difference between "duplicate bridge" - "contract bridge" - or "duplicate contract bridge" . In minor tournaments, the four hands of a deal are preserved in containers (boards) and not duplicated. In greater tournaments, where the number of participants is more than appr. 80, a given deal is realy duplicated, as participants must have the same conditions resp. deals. A given deal exists twice ore more in case of duplicating. Particpants must learn how do duplicate.


Cards are shuffled and distributed in any card play.
In bridge, this is the first active action -after preparatory tasks as looking for table, packs (decks of 52 cards), bidding boxes etc. .

Shuffling and dealing produces  h a n d m a d e  "deals".
For official tournaments, the procedure is laid down in # 6 of the "Laws of duplicate bridge" (LAW), editet by the WBF : "the cards must be dealt face down, one card at a time, into four hands of thirteen cards each".Then the four packs are stored in a board. The same procedure is applied in private games.
Handmade deals are the standard routine in any competition, except in special cases.
C o m p u t e r   d e a l s : in multi-table-competitions ( usualy refered to as "big" tournaments ) deals are produced by computer programms and laid by non-playing assistants.

The LAW requests the use of natural born deals, where the producers have no influence to the content of the hands. The distribution of high and low cards is accidental.

Intelligent computer programms produce any kind of deals with prepared content.
Example: the "Masters Roy Rene´ Tournament"- www.bridgeplus.com uses propared content.

Deals resp hands are object of statistical studies for the benefit of the players. Two examples:
The distribution of figure points gives necessary information in the bidding process.
The distribution of dimension refers to suits in a hand and is helpfull in downplay,
One of the methods to show is like this: xxxx-xxx-xxx-xxx and means                  4 spadeª 3coeur© 3diamonds¨ 3treffles§ cards. The shown distribution has an average of 10,5 % in 100 hands

Shuffling and dealing must be done in a way, that the new distribution is not affected by the old distribution of the pack. In club-life, cards played remain in boards. Player take them out for dealing anew. In consequence, each player is requested to shuffle his hand (cards) before restoring in boards

One of the players is named the offical dealer to the board by the LAW - independent of the real action. He has the duty to give the first bid in auction.

A U C T I O N  ( bidding )

After dealing, one of the four players declares by auction the number of tricks he and his partner promise to make. This is a contract; if made, he and his partner get a score. If not, the opponents get a score. The objective of the contract is not only the number of tricks, the best type of game - trump or notrump - and the needed quantity of trump cards or defined "high cards" i.e aces, must be found as well.

For official tournaments, the procedure is laid down in # 17 ff. of the "Laws of duplicate bridge", editet by the WBF; and private players follow the same routine. They cover the mecanical aspect of the game.

Bids in the auction are made with help of preprinted cards, kept in a bidding box. 

The procudure of auction prescribes that "calls" are made in rotation clockwise, one after another, and the first call is to be made by the (official) dealer. This implies the fact, that a player cannot call the same as his predecessor did.

The possibility to get the contract you want is limited to bids of seven different levels in treff/diamond/heart/spade/NT = 35, and pass, double and redouble (calls). The LAW provides no other tools to find your contract. It says explitly in LAW 40: "information conveyed to partner must arise from calls". This is one of the most important properties of the card play bridge.

Players had to help themselves and they developed systems to carry information. Every pair is free to have its own system, but some became popular, and others were "adopted" by clubs and national organisations. There are many books and articles in the internet about systems. Very known are "ACOL", " 5strongsuit", " natural systems", and "Precision". a specified suit as trump or indicate "no trumps".

The number of tricks called omits the first six tricks. The maximum is 13-6 = 7; and the minimum 13-6 = 6. This is due to histrory and kept alife up to today. (Other sports have similar ways of unusualy counting, i.e.tennis: 15-30-40-AD).

Beginners must learn conventions, not only for their own use, but to understand what opponents do. Many players put their convention down in writing.

