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.
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.
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: http://www.ebu.co.uk/masterpoints/ranks. 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: https://www.ebu.co.uk/ngs/stats.
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 - 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 http://www.ebu.co.uk/ 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:
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:
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 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
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:
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.
The club runs smoothly when all members "do their bit", as indeed many do, in particular:
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.
Most sports and games develop appropriate rules of behaviour. In Bridge we set high standards that can be difficult to achieve fully. The communication between partners should always be impeccable and the interplay with opponents polite and courteous no matter how contentious any issues may be. More experienced players are asked to be tolerant of those who are still learning the intricacies of duplicate bridge and to provide gentle help and guidance where necessary.
If you can achieve all of these you will be a joy to play with and against:
Summary of Do’s and Don’ts
Going to the club can be daunting at first so the following list of tips might help. We know you’ve already got enough to do remembering when to bid and counting trumps but most of these are common sense. The first two lists of Do’s and Don’ts are a list of things for everyone.
If you make a bid card that is not the one you intended then you should call the TD immediately. They can tell you the circumstances when you are allowed you to change it to the bid you intended which is normally if you pulled out the wrong bid card but not if you changed your mind.
Don’t give messages to the opponents or your partners, such as, “Well I don’t know what to do now” or “I really don’t understand your bid”.
If you are on opening lead you may ask for explanations of your opponents bidding before selecting your lead. When you've asked any questions you want to, select your opening lead and place it face down on the table and ask partner if they have any questions before turning it over.
If you are a defender or dummy you may check with your partner if he does not follow suit, saying "having none?" or (e.g.) "having no hearts?".
If you are declarer or dummy and your partner has given the wrong explanation to a convention bid you should tell your opponents as soon as the biding as ended.
If you are a defender and your partner has given the wrong explanation to a convention bid you must say nothing until the end of the play, when you must then inform the declarer.
Sheffield Bridge Club, like most bridge clubs, adopts English Bridge Union Regulations in addition to the worldwide Laws of Duplicate Bridge. It is expected that experienced players will advise less experienced players on procedure in a polite friendly way and be supportive. If something goes wrong, the TD should be called to advise and to put right anything that has gone wrong. The Laws and Regulations are rarely punitive but they enable the game to be played in a way that is fair to all.
It is ideal for you and your partner to have a “convention or system card” summarising your system, leads and carding methods - otherwise brief details can be summarised on the front of the scorecard. These should be made available to opponents for their information.
When bidding, it is recommended to do your thinking before reaching for the bidding box. Players sometimes “butterfly” over a box. This shows indecisiveness and suggests that you have a number of possible bids.
“STOP” - is used when a “jump” bid is made; a bid above the minimum level required. Examples include a jump raise of partner’s suit or an opening bid at the 2 or 3 level. When making the bid, place the STOP card on the table and make the bid. Leave the card in place for ten seconds before replacing it in the bidding box, during this time the next player is not allowed to make their bid.
“ALERT” - When partner makes a convention bid, you display the “ALERT” card to tell the opposition that the bid is not “natural” i.e. does not mean what it says but means something else. Secret coded bidding systems are not allowed. Opponents are entitled to know the meaning of your bids and vice versa.
It is recommended that you only ask for explanations of opponents’ calls during the auction if they may affect your subsequent calls. Otherwise it is best to wait until the end of the auction before enquiring. When you ask, it is best to ask for the bid to be explained rather than ask if it is this or that.
A few bids are “announced” rather than alerted. For example the partner of the player making the bid will announce the point range for a 1NT opening bid, Stayman and transfers in response to 1NT. This announcement should be made immediately after the bid is made.
All agreements must be fully disclosed to opponents. However, a player may “misbid”, either by accident, or occasionally even deliberately, providing such a deviation is as much a surprise to their partner as to their opponents. The only way to communicate with partner is through legal bids and play.
Players should not wriggle on their seats, bemoan their fate or display uncertainty of what they are doing. It is easy to influence a partner or mislead an opponent inadvertently.
Be careful of gratuitous remarks, comments, approval, disapproval, uncertainty, unexpected alerts, failure to alert, unmistakeable hesitation, unwonted speed, special emphasis, tone, gesture, movement or mannerisms, any form of body language or eye contact. They all give information and put pressure on partner.
Hesitations in the bidding are quite common. It can take time to decide upon what you want to do. There is nothing wrong with this but partner must not take any advantage from knowing that you have something to think about. Partner must not take your hesitation into account when deciding on their course of action.
If you think that opponents may have transgressed in any way you should call the TD. If they are busy then play on and “reserve your right” to call the TD at the end of the play of the board” but please do it politely.
The play of a contract is a contest between two defenders and one declarer. Dummy does nothing in particular. They place a card in the played position as instructed by the declarer, playing strictly by the rules they must not assume which card is to be played but must wait for an instruction even when there is only one option. In practice in informal sessions this rule is often relaxed a little. They also keep a count of tricks won or lost but do little else. They can check that Declarer has not revoked immediately after a card has been played.
