Learn bridge today
Four friends + a standard deck of cards = the best game you’ll ever play. Bridge!
Each deal in bridge is its own mini-adventure. You get to speak in and decipher coded language to determine if you will defend or attack. It’s North-South vs. East-West. And in the end someone will pay! (In points anyway).
If you already know the basics and are interested in learning more about Duplicate Bridge, click the “Duplicate Bridge” button below.
Bridge is played with a standard 52-card deck (no jokers)
There are four suits in the deck – spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs. That order is important because the suits are ranked in bridge. Spades are the most valuable part of the deck, then hearts, then diamonds and finally clubs, which are least valuable.
Just as the suits are ranked, the cards within a suit are also ranked. The card with the highest rank is the Ace, followed by the “face cards” (King, Queen, Jack). These four cards together are called the “honor cards.”
After the honor cards come the number cards. These are pretty easy to sort – just 10 to 2 in numerical order.
Shuffle and Deal
Once you’ve got the cards, grab a seat with three of your friends, one person on each side of the table. In bridge we use North, South, East and West to keep the different sides straight (like a compass). Look across the table. That player is going to be your partner, and together you’ll play against the other partnership.
Going clockwise, deal the cards (one at a time) evenly among the four of you. You should each end up with 13 cards in your hand. Don’t show anyone the cards in your hand, not even your partner. (Bridge has its own language that is used to tell partner what you have in your hand. We’ll get to that soon but there are few other things you should know first!).
Once you have the cards in your hand, it’s a good idea to sort them. A common way to do so is first grouped by suit, then in rank from highest to lowest.
You could sort by the order of suit value, but it will be easier to look at your hand if the order is black-red-black-red.
How good is my hand?
In bridge the strength of your hand comes from two main sources: high-card points and long suits.
Counting your high-card points is pretty straightforward – as with most things, there will be some nuance along the way.
High-card points (HCP):
- Ace = 4
- King = 3
- Queen = 2
- Jack = 1
There are 40 high-card points in a deck.
Now that you have added your high-card points, let’s see if your suit lengths can add more value.Length:
In most cases an odd number of cards will divide as evenly as possible. When you have a suit with more than four cards, you get to add some value to your hand.
- Five-card suit = 1 (most common)
- Six-card suit = 2 (less common)
- Seven-card suit = 3 (rare}
- Eight-card suit = 4 (very rare)
Add your high-card points and length points to determine your hand’s value.
Clinically defined, in bridge, a trick is:
Four cards played in rotation after a card has been led by the player whose turn it was to lead (i.e., play first).
To put it a little more simply, the first card played in a trick is called a “lead”. Each player going clockwise from the “leader” then plays a card to the trick. The rules of the game require you to play a card in the same suit as the led suit if you can. (This is called “following suit.”). Someone’s card will outrank everyone else’s, and that card wins the trick for the partnership (N-S or E-W).
There are 13 tricks up for grabs in a game of bridge. The placement of the played card after the trick will allow you to keep track of how many tricks you won or lost.
At the completion of a trick each player will place their card face down on the table in front of themself. The cards are placed either horizontally or vertically. If your side wins the trick, the card is placed vertically (“pointing” towards you and your partner). If your side loses the trick, the card is placed horizontally (“pointing” towards the opponents).
One last thing about tricks before moving on to the auction. There is a base number of tricks automatically built into a bid. That base is six tricks and is called the “book”.
There are three ways to win a trick:
Jim leads the ♥Q, Robert plays the ♥6, Jim’s partner, Iris, plays the ♥5, and Sue, Robert’s partner, plays the ♥A. Sue wins the trick for the partnership.
This can also be the case in a suit contract if your opponents have no trump cards left.
The auction determines the “goal” (contract) for each deal in bridge. The auction is the bidding sequence of the players at the table. And bidding is the language of bridge.
Unlike most languages, bidding only has a few words, the basics are easy to learn, and you’ll be able to have conversations with your partner right away. Some conversations with your partner will be short, sweet and to the point. Some will be longer, full of questions that can lead to clarity or could possibly be misunderstood. Misunderstandings at the bridge table often lead to hilarious stories after the game. Either way a game of bridge is always fun.
The auction is made up of both bids and calls.
Bids are composed of a number (1-7) and a suit (Notrump, ♠, ♥, ♦, ♣).
Calls are Pass, Double and Redouble.
Bids must be made according to the hierarchy of suits: clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades and finally notrump.
If 1♣ is the opening bid, the next hand to bid must bid at least 1♦, the next hand at least 1♥ and so on. If dealer were to open 1♠, the next bid would have to be 1NT or 2♣, 2♦ or 2♥.
The dealer makes the first call, either a pass or a bid.
The auction proceeds clockwise until it is ended by three successiveplayers saying “Pass.”
The bid preceding the three passes is the final contract.
Jim bids 1♥, Robert passes, Iris bids 1♠, Sue passes, Jim bids 2♠, Robert passes again, Iris bids 4♠, Sue passes again as do Jim and Robert. The Auction is over, and the contract is 4♠. Jim and Iris have contracted to take 10 tricks with spades as trump.
Here is a visual representation of the bidding from above. You will see these diagrams often on your bridge journey.
