Guides for Players

If you're looking for a brief guide to Sheffield Bridge Club or to the game of bridge in general... Click here to learn about us and what this is all about.
If you're more familiar but looking for a deeper insight then read on!

Club membership includes players with a wide range of relative experience. Some members at the more inexperienced end of the spectrum have requested help in gaining a better understanding of the structure, basis and operation of Duplicate Bridge.

As signalled in recent committee notes a series of information sheets are being produced and distributed periodically over the next couple of months or so to try to address this issue.

Click on the above links tabs to see the information sheets, or download the PDFs using the links below:

Note also that the EBU provides various resources for players. These include the always invaluable blue & white books, linked below.

Competition Formats

The Committee always want to encourage our members to participate in a range of sessions and competitions and not be afraid to try to progress into ones which they perceive to be harder. All players should welcome and encourage newer players at whatever level.

The different scoring systems can be off putting if you are not familiar with them, the explanation below covers most of the regularly used scoring formats but players embarking on a new experience in bridge should remember that the game itself doesn’t change just the overall scoring system (and occasionally the tactics).

Match Pointed Pairs is the standard scoring format for club duplicate bridge sessions and generates a percentage score for each pair. Each individual pair gains points for each board by a comparison with the score of all other pairs sitting in the same direction i.e. having the same cards.

Two points are gained by getting a better score than another pair and one if the score is identical. Thus if a Board is played six times you are scored against five other pairs – a “top” is 10, an average 5 and so on with 0 for the poorest (bottom) score. Thus the scoring is based upon your position against the field on each board.

The total number of points scored is expressed as a percentage of the maximum and sixty per cent is normally recognised as a good percentage score over a full session. Many competitions also use this scoring system.

IMPs Teams of Four – Your teammates sit in the opposite direction to you on each board. For each board both pairs scores are combined and the score, plus or minus, is converted to IMPs. The conversion rate is set out on bridge scorecards. It doesn’t matter what most pairs do with a board – your scores are just compared with that of your opponents.

IMPs is short for International Match Points but are always simply known as IMPs. On a Monday night SBC has local leagues scored in this format. The Waddington League is scored in this way.

IMPs Teams of Eight – The Yorkshire League format – Boards are played at each of four tables. From each team two pairs play North/South and two East/West. The four scores are aggregated with a plus or minus total across the team and then this aggregated score is converted into an imp score.

Here the final total after 32 boards is again converted – into Victory Points. Where IMPs are converted to Victory Points the scales used are different depending on length of match and whether teams of four or teams of eight.

Cross IMPs - This is similar to Teams of Four but instead of comparing with just one other table, scores are compared with all the other tables in IMPs and the average is taken.

Tactically for teams scoring, including Cross IMP, we concentrate on making or defeating a contract without worrying much about overtricks and undertricks. It is often said that this is a purer form of the game than Match Points.

SBC Tuesday evening session is scored this way and the Patterson Trophy is awarded on the basis of accumulated IMPs over your 20 best sessions.

Swiss Pairs or Teams – a series of short matches (usually 5-8 boards) are played against other pairs or teams. The scores are then converted into “Victory Points” on a given scale. The opponents for the first round are randomly drawn but for subsequent rounds you play against a pair or team with a similar score.

This format is used for competitions attracting a field of mixed abilities (perhaps a charity event) as, for the majority of the session, each pair is playing against opponents scoring at a similar level.

If you are considering entering an event but are unsure about any aspect, please speak to a member of the committee or any experienced player who will be delighted to help and encourage you.

Ranking Systems

Master points – Master points are automatically logged by the Club and sent to the EBU (English Bridge Union) and are allocated normally to the top third of a field at all levels. Master points are accrued throughout a player’s bridge “career”.

The levels can be found on the EBU website via the following link: The progress to the higher levels a player’s accumulated score must include an amount of ‘green points’ which are awarded in national competitions.

National Grading Scheme (NGS) - a relatively recent advent, again managed by the EBU. NGS reflects current form. It is a complicated calculation based on the strength of the field and you and your partner’s NGS standing at the time.

After each session your NGS will rise or fall, albeit usually marginally, depending on how your score relates to your current standing. Current standing is based on the last 80 or so playing sessions and is reflected as a percentage referenced to a playing card.

The following link sets out the levels:


World of duplicate bridge - Yorkshire Contract Bridge Association and the English Bridge Union

There are different types of bridge ranging from kitchen-table bridge right up to World Championship events. The most common type is duplicate pairs, which is played in clubs all over the world. The reason it is called duplicate is that competing pairs play the same hands in the session and the winning pairs will be those who have achieved better scores compared to the other pairs sitting in the same positions at other tables. 