Base of such systems is the eperience, that tricks are (mainly) made by aces, kings, queen and jacks (highcards).For use inside a system, values must be attributed. Today, 4-3-2-1 values (Ace=4;King=3;Queen=2;Jack=1) are used in most systems, and are called "High-Points" (HP).
Here are same samples of conventional understandings:
[Contra] produces an elevated score in any case. But for the auction, nearly every player transfers a special information by contra. In the first bidding round it may say: "I have 12 HP", or " have five cards of the other suit" etc. Real contra is reserved for third-level bids.This way, all four hands hold 40HP.

Experince shows, that 20 HP are sufficient to win 7tricks, i.e. 1treff . With the help of HP - or similar constructs - partnerships agree on methods to give each bid/call a specific meaning .

In real life, the auction starts as a psycological game: if my hand shows 10 HP or less, I pass. If I have 12 HP, I will bid a contract of the lowest level. i.e. 1treffrf my partner hold 8 HP, he will bid another suit in the first level, else he will pass. If no bid is made, all four players get a zero score.

Full details of a bidding system must be made available to the opponents, "secret" systems are not allowed. The partner of a player must call attention - alert - of the opponents, when a bid contains a hidden meaning. This is against the unwritten rule of any card game: "the players must not know the cards of other hands", and contradictionary to LAW 40. It might be one of the reasons for the decline of the bridge game.

National Organisations and some clubs try to limit the use of conventions, alledgedly to make bridge easier for beginners, thereby suppressing evolution.

The perfect auction is an art sui generis, which needs to be made more perfect. If you are in  the wrong contract, you may loose compared to other pairs.


When the auctions is finished, the "playdown " of 13 tricks starts.

Auction has ended, the scene changes and the actors have new names. The most important is the declarer - the player who mentioned first the type of the game to be played. He directs the action of his parnership, because his partner - sittig opposite ar the table - becames dumy and has to obey his orders. Left to the declarer sits the LHO - left hand opponent- and right to him the RHO - right had opponent.

The mechanical aspects of the playdown, the procedure, are  laid down in # 41 ff. of the "Laws of duplicate bridge", editet by the WBF; and private players follow the same routine.

The players must now play single cards and the great question is: what card ? The LAW says nothing about it. Every deal is new , different from the last one and a new challenge. Every trick is an act by it's own and must becarefuly planed before execution.

The downplay is, what makes bridge so attractive and players addicted.

Beginners must learn by doing, experience is what makes bridge pleasant and great players.

If we look at a great number of deals played, we may recognise "rules of thumb". Few are related to the downplay in general, and many to a given typical situation. This is the aerea of the "Bridge-Gurus" and where teachers act and make a living from. Literally thousand of books and articles are specalised on specific deals. High-level (by number of trick promised) middle-level and low-level downplays are subject to different acting. Specific distributions require known procedures for favorable results, i.e. the impass, the expass. See Wiki articles.

Here are some rules of thumb:
= in trump play, eliminate the trumps of the opponent. They might disturbe the flow of the declarers play.
= in No-trump play , keep in your hands at least one card which gives you access to anysuit.                                                                                                 =  promote any sequences of cards in any suit by eliminating the cards owned by opponents.
=  Win tricks with trump cards situated where your trumps are short: by play of no-trump-cards.

The rules of the downplay are strict but easy to learn. Any player must follow suit and the winner of a trick has the right to play the first card of the next trick ( to lead). This is base for planing ahead. The actions of all players in the course of bidding give important information, i.e. where the high-cards of the opponents are or where the weak spot of the declarer is.

A trick is played by putting a card down on the table. All four players do this clockwise. They decide in common which side has won the trick. The cards such played remain on the table in front of each player: the tricks won point to the center, the tricks lost horizotal to the left/right situated player.

At the end of the downplay all four player must agree on the total of tricks won by both parties.

The data of this downplay are noted down on a formalised piece of paper (traveler), which remains in the boardcase.

T H E  S C O R E                                                                                   

The Concise Oxford Dictionary shows nine different interpretations of this term, the LAW has five. A score within a contest is a numerial value indicating the capacity of a Player to win a contest or/and his Position within a winners list.                                                                    Bridge employs the following scores ( LAW § 77, 78 ): table score, matchpoint score ( MP ), international matchpoint score ( IMP ), total point score, victory point score. Other scores.

