Bridge: understanding the game

This card game of English origin is often considered complex by some laymen because of its multitude of rules to remember. For bridge players on the other hand, it would take only 30 minutes on average to be able to discuss one's first game of bridge.

What is bridge?

The ancestor of whist, bridge is a card game that first appeared in the 19th century. It is played with 52 cards distributed among four people in teams of two. Each player represents one of the four cardinal points (North-South versus East-West). The objective of each team is to score the highest number of points at the end of several rounds. After distribution, each bridge player has a total of 13 cards. At each round, the teams choose the best contract and win it. Each player will therefore take it in turn and in the clockwise direction of the bids in order to find the best feasible contract. Victory will go to the team with the most contracts.

The two main systems

There are two main auction systems in bridge which are ACOL which is an English auction system and SAYC which is an American auction system.

ACOL: this system takes its name from the English Acol BRIDGE club in the 1920s. Its particularity is the opening of one in major with only four cards unlike other natural systems based on the fifth major. This system is in constant evolution but it keeps the idea of relying on natural bids and favouring a colour bid rather than a no trump bid whenever possible.

SAYC: this system is widely used in the United States and in some countries around the world. It is based on 5-card majors and a strong 1SA. It differs from the French system through the

  • 3SA which is a strong natural opening,
  • 2 tiles is a small opening as well as 2 hearts and 2 spades;
  • 2flefle is an unlimited strong opening and in this case the 2 tile response is weak.
  • The 4trefle replaces the 4SA after opening without a trick.

Competition formulas

Although bridge is a game of chance, the comparison of results at the end of the competition allows each competitor to express his or her talent. Here there are two main systems:

  1. The pairs tournament: here, the players are not fixed.
    • The Mitchell type move: the East-West players move around the table; at the same time, the deals turn in the opposite direction. In the end, each deal is played the same number of times.
    • The Howell type movement: here, a pair are sometimes North-South or East-West. Each pair follows a predetermined plan that leads it to meet the other pairs. Here the deals are fixed.
  2. The match by four: also called duplicate, this is two teams of four players who play against each other on the same deals by crossing the lines. In other words, North-South versus East-West.