The dummy has to follow declarer’s instruction without guiding them. Any temptation to look at anyone else’s hand should be resisted. Dummy can warn declarer about playing from the wrong hand, ask about a possible revoke and say that they the last quitted trick is the wrong way round. Otherwise they should just relax and let the declarer get on with the job.
At the end of play all players make certain that the result and score are agreed and entered on the Bridgemate or traveller. North (or South) enters the information and gets an opponent to check for accuracy. They should show all players the scores.
Cards should be lightly shuffled before being returned to the board. This is reputedly to prevent information on how the play proceeded becoming available to the next table.
If you are on opening lead you may ask for explanations of your opponents bidding before selecting your lead. If you have no questions then select your opening lead and place it face down on the table and ask your partner if they have any questions.
If you are a defender you may check with your partner if he does not follow suit.
If you are declarer or dummy and your partner has given the wrong explanation to a convention bid you should tell your opponents before they make the opening lead.
If you are defending and your partner has given a wrong explanation of a bid you must say nothing until the end of the play when you then inform declarer.
Things that Can Go Wrong...
With the best will in the world things do go wrong at the bridge table, this is always when someone makes a genuine mistake, something we all do from time to time. Matters are often simply resolved between those at the table but more formal resolution is the job of the Tournament Director and there is one present at every play session for this purpose. If you need assistance from the TD, inform partner and opponents and call for the TD. Bear in mind that your opponents might not know the Laws as well as they may appear to.
The most common mistakes are listed here:
When a card is exposed there is the natural temptation to replace it quickly in the hand hoping no-one had seen it. Please don’t - just leave the exposed card face up on the table. It has to be played at the next legal opportunity. You now need to call the TD for advice.
If you pull out the wrong bid by mistake you are allowed to change it to the correct one. Only “accidents” can be corrected, not a change of mind.
Corrections can be made up to the point where your partner makes their next bid but you should try to change it as soon as you realise the error. Your left hand opponent will be allowed to change any call made subsequent to yours. After partner has bid you must “live with it” and not draw attention to the mistake.
Unintended Play of a Card
If you have a slip of the tongue when calling for a card from dummy, call the TD as it may be possible for it to be changed. If an unintended card is played by a defender, it must remain played if it was held in such a position that his partner could have seen it if he was looking. The TD should be called for advice on whether a card is deemed to have been played.
Your Opponent makes an Insufficient Bid
You are entitled to accept an insufficient bid and in many cases would be wise to do so, particularly if you wish to compete further in the auction. You continue from the new low level set by your opponent and you might even have to borrow bidding cards to repeat previous bids. When there has been an insufficient bid the TD should be called for advice.
Your Opponent calls out of turn
You may accept an out-of-sequence call but you are rarely advised to do so. It is likely that you have been damaged by the transgression in a way that is not at first obvious. The TD will restore equity in the best way possible. For the long term good of all, it is better not to ignore these irregularities and pretend that they do not matter. If there is little damage the restraints will not be onerous. But if it is more serious they will ensure that you do not suffer because of your opponents’ mistake.
Making a Claim Before All Cards Have Been Played
It is bad manners to prolong play unnecessarily but be certain to say clearly how you would have played the rest of the tricks when you make a claim. If you are challenged stop all play and ask the TD for help. They will make a ruling based upon what logically could have happened, not upon what you hoped, but did not state would have happened.
A common mistake is for declarer to claim the remaining tricks when one or more trumps is still outstanding. In such cases declarer should claim by saying ‘drawing trumps first’ or similar.
Inventing your own rules
The Laws of Duplicate Bridge place the whole emphasis upon identifying irregularities and rectifying the situation so that equity is restored as much as it can be. Some of the rulings occasionally appear harsh or lax but generally represent a fine balance between fairness without too much complexity.
Players who say that playing to the rules is unimportant are really suggesting you should play according to their rules invented as situations arise. The present regulations have been adapted over many years to suit all levels of play. It is easier to keep to the established rules.
Whilst bridge is a low-cost pastime and offers great value for money, the club does inevitably incur some running expenses which need to be financed. Membership fees and table-money for Sheffield Bridge Club are as follows:
All pairs' sessions and league matches, with the exception of some teaching sessions, cost £3 per person for members.
There is a token system in effect. Players who do not have a token should purchase one on arrival at the club, and these are collected from tables immediately prior to play commencing.
Players are encouraged to buy tokens in bulk, in advance of play: this makes the jobs of cashiers and treasurer significantly easier and reduces the handling of cash (and coins in particular). Tokens are available at the following prices:
You can pay direct to SBC's bank account (05-08-08; 36926984) or by cash or cheque.
The annual membership fee is £24. The membership year runs August to July.
If you apply to join as a new member between 1 February and 30 April in any year, you would pay £12 to join. If you apply to join as a new member between 1 May and 31 July, there is no charge for membership till the end of the club year on 31 July.
Handbook of EBU Permitted Understandings:
From the EBU:
Original WBF versions: