odern contract bridge is a descendent of the olde English game of Whist which goes back to the 16th Century.
Nobody is really quite sure where Whist came from, but what we do know is that the modern game we now call contract bridge evolved from auction bridge in the first few decades of the 20th century. It didn't take long for the addictive potential to be recognised.
Scoring: Our contemporary scoring was developed by Harold Vanderbilt on a transatlantic cruise in 1925. He suggested that only tricks bid and made count toward game, with extra tricks counted as bonuses. These revised rules turned auction bridge into contract bridge. What then really raised the level of the game was the duplicate principle, whereby every NS pair and every EW pair played the same hands, thereby removing the chance element and making every hand, however anaemic, of interest.
Counting: Learning and remembering to count—distribution, outstanding points and declarer's winners/losers—is the sina qua non of bridge improvement.
Counting underlies all the discovery techniques, and is the basis for the magical tricks that experts seem able to pull off both in declaring and in defending. Well, whether it's because we are in the departure lounge of life, have a chronic illness or are recovering from a late night, it's a fact that some of us cannot always count out a hand. What can we memory-challenged folk do? Here is a hint: memorise the various common hand distributions: 4333, 4423, 5323, 5431, 6322, 6331, 7321, 7222, 5521, 6511, etc and rely on this internal crib for counting trump, declarer and partner's probable distribution, and so forth. In addition, try S&M, SITES TOXIC, DILL US, FILM, the MAFIA principle and 10 to 4—just a few of the many helpful and colorful mnemonics from Ron Klinger's book on the subject.
Bridge Resources: There are handheld computer tutors and flashcards, there is a lot of bridge software around, and you can play online in the game rooms of Yahoo, Google and MSN. For a higher standard of play, there is OkBridge with a superb card display, BridgeClubLive featuring a small and friendly British clientele, and the popular (and free) BridgeBase. In general, you have to know your SAYC well if you are going to play online, as it's the lingua franca of online bridge.
Books? Those of us still in the "improver stage" probably need to spend at least one hour with the books for every hour spent playing. I doubt many are going to be so disciplined, but the game does demand study—and the study pays off. My favorite books are those by Mike Lawrence, Hugh Kelsey, Bill Root, Marty Bergen and Eddie Kantar.
The Bidding Box
"And what do you need to make a reverse", I asked my pickup partner at the club, as we were going over our convention card prior to playing together for the first time.
"Oh, I don't play them," she replied.
Reader, reverses are not a convention. They aren't something you can choose to play or not to play. The question is not "whether" you play them, but "how" you play them. Holding
Q4 AJ87 KQ105 965
suppose you decide to open 1 with this marginal opening hand. Partner replies 1 and now what is your rebid?
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