You’ve dealt, sorted your hand, counted your HCP, and bid to a final contract. Now you get to play the hand. Get ready to take some tricks! One side will try to fulfill the contract; the other will try to stop them from reaching that goal.
Who’s Who and Play of the Hand
When the auction ends, each player takes on a specific role. The pair trying to make the contract are the declaring side, the pair trying to “set” the contract are the defenders.
On the declaring side are the declarer and the dummy. The declarer is the player who first bid the denomination of the final bid. The declarer decides what card is played from their hand and the dummy hand (partner’s hand).
The player to the left of the declarer is the opening leader. They get to play the first card of the first trick.
Immediately following the opening lead, the dummy will put all their cards on the table face up and sorted by suit (when playing in a trump contract, the trump suit is placed on dummy’s right). The declarer will “call” the card that dummy will play each time it is dummy’s turn in the rotation. The dummy is silent and may only play the card called.
Once all four cards have been played to the first trick, the winner of the trick gets to make the lead to the next trick. This will be the case for each trick in the deal. You win the trick, you lead to the next trick.
After all 13 tricks have been played, the only thing left to do is record the score.
We’ve gone over counting points (both high-card points and length points), ways to take tricks and how the bidding works. Now let’s talk about some guidelines to help. Some of these are hard and fast rules, and some are just a good rule of thumb.
Guidelines for Making the Opening Lead
Against notrump contracts, it is a good idea to lead your longest suit because that could be your best source of extra tricks. With a sequence, three or more cards in a row, lead the top card of the sequence. If you don’t have a sequence, lead low.
Against trump contracts, you can still lead the top of a sequence, but you no longer need to lead your longest suit. Your opponents have a trump suit and can usually prevent you from taking tricks in your long suit. They can trump in and win the trick. Sometimes it is a good idea to lead a short suit if it isn’t the trump suit. Your partnership wants to take tricks as quickly as possible.
So how did you do? When discussing bridge scores they are generally referred to in terms of plus and minus. Bridge scoring can be a lot to take in at first and is not something to spend much time on at the beginning of the learning process.
There are two main categories of bridge scoring: duplicate and rubber scoring. While based upon the same basic elements of scoring, they differ in how the elements are applied to individual deals and in how these are then totaled. Rubber/Chicago (social) bridge is heavily dependent on plus scores. In the world of duplicate, -50 could be the winning ticket.
There are two levels of scoring, partscores and bonus levels which include games and slams.
Duplicate bridge is the term applied to the playing of the same deal of cards by more than one table of players. Scoring of duplicate bridge is based on your performance against the field. In this way, every hand, whether strong or weak, is played in competition with others playing identical cards, and the element of skill is heightened while that of chance is reduced.
There are different tactics for the differnt types of scoring (Matchpoints, IMPs).
What to expect at your first Duplicate GameYou may want to start in a newcomer game (meaning new to duplicate, not necessarily new to bridge). Most clubs and tournaments have games especially for new and intermediate players. Many other games are “stratified” so that your scores are compared only to others at your level.
Before your first trip to a club or tournament, you may want to call ahead. Let your club manager know that you’re about to play in your first duplicate game. They will be thrilled and encouraging! If you don’t already have a partner, ask the manager or director to find one for you. If you are looking for a tournament partner, you’ll find that many sectionals and regionals and all national tournaments have a partnership desk onsite, staffed by volunteers whose mission it is to make compatible bridge matches.
Your first club game is like your first day at a new school. You walk through the door and find that everyone knows one another. Don’t hesitate to tell the others you’re a newcomer. You’ll find many players eager to show you the ropes.
Find the person selling entries. The cost for a club game varies, but is usually about the same as a movie ticket. You’ll probably want an East–West entry so that you don’t have to keep the official score (that’s the job for the player sitting North). The entry will show your direction and table number.
Before you play, you and your partner should fill out a convention card. A convention card shows your general approach to bidding (aggressive, conservative, traditional, scientific, etc.) and goes into some detail about your offensive and defensive bidding methods. The form also includes sections about your defensive carding agreements — your opening leads and signals. (You can find convention cards and tips for filling them out under the learning toold button on this page)
The card serves two purposes. One, it tells your opponents what you play. Your opponents are the only people allowed to look at your card during the game (though most bridge clubs are somewhat lenient about this rule for the new player). Two, making out a card allows you and your partner to get your understandings straight.
Alerts and Announcements
At first sight, the convention card can be intimidating. Don’t worry yet about filling it out in detail. You’ll see it already has common conventions, such as Stayman and Blackwood. Dozens of other conventions have been invented to describe various hands, and you’ll discover some you will enjoy using.
Unusual conventions are shown in red on the card. Your opponents will “Alert” them by saying the word or using the “Alert” card in the bidding box. You may ask for an explanation when it is your turn to call.
Bids shown in blue require an “Announcement.” For example, when your partner opens 1NT, you “Announce” to your opponents you’re agreed notrump range. A standard 1NT opening is 15–17 or 16–18 high-card points; some pairs use more unusual methods.