There are three main levels to the framework within which competitive duplicate bridge is organised and played:

  • National
  • County
  • Club


National - English Bridge Union

The English Bridge Union (EBU) is the overarching organisation in this country.  The EBU is affiliated to the European Bridge League and the World Bridge Federation.

The EBU comprises 39 constituent counties who each have a number (according to size) of shareholders who elect the Board of Directors. These representatives of counties meet twice a year to receive reports, dealing with general EBU matters and to help set policy.

The EBU headquarters are in Aylesbury where around 20 professional members of staff are employed. They provide a range of services including organising national competitions, determining issues of law and ethics, selecting and managing international teams, magazine production, awarding master points, managing the National Grading Scheme and providing a range of bridge supplies.

There are annually elected Laws and Ethics and Selection Committees which involve ordinary members as well as Board members.

With respect to national competitions there is a vast range available all of which entail individuals applying directly to take part. These cover weekend and midweek 2/3 day events (Congresses), 1 day events and knockout tournaments where entrants get drawn against each other and have to make their own arrangements for matches to take place. 

There are also national Simultaneous Pairs events (and even worldwide) organised with heats, where the same hands are played within many clubs and then scored across the entire field.

Sheffield players have enjoyed considerable success in national competitions over the years with several first places.

When a player joins a Bridge club that is affiliated to the EBU the player automatically becomes an EBU member and gets an EBU number. A percentage of each table money payment goes to the EBU and to the Yorkshire Contract Bridge Association (YCBA). This is commonly known as "Pay-to-Play" (P2P) and is a major source of income to fund EBU and County activity. 

The EBU should be regarded as the first port of call for members' and clubs' queries on just about every bridge matter. 

The website  provides comprehensive guidance.


National - English Bridge Education and Development

English Bridge Education & Development (EBED) is a recently formed charity registered with the Charity Commission. The EBU transferred the majority of its education activities to the new charity notably teacher and Tournament Director training. 

The charity has two public benefit objectives: the furtherance of duplicate bridge as an activity which enriches the life of all, and, secondly, a specific aim to foster duplicate bridge among those in full-time education. It believes that bridge brings with it important benefits in terms of fostering social interaction, as well as supporting the use of mathematical reasoning and the application of logic.


County - Yorkshire Contract Bridge Association

The largest of the 39 County Associations is the YCBA. It covers 34 affiliated clubs including our own Sheffield Bridge Club. YCBA has over 4000 members with the 34 clubs stretching from Wensleydale, Thirsk and Scarborough in the north to Beauchief in the south. An unusually large percentage of clubs have their own dedicated premises.

YCBA has a Chairman, Treasurer, and Secretary and organises several county events notably the Yorkshire Pairs and the Waddington Shield (county-wide knockout teams). These are direct entry events and act as qualifiers for National finals. Other direct entry events are: 

  • Nelson Rose Bowl (Ladies Teams of 4) - Harrogate 
  • The Individual - Wakefield
  • Peter Littlewood Pairs – Sheffield
  • Flitch - Doncaster (married couples) 

The YCBA “outsources” these four events for the named Clubs to organise. There are other YCBA events with involving qualification at the Club followed by a central final. These are:

  • Waddington Cup (Local Waddington League champions)
  • Mixed Pairs
  • Yorkshire Cup (teams of 4)

The county is also well advanced in offering Improver events – an improver is someone of limited tournament experience below master status – both as one-offs and at the annual YCBA Congress. The Congress itself has been going for just over 80 years and is probably the most successful county Congress in the country. It is held each year in Harrogate at the start of June, with three days of bridge providing various events for players with a range of ability and experience.

YCBA organises three Simultaneous Pairs events each year. For these events, the County Tournament Secretary creates hands centrally and distributes them to participating clubs. The hands are played on the same evening at all participating clubs. The scores are then returned to Secretary who compiles an overall ranking list. A booklet is normally provided with an expert commentary on the hands.

The YCBA is generally recognised as the best organised of all the 39 Counties making up the EBU. Given its reputation, it has recently taken over three EBU Congresses and made a great success of them – the Great Northern Swiss Pairs in October, the Spring Congress in February and the Northern Easter Festival.

Another admirable feature is the Yorkshire League which sees around 90 teams from the 34 clubs playing against each other on seven Sundays each season, with ten divisions.  Over the years Sheffield A (we have 8 teams) have won Division 1 many times (including in 2017). Division 1 winners progress to a national competition which Sheffield has won twice.  

As with national competitions, Sheffield players have won many YCBA championships.

