Bridge belongs to the family of trick-taking card games and is a development of Whist. There are many theories as to the derivation of its name, but the Oxford English Dictionary claims that it is the English pronunciation of a game called Biritch, also known as Russian Whist.
In 1904 auction bridge was developed, in which the players bid in a competitive auction to decide the contract and declarer. Contract Bridge, the modern form of the game, was the result of innovations to the scoring of auction bridge made by Harold Vanderbilt and others. All bridge played today is Contract Bridge, now always referred to simply as bridge.
Most of the bridge played today is Duplicate Bridge, which is played at clubs, in tournaments and online. Another variation of bridge, Chicago, though less popular than duplicate, is still played in both homes and clubs.
How does it work?
Bridge requires four players - formed into two partnerships. You sit opposite your partner, all the equipment you need is a pack of cards. A bridge game consists of a number of DEALS. At the start of each deal, all the cards are dealt out round the table so that everyone has thirteen - their HAND. The cards should then be sorted into suits; spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs.
There are four main stages to each bridge deal:
Distributing the cards
The BIDDING, (or AUCTION)
The PLAYING OUT of the cards, (or DECLARING)
Stage 2 involves the two partnerships bidding in a special bridge language or code. The language contains only fifteen words - but needs to be learnt, as accuracy is vital. Via this language a goal or CONTRACT is established.
Stage 3 is reminiscent of Whist, both partnerships trying to take TRICKS (a TRICK is when each player contributes a card, the highest one winning). Two defenders compete against one DECLARER to try and complete or defeat the CONTRACT or target set in stage 2. What happens to the fourth player? His work is done for this hand because declarer plays his cards too, so he can just kick back and relax.
Finally, scores are assigned to each partnership based on the contract and the final trick tally. If Declarer made at least as many tricks as he was contracted to then his side get points, and the higher the contract - or the loftier declarer's ambitions - then the more points he gets. But if he made too few then the defenders get points instead.
Why play bridge?
Played by over 220 million people world wide, bridge is the most popular card game in the world. James Bond, Omar Sharif, Bill Gates, Martina Navratilova, Mike Gatting, Radiohead and Blur are numbered among its devotees. Just what is it about bridge that inspires such passion?
Bridge is social. As a social game, bridge is unparalleled and a great way to meet new people. It can be played at many different levels, ranging from a social foursome, right up to local, national and international competitions. At whatever level you play, you are guaranteed to make a new network of friends!
Bridge is a game for all ages. Bridge is probably the only competitive activity that all generations can do together and all have an equal chance of winning. It is a myth that bridge is an old person’s game. It is a game best learnt when you are young and enjoyed for the rest of your life. It is a game that you can spend your whole life studying, learning and playing yet never fully master!
Bridge is good for the mind. It is a mental workout unlike any other and is one of the few activities to stimulate both halves of the brain in equal measure. Playing bridge uses and develops logical thinking, inferential analysis, problem solving skills, sequencing, visualization, lateral thinking, long and short-term memory, observation and psychology(or cunning). Bridge is already on the national curriculum in some enlightened countries such as China and Poland. In the UK, a simplified form of bridge known as minibridge is beginning to be introduced into schools.
Bridge brings health benefits. It is believed that bridge can boost the immune system through its stimulation of the dorsolateral cortex, which is involved in the higher order brain functions needed to play the game. Playing bridge regularly will keep your brain young and your mind alert and recent research has suggested that it may even stave off degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Bridge is great fun & Bridge is exciting! If you can play bridge you will never be bored. It combines the best qualities of all games – the cerebral challenges of chess, the suspense and psychology of poker and the excitement of a competitive football match. Bridge truly offers a unique combination of challenges and with every deal different, success depends on a combination of technique, teamwork and tactics.
Bridge is good value for money. It requires very little in the way of equipment and is thus a relatively inexpensive pastime. Unlike poker, it is not usually played for money.
Bridge is a great leveler. Bridge is played by people of all ages, from all walks of life and from all social and ethnic backgrounds. When four people sit down at a table to play bridge together, none of the usual prejudices apply, all that matters is the game and the challenge it presents. Bridge is probably the only game in the world where ordinary players can rub shoulders with champions. If you play tennis it is unlikely that you will ever end up playing against Roger Federer, or indeed enjoy the experience if you do. However, you might well find yourself at the same table as his bridge counterpart and even win the odd deal!
Bridge is the most entertaining and intelligent card game the wit of man has so far devised. - W. Somerset Maugham, novelist
Bridge is such a sensational game that I wouldn’t mind being in jail if I had three cellmates who were decent players and who were willing to keep the game going 24 hours a day. - Warren Buffett, business magnate, Investor and philanthropist.
Many games provide fun, but bridge grips you. It exercises your mind. Your mind can rust, you know, but bridge prevents the rust from forming. - Omar Sharif, actor and international bridge player.
Playing bridge reflects intelligence. It's one of the really great pleasures of life. Anybody who's missing bridge is missing so much in life. - Malcolm Forbes, entrepreneur and publisher
No matter where I go, I can always make new friends at the bridge table. - Martina Navratilova, tennis player and coach.
Bridge is utterly compulsive once it has got hold of you. It isn’t too hard to learn and the joy is that you can play it and actually start enjoying it before you get very good. You can take it on at any level that you want. The big problem is that very soon after you start you want to be brilliant. - Alex James, bassist in Blur