Duplicate is scored like Chicago or party bridge (see scoring under the bridge basics button). If your side makes a contract, you receive your trick score, plus a bonus of 50 points if you bid and make a partscore, 300 points if you bid and make a non-vulnerable game, or 500 points if you bid and make a vulnerable game. Each deal stands alone and has no effect on any following or previous deal. If you don’t know the score of a particular contract, just look on the back of the cards in the bidding boxes.
On the back of a convention card you’ll find a private score card, which indicate board numbers and vulnerability and includes space for you to note the contract and result of the deal. There is also space to jot down your matchpoints for each board when you’ve finished playing. If your club uses computer scoring, the director may be able to print out individual recaps following the game.
In bridge parlance, any time you speak or pull a card from your bidding box, you are going to be making a call. Even in an informal game, your vocabulary is limited to fifteen words:
- One – Seven
Most games use bidding boxes filled with cards designating every possible call. The director or one of your opponents will show you how to use the box. The cards provide an instant review of the bidding and eliminate the possibility of mishearing an auction.
You’ve found your table and greeted your opponents. The director will place duplicate boards on your table and ask you to shuffle and deal the cards. Instead of dealing them to a player, deal them in front of you and insert each hand into one of the slots in the boards. Cards are dealt for the first round only. No more shuffling!
To keep each deal intact for the next round, place each card face down in front of you on the table, pointing toward your partner if you win the trick, toward the opponents if you lose the trick.
As declarer, you will tell your partner which card to play from dummy instead of pulling the card yourself.
As more clubs and tournaments gain access to dealing machines, the boards are mechanically shuffled and dealt in advance. The director will distribute these boards saying, “Ready to play.” Do not reshuffle these boards.
Just pick up your hand, noting from the board instructions who is dealer, and play bridge. If your club is using predealt boards, hand records will generally be available after the game.
Get into the habit of making your opening lead face down. This helps prevent irregularities such as leading when it is not your turn to do so and allows questions about the auction and any Alerts to be answered.
Many clubs have invested in electronic scoring devices. The devices look like oversized calculators. There is one on each table.
After the auction, North enters the contract and, when play of the hand is complete, enters the result and offers the device to one of the opponents to verify. After the opponent agrees to the score, it is transmitted directly to the director’s computer. When the final score of the session is entered, the complete results are available for printout.
If your club scores manually, using pick-up slips or travelers, North enters the contract and the result, and East-West approves it.
You will play two to four boards at each table, a total of 20 to 28 deals for the entire session. To keep the game going smoothly, each round is timed. You are allowed an average of about seven and a half minutes for each board, so you will want to learn to use your time wisely.
When you have finished all of your boards at a given table, the director will call the round and direct the movement of the boards and players. Generally, North–South remain stationary while East–West “get older” (move to the next higher table), and the boards “get younger” (they are passed to the next lower table).
Duplicate bridge is a sport, and sports have rules. The rules ensure that the game is fair for everyone. You’re not expected to memorize the entire “Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge,” but don’t hesitate to politely call the director to your table if you think there has been an irregularity. Never be intimidated when the director is called because of something you might have done. A good director will assess the situation and present a solution in a manner that doesn’t embarrass or offend anyone. Do players always agree with the director? Does LeBron James always agree with the referee? Accept rulings with grace.
You don’t have to hold a lot of aces to win in duplicate bridge. Your score is the result of a comparison between how well you did with the cards when you held them and how each of the other pairs did with those same cards.
Matchpoints are awarded for the results on each board. You receive one matchpoint for each pair whose result you beat and one-half a point for each pair whose result you tie.
When you add up all of your matchpoints, you will be able to see whether you did better or worse than average. You will also be able to see which boards you found troublesome. Don’t be afraid to ask one of the better players about one or two of your problem deals. Every club has experienced players eager to help newcomers sharpen their bidding and their play of the cards. Look for these friendly faces and seek their advice. You’ll meet a lot of interesting people this way.
Play well and you will be awarded a prize: masterpoints, the coin of the duplicate bridge realm.
Masterpoints appeal to members because it allows them to track their growth in the game by achieving new ranks on their way to becoming a Life Master.
To learn more about masterpoints, visit www.acbl.org/masterpoints.
Bridge is as friendly as the players, and it’s important to be a good partner and opponent. Introduce your partner and yourself to the opponents at the start of each round. Thank your partner when she puts down the dummy. Wish the opponents good luck before you start the game. Don’t get upset about a bad result — you get to start fresh with the next 13 cards. Successful partnerships will discuss difficult hands and situations where something went wrong after the session in private.
You can really master the game when you take a class with a bridge teacher. They’ll walk you through each aspect from counting high-card points to taking a trick even when you think the cards are stacked against you.
The more you play bridge, the more you’ll see it takes some strategizing. Luckily, there are common tactics and many ways to learn them. Check some out below.
There are many videos and even series of videos that take you through the steps and strategies of bridge. We’ve grouped these together by the topics you’ll run into. Some cover the basics, like bidding and opening leads, and others get into the nitty gritty of strategy through bidding and play.
There are also books about playing bridge – everything from setting up for a game to the finer points of common strategies.
There are also programs that combine learning and play that you can access on your own.
Learn to Play Bridge Online
An interactive, learn-as-you-play web-based program powered by Bridge Base robots. LTPB online proves a safe environment for players to test and learn new skills. LTPB online can be accessed from any device with an internet connection
Bridge Bites by Brian Gunnell
Bridge Bites is mostly about the play of the cards, but there are a handful of Bites with subject matter of interest in the area of bidding.
Bridge Bites – Declarer Play List
- 19 - Stuff Doesn't Happen
- 20 - Power of Deduction
- 25 - Fishing for Clues 33 - Third Hand Trickery
- 74 - Reading the Lead 108 - Trust Your Opponents
- 128 - Eschewing the Finesse
- 130 - Perilously High
- 1 - Sherlock
- 10 - Practice Fines
- 22 - Counting the Hand
- 24 - A Hold-up Play
- 25 - Fishing for Clues
- 35 - The Crocodile Coup
- 37 - The Trump Coup
- 70 - Squeezed in Three Suits
- 89 - Conjuring Trick
- 99 - Might be an Expert
- 131 - A Tale of Two Suits
- 141 - Backing the Favorite
- 5 - Counting Points
- 20 - Power of Deduction
- 21 - Voyage of Discovery
- 33 - Third Hand Trickery
- 34 - A Dummy Reversal
- 70 - Squeezed in Three Suits
- 105 - The Vanishing Trump Trick
- 2 - Too Easy
- 46 - Nice Try Partner
- 49 - Managing Entries
- 51 - Side Suits First
- 56 - Finesse Fatale
- 69 - An "Oops!" Moment
- 71 - Declare or Defend?
- 115 - Which Finesse?
- 118 - An Extra Chance
- 124 - A "Free" Finesse
- 125 - Managing the Entries
- 137 - Count Up to Ten
- 142 - A Matter of Entries
- 21 - Voyage of Discovery
- 25 - Fishing For Clues
- 44 - Cherchez La Femme
- 45 - Find the Lady
- 74 - Reading the Lead
- 99 - Might Be An Expert
- 1 - Sherlock
- 19 - Stuff Doesn't Happen
- 73 - A Two-Edged Sword
- 74 - Reading the Lead
- 85 - Don't be Fooled!
- 87 - Bluff & Double-Bluff
- 102 - A Revealing Auction
- 105 - The Vanishing Trump Trick
- 107 - What's Your Plan B?
- 18 - Smarter Than Second Grader
- 34 - A Dummy Reversal
- 48 - Customery Retort
- 51 - Side Suits First
- 53 - Timing is Everything
- 54 - Road Map
- 57 - Forcing Game
- 58 - A Self-Inflicted Wound
- 63 - Third Time Lucky
- 81 - Ruffs in the Long Hand
- 86 - The Key Card
- 95 - Role Reversal
- 98 - One Winner Too Many
- 100 - Maximum Damage
- 109 - Right Through the Pack
In these hands the route to success requires that Declarer organizes transportation between her hand and Dummy in optimal fashion.
Deals in which Declarer uses diverse clues to figure out the lie of the cards.
Bridge Bites – Cardplay Techniques
- 2 - Too Easy
- 4 - Alarm Clock
- 10 - Practice Fines
- 18 - Smarter Than Second Grader
- 31 - The Safe Hand
- 53 - Timing is Everything
- 55 - Sinking Feeling
- 62 - Mea Culpa
- 80 - Nerves of Steel
- 82 - A Matter of Timing
- 88 - Protecting Partner's Entry
- 104 - No Math Required
- 112 - A Secoond Chance
- 123 - First Things First
- 132 - Worse Case Scenario
- 134 - A Surprising Duck
- 11 - Finesse Easy
- 13 - No Safe Exit
- 52 - Payback Time
- 65 - Nice Try
- 77 - A Sitting Duck
- 79 - The Only Chance
- 96 - A Hopeless Contract
- 120 - Double End Play
- 122 - Improving the Odds
- 136 - Frozen Suit
- 7 - Old Ruse
- 9 - Double Order
- 38 - The Anti-Bath Coup
- 60 - A Joy to Behold
- 85 - Don't be Fooled
- 101 - When All Else Fails
- 116 - The Art of Concealment
- 121 - Mr. & Mrs. Smith
- 138 - Two Ways to Win
- 143 - Stranger Than Fiction
- 24 - A Hold-Up Play
- 40 - The Scissors Coup
- 43 - Thrust and Parry
- 75 - Different Contract, Same Play
- 114 - A Blocking Party
- 5 – Counting Points
- 11 – Finesse Easy
- 13 – No Safe Exit
- 22 – Counting the Hand
- 28 – We’ve Got You Surrounded
- 83 – An Essential Precaution
- 110 – Odds on Favorite
Bridge Bites – Defensive Plays List
- 4 - Alarm Clock
- 17 - Trump Demotion
- 26 - Introducing Dr. Goodlead
- 40 - The Scissors Coup
- 61 - A Thoughtful Lead
- 66 - A Failure to Communicate
- 68 - A Strange Lead
- 102 - A Revealing Auction
- 113 - Triple Play
- 133 - The Only Card
- 12 - One Finesse Too Many
- 15 - Choice of Promotions
- 30 - Count Signals
- 43 - Thrust & Parry
- 73 - A Two-Edged Sword
- 85 - Don't Be Fooled!
- 7 - Old Ruse
- 17 - Trump Demotion
- 23 - An Afternoon Nap
- 27 - Three Degrees of Bacon
- 29 - Take Four
- 32 - Second Hand High
- 35 - The Crocodile Coup
- 66 - A Failure to Communicate
- 103 - Partnership Defense
- 106 - A Good Attitude
- 129 - Sending A Message
- 135 - Helping Partner
- 140 - Loud and Clear
- 47 - A Smooth Duck
- 49 - Managing Entries
- 59 - Duck a La Glynda
- 90 - Risk and Reward
- 126 - Hero or Zero
- 6 - Delightful
- 8 - Little White Lie
- 12 - One Finesse Too Many
- 21 - Voyage of Discovery
- 50 - Right Siding the Contract
- 67 - A Free Shot
- 90 - Risk and Reward
- 97 - Double Deception
- 106 - A Good Attitude
- 127 - Creating an Illusion
- 14 - Couple of Upper-Cuts
- 15 - Choice of Promotions
- 16 - Don't Over Ruff
- 17 - Trump Demotion
- 94 - Dodging an Uppercut
- 139 - Trump Control
- Partnership Understandings by Mike Lawrence
- Doubles by Larry Cohen
- Mastering Hand Evaluation by Lawrence Diamond
- Lebensohl Complete by Ron Anderson
- 25 Bridge Conventions by Barbara Seagram
- Bid Better, Play Better by Dorothy Truscott
- To Bid or Not to Bid by Larry Cohen
- Points Schmoints by Marty Bergen
- Countdown to Winning Bridge by Bourke & Smith
- Dormer on Deduction by Albert Dormer (some articles available on BridgeFeed)
- Card Combination Flash Cards by Alan Truscott
- How the Experts Win at Bridge by Hall & Hall
- Modern Losing Trick Count by Ron Klinger
- Complete Book of Overcalls . . . by Mike Lawrence
- Judgment at Bridge by Mike Lawrence
- Win at Duplicate Bridge by Fred Parker
- What’s Your Call by Frank Stewart
- Getting into the Bidding by Bill Treble
- Secrets of Winning Bridge by Jeff Reubens
- Card Play Technique by Mollo & Gardener
- A Bridge to Simple Squeezes by Julian Laderman
- Card Combinations by Mike Lawrence
- Planning the Play and Declarer Play Quizbook by Barbara Seagram
- Topics in Declarer Play by Eddie Kantar
- Winning Declarer Play by Dorothy Truscott
- Play of the Hand by Louis Watson
- When to Draw Trumps by Adam Parish
- Squeezes by Clyde Love
- Modern Bridge Defense by Eddie Kantar
- Defense by Larry Cohen
- Defensive Play Quizbook by Barbara Seagram
- Demon Defense by Augie Boehm
- Demon Doubling by Augie Boehm
- Dynamic Defense by Mike Lawrence
- Partnership Defense by Kit Woolsey
- Winning Notrump Leads by David Bird by Eddie Kantar
- Opening Leads by Mike Lawrence
- Larry Teaches Leads by Larry Cohen
- Matchpoints by Kit Woolsey
- Winning Duplicate Tactics by David Bird
- Matchpoints vs. IMPs by Augie Boehm
- Gamesmanship Bridge by Eddie Kantar
ABOVE THE LINE. A phrase denoting all scores in rubber bridge entered above a horizontal line on the score sheet, including penalties and the premiums for honors, slams, rubbers, overtricks and fulfilling a doubled or redoubled contract.
ACBL RANK CLASSIFICATIONS. https://acbl.org/masterpoints-results/masterpoint-ranks/
ACCORDING TO HOYLE. A phrase indicating that a procedure is sanctioned legally and ethically and that it has the backing of custom. Edmond Hoyle (1672–1769) was the noted authority on card games in his lifetime. His reputation was so great that the phrase “According to Hoyle” came to mean correct procedure in general.
ACCREDITED TEACHERS. Accredited Teachers earn the title by successfully completing ACBL’s Teacher Accreditation Program (TAP). The TAP was created in 1986 as part of ACBL’s new Bridge Education Program. It is a 10-hour seminar designed by Audrey Grant, a Canadian educator, to develop new bridge teachers and to introduce them to ACBL’s Teaching Series. Many established bridge teachers have participated in the TAP as a form of continuing education and are also accredited teachers. Interested ACBL members and volunteer workers have taken the TAP course and have earned the title of ACBL Accredited Teacher.
Special programs for Accredited Teachers are offered at each NABC. These include dinner meetings and special workshops/seminars. A quarterly newsletter, The Bridge Teacher, is published by ACBL and contains news of the organization’s activities, teaching tips, special funded teaching programs and general information of interest to this group.
ACE-HIGH. This describes a suit held by one player in which the ace is the top card without other top honors.
ACTIVE ETHICS. Actions to enable all players to have equal access to methods and understandings used by their opponents. The concept was first broached by Hall of Famer Bobby Wolff during his tenure as president of the ACBL in 1987. According to Wolff, Active Ethics has nothing to do with such items as score corrections – players are supposed to make sure they have the right scores whether or not the adjustment favors them. Instead, Wolff characterized Active Ethics as the desire not to take advantage – the desire to make sure that the opponents are privy to all of a partnership’s conventions, treatments, habits and idiosyncrasies. “The game itself is more important than winning,” said Wolff.
AGGREGATE SCORE. The same as total-point scoring.
ALERT. The word used by a player to make sure the opponents are aware that the Alerter’s partner has made a bid that has a conventional or unusual meaning.
ALERTING. A method of drawing the opponents’ attention to the fact that a particular bid has a conventional or unusual meaning.
ANNOUNCEMENT. Part of the ACBL’s Alert procedure. An Announcement is one word or a short phrase that tells the opponents directly the meaning of partner’s call. When bidding boxes are used, the “Alert” strip is tapped also. For example after a natural 1NT opening bid, the partner of the bidder will say aloud, “15 to 17.”
ARRANGEMENT OF TRICKS. In duplicate bridge, the act of turning a card face down on the edge of the table immediately in front of a player after four cards have been played to a trick, with the long axis of the card pointing to the players who won the trick. In rubber bridge, the act of collecting the cards played to a trick by a member of the side that won the trick and then turning them face down on the table so that the tricks are identifiable in proper sequence.
ATTITUDE SIGNAL. The interest or lack of interest of a defender in having a suit led or continued by his partner. The usual method of encouraging the lead or continuation of a suit is a high-low signal. Low-high is discouraging.
AUCTION. The bidding sequence made by the four players for the contract. The first call is made by the dealer, who may pass or bid. Thereafter, each player makes a valid call, the bidding continuing in a clockwise direction. The bidding ends when, after the dealer’s initial bid, there are three consecutive passes. The final contract is the last bid, which may have been doubled or redoubled.
AUTHORIZED INFORMATION. Information legally available. This includes information such as meanings of calls, explanations of the Laws and methods used to show count and attitude.
AVERAGE HAND. A hand that contains 10 high-card points. An ace, king, queen and jack, or one-fourth of all the high honors, is the average expectation of each player before the hands are seen. This basic assumption furnishes the player with a simple yardstick for measuring the relative high-card strength of a given hand, and may assist materially in estimating the game potential or penalty expectancy of any bid. Hence, two or three points added to an average hand is the valuation of a hand with a minimum opening bid.
AVERAGE SCORE. One-half the matchpoints possible on a given deal or in a particular session of a matchpoint pairs tournament.
In IMP pairs games, average on a given board is the arithmetical mean of all scores on that board, usually excluding the highest and the lowest. This constructed average is called a datum.
The average score is usually the basis on which adjusted scores are awarded when a particular deal cannot be properly played. When the deal cannot be played through no fault of one pair, the adjustment is usually 60% of the available matchpoints. Deduction from the average score is made by the tournament director when one of the pairs is at fault. These adjustments are referred to as average-plus and average-minus.
BACK IN. To make the first bid for one’s side after passing on a previous round in the face of opposing bidding. This action sometimes will be balancing.
BALANCED DISTRIBUTION (or BALANCED PATTERN). A hand that appears suitable for notrump rather than trump contracts. Standard types are 4-4-3-2, 4-3-3-3 and 5-3-3-2 (5-4-2-2 and 6-3-2-2 are borderline cases). The completely balanced 4-3-3-3 distribution can be described colloquially as flat, square or round, an example of the strangeness of bridge geometry.
Balanced distribution can also refer to an even division of one suit around the table.
BAROMETER PAIRS> In a Barometer game, the boards don’t move from table to table after each round. All pairs play the same boards at the same time throughout the event. The director and his staff will have pre-duplicated many sets of boards prior to the game. Quite often each table will have its own set of boards. Equally often, two or three tables will share one set of boards. Each set of boards goes out of play after one round.
As a result, all scores for a given set of boards are available as soon as the round is over. The director retrieves the score tickets and enters them immediately. Quite often the scores will be posted for inspection by the players after each round, so each pair knows where it stands at all times. Any given pair’s fortunes will rise and fall as the game goes on—hence the name Barometer.
BELONG. An expression to indicate which side can legitimately expect to buy the contract. A player who says he knew that “the hand belonged to the opponents” indicates that he judged the opposition could make the highest positive score on the deal. In such circumstances, it may pay to take an advance save or other preemptive action. Alternatively, a player who judges that he will be outgunned in high cards may prefer to remain silent on the theory that he will end up as a defender and does not wish to give information that may help the declarer.
An alternative meaning of the word in modern bridge jargon, especially in a postmortem, is to indicate the most desirable contract for a side: “We belong in 5♦.”
BELOW THE LINE. Points at rubber bridge entered below the horizontal line on the score sheet. These points are solely those made by bidding and making partscores, games or slams. All other points are scored above the line only. Points scored below the line count toward winning a game or rubber. At duplicate bridge or Chicago, the term may be used loosely to refer to trick score.
BID. A call by which a player proposes a contract that his side will win at least as many odd tricks (tricks in excess of six – the book) as his bid specifies, provided the contract is played at the denomination named.
BIDDER. A player who states or indicates a bid. The term is occasionally used to indicate a player who is prone to overbid, or one who will prefer trying a doubtful contract rather than defending in a competitive bidding situation. Also, any player during the auction period.
BIDDING. The period following the deal and ending after the third successive pass of any bid, double or redouble.
BIDDING BOX. The almost universal means of bidding in most duplicate sessions today. The typical bidding box contains cards for all bids from 1♣ to 7NT, several Pass cards, cards for Double and Redouble, a Stop card (used when there is a skip bid) and a blue strip to be removed from the box when making an Alert.
BIDDING CARD. The card indicating a bid or a call printed on it that is part of the collection of such cards in a bidding box.
BIDDING SPACE. The amount of room used in terms of bids that have been skipped. A response of 1 ♥ to 1 ♦ , for example, uses no bidding space, but a response of 2 ♣ would use up a good deal of bidding space. The general theory is that the length of a suit tends to increase as the bidding space consumed in bidding increases.
BIFF. Colloquial for ruffing the led suit, particularly a winning card on an early lead.
BLANK. A void. Used as an adjective, it indicates lack of a protecting small card for an honor, as a singleton or “blank” king. As a verb, it means to discard a protecting small card, as to blank a king. Blank honors, whether singleton or doubleton, are slightly devalued in most point-count methods.
BLANK HAND. A hand with seemingly no trick-taking potential, also sometimes referred to (usually erroneously) as a yarborough.
BLIND LEAD. The first lead on any hand, so called because the opening leader has not seen the dummy. This term is particularly applied when the leader’s partner did not bid, and the declarer’s side has bid only one denomination. Terence Reese is quoted as saying, “Blind leads are for deaf players.”
BLOCK. A situation in which entry problems within a particular suit make it difficult or impossible to cash winners or possible winners in that suit.
BLUFF FINESSE. A play undertaken as though is it a legitimate finesse, as when leading the queen, holding Q-x-(x), from hand with A-x-(x) in dummy.
BOARD. (1) A duplicate board. (2) The table on which the cards are played. (3) The dummy’s hand, so called because it lies on the table.
BOARD-A-MATCH. A method of playing multiple team matches in which each team plays against a variety of opponents and each board is worth one point. The format was prevalent at one time in North America but has been largely displaced by Swiss teams, which is scored by International Matchpoints (IMPs).
BOARD-A-MATCH SWISS TEAMS. The difference between this type of Swiss Teams and others is the method of scoring. After play is finished and the teams compare scores, one matchpoint is awarded for each board won, and half a matchpoint for each board tied. The margin of difference on any board is of no consequence – winning a board by 10 is the same as winning a board by 4000 – it’s one. This type of game is rare.
BODY. A term used to describe a hand with useful intermediate cards such as 10s, nines and eights. Some authorities advocate counting a 10 as half a point, sometimes only for notrump purposes. The 10 is of greatest value in combination with one or two higher honors, such as K-10-x, Q-10-x or K-Q-10. It has least value when isolated (10-x-x) or in a solid suit (A-K-Q-J-10). Similarly, a nine may be valuable in combination (Q-10-9) but almost worthless in isolation.
Body may be a decisive factor in making a bidding decision. For example:♠ K 10 5 4 ♥ A Q 9 ♦ Q 10 9 ♣ K J 8
This hand counts 15 points in high cards, but the intermediate cards make it a “good” 15, and most experts would treat it as a 16-point hand.
Body is a factor to consider when making a borderline opening bid. As the bidding proceeds, a player can often revalue his intermediate cards. A holding of 10-9-2 is certainly worthless if the bidding marks partner with a singleton or a void, and very probably worthless opposite a doubleton. But there is a good chance that the 10-9 will be valuable opposite a probable three card suit: Partner may have something like A-J-3, K-J-3, or Q-8-3.
BONUS. A term used in all types of bridge to describe various premiums given under the scoring rules to sides or partnerships who accomplish specified aims.
In rubber bridge, bonuses are awarded for the winning of the rubber by scoring two games before the opponents have scored two games. A bonus of 700 points is credited to the side winning a two-game rubber before the opponents have won even one game. If the opponents have won a game, the bonus becomes 500 points. A bonus of 50 points is paid any side scoring a successful doubled contract, and similarly, 100 for making a redoubled contract. A bonus is scored above the scoring line for a side that, in the given deal, has held honors in trump or all the aces in one hand at notrump. This bonus is either 100 or 150 points. Bonus scores are given to sides that successfully bid and make a slam. If a rubber of bridge has to be terminated before its regular conclusion, a bonus of 300 points is given to a side that is a game ahead. A partscore (below-game score) earns a bonus of 100 points.
In the Chicago format, bonuses can occur on each of the four deals. In this type of contest, each deal is really almost a separate game of itself. A non-vulnerable side scoring a game in Chicago is credited with 300 points immediately, a vulnerable side 500. Slam bonuses are the same as in rubber bridge, and honors are likewise scored. A partial score achieved on the fourth or final deal, however, acquires an extra bonus of 100 points. This bonus is awarded only for partials actually acquired on the last deal – there is no premium for a partial remaining open at the conclusion of a four-deal chukker.