Two other ventures are the Northern Bridge League (NBL) and the President’s Cup where Yorkshire compete with other northern associations. NBL was initiated in 2006 and is played on four Saturdays in the July to October period at three levels, A, B and C. The winners of each level go on to a national final the following year. The President’s Cup is played over one weekend in the summer and is aimed at “top” county players.


Sheffield Bridge Club - how it operates


Sheffield Bridge Club is a large, very active club of around 300 members with its own premises based in the Nether Edge suburb of the city. The activities of the club cover all levels of play from beginners to national and international standard players with an active training programme and a full schedule of play sessions each week.

The club is owned and run by its members; there are no paid members of staff with the club being run entirely by volunteers giving their time and expertise for free. It relies on all members playing their part in the care and maintenance of the club.


Brief History of the Premises

  • 1936 - Sheffield Bridge Club opened as rented property
  • 1939 - Bomb damage to roof - closed for three months - members paid for repairs
  • 1944 - Landlord put property up for sale - bought by 4 members and rented back to the club
  • 1948 - Bought by members as a whole - Cost £1800
  • 1955 - 1986 Various building developments, e.g. garages demolished to allow car park
  • 1984 - Planning permission for expansion of Club refused - high numbers of members
  • 1986 - Major reconfiguration of premises into current state
  • 2014 - Change from employing a steward to a full self-help operation
  • 2015 - New kitchen installed and bar transformed into lounge



The Club currently has three Trustees, appointed by the Committee, who are responsible for the Club Premises. However, the Trustees must deal with the Club Premises in line with resolutions of the Committee.



The Committee is responsible for the Management of the Club. It comprises:

  • Chairman
  • Vice Chairman
  • Treasurer
  • Secretary
  • Chief Tournament Director
  • House Manager
  • Committee Members x 6

Committee members are elected at the AGM. Committee members can be re-elected a maximum of three times consecutively. Within the Committee different individuals lead on building maintenance, communications, cleaning, events, IT, marketing, membership, teaching and development. A non-Committee member acts as the Club website and IT Administrator. A sub-committee, the League Operating Group (LOG), organises the two Monday night leagues and Yorkshire League teams.



Membership is open to all without regard to age, disability, race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. A candidate for admission as a Member has to be proposed by one Member and seconded by another stating for how long they have known him/her. It is for the Committee to officially decide if an application is accepted.


Member Voluntary Help

The Committee acknowledges that the Club could not operate at all without the massive amount of voluntary help provided by so many members. The decision to operate without a steward necessitated big changes including the need for volunteer assistance in running the Club.

In particular, the Treasurer is supported in banking arrangements; the Chief Tournament Director by the team of scorers and sessional Tournament Directors and the House Manager in the procurement of supplies and buildings maintenance and development.

This short list fails to do justice to the great many who carry out other regular and one-off pieces of work. This includes volunteers who open and close the Club and act as cashiers with this activity being managed by a non-Committee member. Also, the website administrator does a fantastic job and is super awesome.

The drinks and tea and coffee bar are run on an "honesty" payment system. Food for catered events is arranged and provided by members of the Club usually led by the House Manager. Additional help from members with this would always be very welcome.


Member Responsibilities

The club runs smoothly when all members "do their bit", as indeed many do, in particular:

  • Parking considerately, using the car park from the back wall forwards and leaving road spaces near the Club for the use of members with mobility issues.
  • Clearing away after themselves in the kitchen
  • Returning used crockery to the kitchen and placing in the dishwasher
  • Tidying tables at the end of play
  • Reporting any maintenance issues to a committee member for resolution
  • Welcoming and encouraging new and less confident players



The income of the club comes entirely from subscriptions and table money, with a small percentage of table money going to the English Bridge Union and the Yorkshire Contract Bridge Association as part of the club’s affiliation fees of these vital organisations. The level of income covers the running costs of the club and provides a small surplus which accumulates to allow the committee to plan and carry out maintenance and improvement projects for the club.



The Committee has instigated a regular news note which is distributed electronically. The ease of communication with members electronically has been enhanced with the adoption of a bought in IT system called Pianola. Pianola provides a Club management system, a website builder, a results service, a targeted email system, a membership database, a competitions manager and a find a partner service. It is important to remember that not all members have e-mail addresses.

There are a number of website documents which give comprehensive information regarding the Club and how it works in practice. See the Club Admin for these.


Ethics and Etiquette


Coming soon.

Club constitution & related documents

Sheffield Bridge Club Information (includes Conditions of Contest for Events) updated January 2017 

Sheffield Bridge Club Regulations updated January 2017 

Sheffield Bridge Club Constitution updated October 2016

Leagues Operating Group documents

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