The different scores show, that the "card play bridge" has different form of competitions in use.

Each form is based on downplays of 13 tricks, but includes different strategies. In a MP competition each board has a limited effect (i.e. 5%) to the total competition, in IMP competition the result of the play of a single board may have an winning effect to the complete competition,

The Tournament Organiser should publish conditions of contest in advance, giving methods of scoring and determination of winners (see LAW 78D).

Winning a competition is the object of many players. Winners are listed in documents by rank, showing the amount of scores made. This is the instrument for organisers to concede "points" of different character: medal, honor, ablility, presence and more. Famous are the CP, Club points, and titles: i.e. " Gold- Life Master" or Master Points. In the pre-computer age such lists were handmade. Today, computer programs are in use, like the ACBLscore ( www acbl.org), or Scorer#1 (www.bridgeassistant.net).
Base for calculation of all species of contents are algorithmic based on play concepts, referred to as "methods of scoring" in the LAW 78 and the table score. Insofar all types of card play are the same.

Popular are matchpoint events (78A) and the "team of four" events (78 B), and therefore its methods are rather precisely laid down in the LAW.

The matchpoint event compares each score in a board to all other scores within this board and conceeds individual MP to the contestant by detecting : is his score higher, equal or lower to the others. By this method all boards of a competition have the same "weight" (influence to the result), there are no good or bad boards. Different methods for the application of MP within a board are used and discussed. See "fair scoring in pair Tournaments", the Bridge World, vol.72, march 2001.

In "team of four events" four players form a team, one pair plays the NS hands and the other pair plays the EW hands. This eliminates "good or bad cards" (fortuitousness). This type of event is a multiple fight of two teams : team A against team B. Base to find the winner are both table scores, one score is deducted from the other. The remainig value is transformed by a "scale" shown in LAW 78B and baptised IMP. This scale has a hidden effect: it diminuishes the importance of high scores.

The table score. which indicates the performance of a player in a downplay of 13 tricks is a composite of trick scores and premiums, and penalties in case of not fullfilling the contract. Its peculiarity is the exclusion of the first six tricks in counting. Example: if you win seven tricks, you will say to have made one spade and you will present the bid-card for 1spade in the auction.

The methods of calculation are shown in LAW 77: "Duplicate Bridge Scoring Table".

HOW  TO  PLAY  A   HAND   -  General aspect 

Taking into consideration that there are more than 300.000.000 possibilities of different hands, there are and cannot exist fixed rules which card to play in a given situation.This is the reason why many thousands of books and similar scripts were written to describe a specific situation.

All the beginner can do is play, play and play again, learning by doing.
Specific situations can be trained, i.e. the "no trump play", or how to make a finesse.  You can learn some from books.

Nevertheless, the skilled player knows by the action of the other players, what the others have in their hands, because the downplay of a hand is a logical event.
If you can keep in your mind each card played and the person which played, and you make your deduction from this knowledge, you will be a great player.

What about playing from both sides ? Experience shows, you better take the replay as a new action whitout reference to the first round.
You may do otherwise (example): if in the first round no game (10 tricks) was made, you can stay in this low level in the second round, when you play from the other side. But you may have missed game. A summary of Contract bridge can be found in the internet.
This summary includes facts and opinions of known players. Play from both sides is not (yet) mentioned.

You have the first lead  (all four players have 13 cards in their hands):

1) play the highest card of the suit your partner mentioned in bidding.

2) play an ace when the contract is for 10 tricks or more.

3) play KQ, or QJ1o, to promote a later trick

4) if you have a singleton, play this card

5) play the highest from 4 cards of the same suit

You are declarer:

1) If you can get a trick, take it: if you take the lead, you decide what is next. 

2a) Eliminate the trumps of the opponents. 

2b) In "no trump play" promote the longest suit, even if you have to concede trick to oponents, but under condition that you can regain lead inthe other suits 

3) If trumps are eliminated: attempt "finesse"; win a trick with a card that is not the highest Held.