Bridge (game), one of several related card games played by
four people with a deck of 52 cards. Two of the players are
partners competing against the other two. The term bridge
alone is generally used today as an abbreviation for contract
bridge, which virtually has displaced other forms of the game.
All bridge games stem from whist. Bridge whist, the original
variation, was introduced in England late in the 19th century.
||The card game bridge
has long been popular as a social activity. There are
three main varieties of the game: auction bridge, contract
bridge, and duplicate bridge. All are played by two teams
of two players each.
In all forms of bridge, 13 cards are dealt to each player.
One of the players declares which of the four suits shall
be trump (making the 13 cards of that suit higher in rank
than the other 39 cards) or declares that there shall be no
trump. The method of declaration varies with the form of bridge.
The player to the left of the declarer then leads a card.
Each of the others in turn plays a card and must play a card
of the suit led, if possible. The 4 cards played constitute
a trick, which is won by the person playing the highest card
of the suit led, or the highest trump if any trump has been
played. The winner of the first trick leads the first card
of the second trick, and so on for the remainder of the 13
tricks. The scoring depends primarily on the number of tricks
won by each side and is different for the different forms
In auction bridge the players bid against one another for
the right to declare the trump suit; each bid is an undertaking
to win the specified number of tricks, and the winner of the
auction is penalized if he or she does not make the bid. Auction
bridge was developed in the early 1900s and by 1910 had almost
completely replaced bridge whist.
In auction bridge penalty points and bonus points are scored
above the line, which means they are not counted toward game;
points are scored below the line only by the side winning
the auction and only if it makes at least as many tricks as
bid. No score is accumulated for the first six tricks; each
additional trick counts 6 points if the trump suit is clubs,
7 points if diamonds, 8 points if hearts, 9 points if spades,
and 10 points if there are no trumps. A total of 30 or more
points below the line completes a game; the first side to
win two games completes the rubber and gets a bonus of 250
points. At the conclusion of each rubber the scores are totaled
without distinction between points below or above the line.
Penalties for failure to make a contract—that is, the
number of tricks bid—are awarded to the defending side
as bonuses and amount to 50 points for each undertrick. If
the contract has been doubled by the defenders, the penalty
is 100 points for each undertrick; if redoubled by the bidding
side, the penalty is 200 points. If a doubled contract has
been made, the side that made the bid scores double the trick
value below the line, plus a bonus of 50 points for making
the bid, plus an additional bonus of 50 points each for any
overtricks. Corresponding redoubled scores are four times
the trick value; 100 points for contract; and 100 points for
Bonuses are given for the holding of honors (the five highest
cards of the trump suit, or the four aces if there are no
trumps). If one side holds three honors, it scores 30 points;
four honors, 40 points; five honors, 50 points. Four trump
honors in one hand and one in the partner's hand count 90
points, and all the honors in one hand count 100 points. Bonuses
are also awarded for slams; 50 points for a small slam—that
is, for taking 12 of 13 tricks—and 100 points for a
grand slam, which requires taking all 13 tricks.
In contract bridge the scoring places an emphasis on skillful
bidding. The bidding and play in contract bridge are identical
with those in auction bridge, but the techniques are different
because of the difference in scoring. The bonuses that are
awarded for rubber or for slams encourage bidding the full
value of the hands as dealt; however, the penalties for failure
to make the bid, especially if doubled, are so severe as to
evoke extreme caution against overbidding. Bidding techniques
have been developed to such an extent that experienced bridge
players rarely fail to contract for games or slams that have
a reasonable chance for success.
of the Century
American bridge player Ely Culbertson, left, is shown
here playing with his wife, Josephine, second from right,
in a bridge match in New York City. The Culbertsons played
against bridge champions Sidney Lenz, second from left,
and Oswald Jacoby, right, in the tournament, which was
called the “Battle of the Century.” Culbertson
is best known for his Culbertson system of bidding in
contract bridge, which was used until the late 1940s.
Bidding in contract bridge begins with the dealer and continues,
with a pass, bid, double, or redouble, until the auction closes.
A bid is an offer to win a number of odd tricks (tricks in
excess of six, with the first six tricks known as the book)
with a named trump suit, or with a bid of no trump. For example,
a bid may consist of “two hearts” or “one
no trump.” Each subsequent bid must overcall (be greater
than) the preceding bid. An overcall requires bidding a higher
number of odd tricks or, if bidding the same number of tricks,
specifying higher-ranking cards. Cards rank as follows (from
high to low): no trump, spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs.
A player may double (increase the scoring value) the preceding
bid if that bid has not been previously doubled. If the preceding
bid has been doubled the next player may redouble the bid,
further increasing the scoring value of the trick. The auction
closes when three consecutive passes follow a bid, double,
or redouble, and every card of the suit named in the final
bid becomes a trump. If the final bid is no trump the cards
are played without a trump suit. The member of the partnership
that specified the suit or no trump in the final bid becomes
the declarer, and the number of tricks specified in that final
bid becomes the contract the declarer must fulfill when play
Contract bridge was developed about 1925, and by 1930 had
almost completely replaced auction bridge. Its popularity
has become so great that millions of people currently play
the game and thousands of professional bridge experts teach
In contract bridge only those tricks bid and made are scored
below the line; overtricks are scored as bonuses. The first
six tricks are not counted; each additional trick in clubs
or diamonds counts 20 points; in hearts or spades, 30 points;
and in no trump, 40 points for the seventh trick and 30 points
for each additional trick.
A total of 100 points below the line is required for game.
A side is not vulnerable at the beginning of each rubber and
becomes vulnerable after making one game. The first side to
make two games collects a rubber bonus of 700 points for a
two-game rubber or 500 points for a three-game rubber.
Honor bonuses are given only for honors all in one hand.
Four honors in a suit are worth 100 points; five honors in
a suit, or four aces in a no-trump contract, are worth 150
points. Bonuses for slams are given only for slams bid and
made. A small slam yields 500 points if the bidding side is
not vulnerable, 750 points if vulnerable. The corresponding
bonuses for grand slams are 1000 and 1500 points. An additional
bonus of 50 points is awarded for making a doubled contract,
and 100 points is awarded for a redoubled contract.
Penalties for undertricks are scored as bonuses by the defending
side and are assessed at 50 points per undertrick not vulnerable
and 100 points when vulnerable. Doubled contracts double the
value of the first undertrick and increase successive undertricks
at a rate of 200 points not vulnerable for the first three
tricks, 300 points not vulnerable thereafter, and 300 points
vulnerable. Redoubled penalties are twice the doubled value.
Duplicate bridge is a variety of contract bridge in which
the element of luck affecting the final score is greatly decreased
and the factor of skill is correspondingly increased. Duplicate
is virtually the only game now played in championship bridge
tournaments and matches.
Duplicate bridge can be played by any number of players divided
into pairs or teams. Each pair competes against all (or in
some duplicate tournaments against half) the other pairs.
The cards are all dealt before play begins and placed in pockets
in separate trays known as boards on each table. The dealer
and conditions of vulnerability are marked on the board. The
bidding and play in duplicate bridge are similar to rubber
bridge, except that the cards are not gathered together at
the end of each trick, but are placed in front of each player.
At the end of the hand, everyone's cards can thus be placed
intact back in the board. The board is then passed on to the
next table, and the same cards are replayed by four different
players. A traveling score sheet goes with each board. Between
hands the players move from table to table in accordance with
a prearranged plan so that each pair plays against as many
other pairs as possible; at the same time, the boards are
moved in such a way that the same pair never plays the same
The scoring of points in duplicate bridge is different from
that of rubber bridge in that each hand is unrelated to all
others. For part scores—that is, hands on which less
than game is bid—a bonus of 50 points is added to the
trick score. On game bids a bonus of 300 points is added if
not vulnerable and 500 points if vulnerable. Slam bonuses
are the same as in rubber bridge. These points are used indirectly
to calculate the match point score. The pairs (North-South
and East-West) in each direction scoring the most points will
get the top score; the second best, next to top; and so on.
The top score is that figure equal to the number of tables
the hand is played less one. Thus, in a 13-table duplicate
game, top score on a board will receive 12 points; the next,
11 points; down to zero. Therefore it is unimportant by how
many points a player achieves a top score. The player will
receive the same 12 points whether 20 points above second
best or 1000 points better. In a board-a-match team of four,
two pairs constitute a team. One pair plays North-South, the
other East-West. Thus a direct comparison on each board is
made. The team receives 1 match point on each board; a net
profit is achieved, 4 points if the scores are equal, and
a zero if there is a net loss. The team winning the most match
points, not total points, wins the tournament.
Charles H. Goren