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Bridge rules and BridgeStars

Types of Bridge
Bridge on BridgeStars

Types of Bridge


Rubber Bridge is the basic form of Contract Bridge, played by four players. Informal social bridge games are often played this way, and rubber bridge is also played in clubs for money.

Chicago is a version of Bridge played by four people over four deals.

Draw and discard is a version of Rubber Bridge played by two people.

Rubber Bridge

Players and Cards

There are four players in two fixed partnerships. Partners sit facing each other. It is traditional to refer to the players according to their position at the table as North, East, South and West, so North and South are partners playing against East and West. The game is played clockwise.

A standard 52 card pack is used. The cards in each suit rank from highest to lowest: A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.

Deal

According to the Bridge's rules the cards are shuffled by the player to dealer's left and cut by the player to dealer's right. The dealer deals out all the cards one at a time so that each player has 13. Turn to deal rotates clockwise.

It is traditional to use two packs of cards. During each deal, the dealer's partner shuffles the other pack and places it to the right. The dealer for the next hand then simply needs to pick up the cards from the left and pass them across to the right to be cut. Provided all the players understand and operate it, this procedure saves time and helps to remember whose turn it is to deal, as the spare pack of cards is always to the left of the next dealer.

Bidding

There is next an auction to decide who will be the declarer. A bid specifies a number of tricks and a trump suit (or that there will be no trumps). The side which bids highest will try to win at least that number of tricks bid, with the specified suit as trumps.

When bidding, the number which is said actually represents the number of tricks in excess of six which the partnership undertakes to win. For example a bid of "two hearts" represents a contract to win at least 8 tricks (8 = 6 + 2) with hearts as trumps.

For the purpose of bidding the possible trump suits rank as follows: no trumps (highest), spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs (lowest). A bid of a larger number of tricks always beats a bid of a smaller number, and if the number of tricks bid are equal, the higher suit beats the lower. The lowest bid allowed is "one club" (to win at least 7 tricks with clubs as trumps), and the highest is "seven no trumps" (to win all 13 tricks without trumps). NB. In North America, the term for contracts played without a trump suit is "notrump" or "no trump" (without an 's').

Is also possible, during the auction, to "double" a bid by the other side or to "redouble" the opponents' double. Doubling and redoubling essentially increase the score for the bid contract if won and the penalties if lost. If someone then bids higher, any previous doubles and redoubles are cancelled.

Note that doubling does not affect the ranking of a bid - for example a bid of two spades is always higher than two hearts, even if the two hearts bid has been doubled or redoubled.

According to the rules, the dealer begins the auction, and the turn to speak passes clockwise. At each turn a player may either:

  • make a bid, which must be higher than the previous bid if any;
  • say "double", if the previous bid was by an opponent, and has not already been doubled;
  • say "redouble", if the previous bid was by one's own side and has been doubled by an opponent, but not yet redoubled;
  • pass, by saying "no bid" or "pass". This indicates that the player does not wish to bid, double or redouble on that round, but a player who has passed is still allowed to bid, double or redouble at a later turn. NB. Either "no bid" or "pass" is permissible, but you should stick to one term or the other. "No bid" is usual in Britain; "pass" is usual in the USA.

If all four players pass on their first turn to speak the hand is said to be passed out. The cards are thrown in and the next dealer deals.

If anyone bids, then the auction continues until there are three passes in succession, and then stops. After three consecutive passes, the last bid becomes the contract. The team who made the final bid will now try to make the contract. The first player of this team who mentioned the denomination (suit or no trumps) of the contract becomes the declarer. The declarer's partner is known as the dummy.

The Play

The player to the left of the declarer leads to the first trick and may play any card. Immediately after this opening lead, the dummy's cards are exposed. The dummy should arrange them neatly in suits, the cards of each suit arranged in rank order in an overlapping column, pointing towards the declarer, so that all the cards are clearly visible. The trump suit if any should be to dummy's right (declarer's left); in the diagram, spades are trump.

Play proceeds clockwise. Each of the other three players in turn must if possible play a card of the same suit that the leader played. A player with no card of the suit led may play any card. A trick consists of four cards, one from each player, and is won by the highest trump in it, or if no trumps were played by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next, and may lead any card.

Each trick is gathered together and turned face down when complete, but you may ask to see the cards and ask who played which card until you or your partner has played to the next trick. The tricks won are to be arranged neatly in front of one member of the winning side, so that they can easily be counted.

According to the bridge's rules, dummy takes no active part in the play of the hand. Whenever it is dummy's turn to play, the declarer must say which of dummy's cards is to be played, and dummy plays the card as instructed (provided that it is legal). Dummy is not permitted to offer any advice or comment on the play. When dummy wins a trick, the declarer specifies which card dummy should lead to the next trick. If when calling for a card the declarer specifies the suit only, dummy is to play the lowest card of that suit.

It is also legal, and not unusual, for the declarer to play dummy's cards by physically taking them from dummy's hand rather than just calling for them. This allows the dummy player to leave the table during the play of the hand.

Scoring

As its name suggests, rubber bridge is played in rubbers. A rubber, as bridge's rules stats, is the best of three games. A game is won by the first team to score 100 or more points for successful contracts, over several deals if necessary.

A side which has already won one game towards the current rubber is said to be vulnerable. A side which has not yet won a game is not vulnerable. A side which is vulnerable is subject to higher bonuses and penalties than one that is not.

The score is kept on a piece of paper divided into two columns headed WE and THEY, for the two teams, with a horizontal line part-way down (see example). Scores for successful contracts are entered below the line, and count towards winning a game. Other scores, such as bonuses for tricks made in excess of the contract (overtricks), or penalties for tricks short of the contract (undertricks) are entered above the line, and do not count towards winning the game.

Score for making the contract

For a successful contract, the score below the line for each trick (in excess of 6) bid and made is as follows:

  • If trumps are Clubs or Diamonds, 20 per trick
  • If trumps are Hearts or Spades, 30 per trick
  • If there are No Trumps, 40 for the first trick, and 30 for each subsequent trick.

If the contract was doubled the above scores are doubled. If it was doubled and redoubled, they are multiplied by 4.

In addition, the declarer's side scores an extra 50 points above the line if they succeed in a doubled contract. This is sometimes known as "50 for the insult". For making a redoubled contract the bonus is 100 above the line.

Because of the difference in score, clubs and diamonds are called the minor suits and hearts and spades are the major suits.

Slam bonus

A contract to make 12 tricks is known as a small slam. A contract to make all 13 tricks is called a grand slam. For bidding and making a slam, declarer's side get an extra bonus above the line, depending on their vulnerability.

Score for overtricks

If the declarer's side wins more tricks than were bid, and were not doubled, then in addition to the score below the line for the contract, they score for the overtricks above the line at the same rate as for bid tricks - i.e. 20 per trick if a minor suit was trumps; 30 per trick in a major suit or no trumps.

If the contract was doubled or redoubled, the bonus for overtricks does not depend on the trump suit, but does depend on whether the declarer's side was vulnerable

Penalty for undertricks

Bridge's rules stats that if the declarer's side win fewer tricks than they bid, neither side scores anything below the line, but the declarer's opponents score above the line. This score depends on the declarer's side's vulnerability, and whether the contract was doubled or redoubled.

Game and Rubber

In Bridge a side that accumulates 100 points or more below the line has won a game. A new line is drawn under the scores. Anything the opponents had below the line does not count towards the next game - they start from zero again.

It is important to notice that, starting from zero and in the absence of doubles, to make a game in one hand you need to succeed in a contract of at least three no trumps, four spades, four hearts, five clubs or five diamonds.

The side which first wins two games wins the rubber. For this they get a bonus of 700 if they won it two games to zero, or 500 if it was two games to one. Both sides' scores are then totalled and if the game is being played for money, the side with the higher score wins an amount proportional to the difference in scores from the side with the lower score.

If play ends for any reason with a rubber unfinished, then a side with a game gets a bonus of 300 points, and a side with a part score (i.e. a score below the line towards an uncompleted game) gets a bonus of 100.

Partnership agreement and conventions

As in most card games, partners are forbidden to convey information to each other by talking, gestures, facial expression, etc. However there is considerable scope for partners to exchange information within the rules of the game by their choice of bids or cards played.

The bidding mechanism is such that if a player makes a bid (or double or redouble), it is always possible for the player's partner at their next turn to override that bid with a higher bid. This makes it possible for partners to assign arbitrary meanings to bids. Bids which can be taken at face value - that is they convey a genuine wish to play a contract to take the relevant number of tricks or more with the trump suit stated - are called natural. Bids which carry an agreed meaning other than this are called artificial or conventional.

For example if we are partners, we might agree that a bid of one club by me shows a strong hand, but has nothing to do with wanting clubs as trumps. Provided that we both understand this, you will not leave me to play a contract of one club, but will make some other bid, natural or artificial. Another example: since doubling a low-level suit contract in the hope of a penalty is unlikely to be profitable, almost all players use an agreement that in certain situations a double simply shows a good hand (perhaps with additional specifications) and asks partner to bid - this is known as a takeout double.

The main restriction on agreements between partners about the meaning of bids is that all such agreements must be declared to the opponents. A bidding system is a comprehensive set of partnership agreements about the meanings of bids, whether artificial or natural. For natural bids, players commonly have agreements on the number of cards held in a bid suit: for example in some natural systems, opening the bidding with one of a major suit implies a holding of at least five cards, while others require only four or more cards in the suit. Agreements also often relate to high cards held in the bid suit or in the hand generally. The overall strength of a hand is often measured in "high-card points", counting each ace=4, king=3, queen=2, jack=1, and 0 for other cards - an approach originally developed by and named after Milton Work in the 1920's.

Players should declare their system (if any) at the start of a session. Many clubs and tournaments require that this be done by means of a convention card which sets out the meanings of bids. In addition, an player may, at their turn to bid or play, ask for and be given an explanation of the opponents' bidding agreements. The explanation should be given by the partner of the player who made the bid in question. For example, if I double a suit contract, either opponent may, at their turn, ask my partner what the double means, and my partner must answer according to any agreement we may have about the meaning of the double - for example that it is for takeout or for penalties. If we have no agreement on this, partner should say so - players are not required or permitted to speculate or to guess at the meanings of bids in answer to such a question.

It is sometimes agreed that after the auction, the declarer's left hand opponent, having asked any necessary questions about the declarer's side's bidding agreements, leads the first card face down. The other opponent may then ask questions about the declarer's side's bidding, after which dummy's cards are exposed and play continues as usual. This procedure minimises the risk that by asking a question you may give unauthorised information to your partner. Asking at other times during the bidding or play, though legal and sometimes necessary, might be taken to imply that your next bid or play will depend on the answer given.

Similar considerations apply to the play. Partners may agree on the meaning of the choice of card played in certain circumstances. For example we may agree that when leading from a sequence of adjacent high cards such as K-Q-J we always lead the highest. Again, the opponents are entitled to know about such agreements. They should be declared on the convention card, and may be asked about during the play.

In rubber bridge one does not often come across complicated systems and partnership agreements. One is often playing with an unfamiliar partner, or in an informal setting. Complicated agreements are more often encountered in duplicate bridge, where the players are often long standing partners who have devoted considerable effort to agreeing their system.

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Chicago Bridge

There are several versions of this game, also known in the official bridge rules as Four-Deal Bridge. As this name suggests it is a game for four players which is complete in four deals, unlike Rubber Bridge, where the length of a rubber is indefinite. This greater predictability has made it popular in some American clubs where Rubber was formerly played.

The vulnerability varies from hand to hand in a fixed pattern as follows:

  • Hand 1: Dealer North; neither side vulnerable
  • Hand 2: Dealer East; North-South vulnerable
  • Hand 3: Dealer South; East-West vulnerable
  • Hand 4: Dealer West; both sides vulnerable
If all four players pass, the cards are shuffled again and the hand redealt by the same dealer. The game bonus is 500 when vulnerable, 300 when not vulnerable. If a team makes a part score this is carried forward to subsequent deals until one side makes a game. A team that makes a part score in hand 4 that is not sufficient to complete a game, they score a bonus of 100, but there is no bonus for any part scores made in earlier hands.

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Draw and Discard Bridge

No cards are dealt, but after shuffling and cutting, the 52 cards are stacked face down. The players take turns to draw cards as follows: at your turn you look at the top card of the stock (without showing it to your opponent). You may either take this card and add it to your hand, or discard it to a face down discard pile. If you reject the first stock card you must take the next stock card and add it to the hand. If you take the first stock card you look at the next stock card and must discard it face down. Players take alternate turns until the stock is exhausted. At this time, each player has a hand of 13 cards, and has seen 13 of the 26 cards in the discard pile, but does not know which of the other 26 cards are in the opponent's hand.

The players now bid as in Contract Bridge (doubles and redoubles are allowed), until one player passes. The final contract is then played, the opponent of the bidder leading to the first trick. Suit must be followed, as in Bridge.

Scoring is the same as in Rubber Bridge.

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Bridge on BridgeStars

Skill levels

There are 18 skill levels on BridgeStars ranging from Elite, the highest on, to two Clubs, the lowest one:
Elite, AS, AH, AD,AC, KS, KH, KD,KC, QS, QH, QD, QC, JS, JH, JD, JC, 2C.

S=Spade
H=Heart
D=Diamond
C=Club

J=Jack
Q=Queen
K=King
A=Ace


Players repartition (with the exception of the newbye group, which is composed of all new players on BridgeStars) in those 17 groups is made according to a value calculated using three different parameters :

1) victory points

2) number of matches played

3) winning rate

A new player on BridgeStars will be included to the group of new players, he will then move on to the appropriate group based on his ranking but if and only if he has played at least 50 matches.


Ranking points and victory points
In the Bridgestars game, there are two different types of scoring:
- Ranking points are made by calculating the score of every match: won matches are worth 3 pts., lost matches -3 pts., match lost by default -5 pts. and draw matches 0 pts.
- Victory points are made by calculating the score difference between players, 1 victory point is equivalent to a difference of 100 points in the final players score.

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