In duplicate bridge, a bonus is awarded for making any partscore on a given deal. The bonus is 50 points. The regular slam premiums apply in duplicate scoring as explained previously, but there are no bonuses for honors, except in total-point scoring. In duplicate, the regular Chicago bonuses for games bid and made apply, e.g., 300 for making a non-vulnerable game and 500 for making a vulnerable game.
BOOK. The tricks won by a side that have no value in the score. For the declarer, the first six tricks taken constitute his book. For the adversaries, book is the number of the declarer’s bid subtracted from seven, or the maximum number of tricks the adversaries may take without defeating declarer’s contract. The origin of the term apparently lies in the old practice of forming the first six tricks into a “book” by placing them all in one stack.
BOTH VULNERABLE. A term applied to the situation when both sides are subject to larger awards and penalties. In rubber bridge, a side becomes vulnerable by winning a game during the rubber. The side that wins the second game out of three wins a 500-point bonus. In Chicago, the vulnerability situation is predetermined – both sides are vulnerable only on the fourth deal. In duplicate, once again the vulnerability is predetermined. The vulnerability is set up in 16-board segments. Both sides are vulnerable on boards 4, 7, 10 and 13. Only North-South are vulnerable on boards 2, 5, 12 and 15. East-West are vulnerable on boards 3, 6, 9 and 16. Neither side is vulnerable on boards 1, 8, 11 and 14. A side that is vulnerable has to be more careful about taking chances and saves because the penalties are substantially higher. At the same time, in team play it pays to go for the game because the bonus points are substantially higher. In England, both sides vulnerable is known as “game all.”
BOTTOM. In tournament play, the lowest score on a particular deal in the group in direct competition. It is extended, in conversation, to indicate an excruciatingly bad result.
BOX A CARD. To place a hand in a duplicate board with a card, usually not the top card, turned face up.
BRACKETED TEAMS. Some method of seeding based on ability and experience is used to divide the total field into two or more groups. The breakdown is according to the average masterpoints of all players on each team. Each bracket comprises a separate event with its own masterpoint awards. There is no interplay between brackets.
The size of each bracket and the number of brackets depend on the number of teams entered. The purpose of bracketing is to establish groups within which each team is competitive.
BREAK. The distribution of outstanding cards in a suit in a manner favorable to declarer. This may imply that a suit was divided evenly or nearly so, or that an adversely held honor was positioned so that it did not develop into a winning trick. The term “break” is also used to indicate the actual distribution of cards outstanding in the suit; or with the adjective “bad” to indicate unfavorable distribution from the declarer’s standpoint.
In most contexts, “split” may be used as a synonym for “break,” both as a noun and a verb: “The suit split (or broke) badly (or well).” “There was a bad split (or break) in spades.”
BRIDGE+ PAIRS. The Bridge Plus+ Pairs is specially designed for new players who have just finished taking a series of lessons. The bridge is very relaxed. The director, who often also was the teacher, is available to answer questions and offer assistance.
BRING IN. To establish a suit and make effective use of the established winners. The ability to bring in a suit may be affected by considerations of entry, tempo, controls or ducking or by the suit combinations in the suit being established.
BROKEN SEQUENCE. Combination of at least three high cards with at least two of the cards in sequence. There is a difference of opinion about what constitutes a broken sequence. One camp says the non-touching honor must be the highest honor of the sequence (A-Q-J, K-J-10, Q-10-9) and that any other combination (A-K-J, K-Q-10, etc.) should be described as an interior sequence. The other camp asserts that a broken sequence applies to both combinations.
BROKEN SUIT. A suit containing no honor cards in sequence.
BUSINESS DOUBLE. A penalty double. A penalty pass can convert a takeout double to a business double.
BUST. Bridge slang term for a seemingly valueless hand.
BUTCHER. Colloquialism to indicate a bad misplay: “He butchered the hand.”
BUY. In a competitive auction, to make a bid that the opponents do not contest. “He bought it for three hearts.”
Churchill devised his system in 1929, and although he did not play much bridge after 1944, the system was employed with considerable success for 50 years. It took some time for his bidding concepts to gain acceptance, and no doubt his record in high-level competition helped in that regard.
Churchill certainly employed his system to maximum effect, winning the Life Master Pairs in 1937 and 1948, setting two records in partnership with Cecil Head. As a partnership they scored 65% as an average for four sessions and scored 77.4% in a single session, a stunning achievement.
S. Garton Churchill was born in Bellefontaine OH in 1900. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University and Harvard Law School. Despite his success in tournament bridge, he curtailed bridge activities because of commitments to his law firm, Loeb, Churchill & Lawther in Manhattan, and to his family.
His tournament record was impressive. Besides the two wins in the LM Pairs, he was on the winning team in the 1932 Chicago (now Reisinger) Board-a-Match Teams. He placed second in that event four times, and he was second in the Master Mixed Teams (now the Mixed BAM).
His regional wins included the Eastern States Knockout Teams in 1937, 1938 and 1939, the New Jersey State Master Pairs in 1947 and 1959 and the Secondary Senior Pairs in 1959.
Churchill died in 1992 in Fairview NC.
Larry learned bridge at age 6 from his grandparents. He began playing duplicate at age 14 and competing at age 15.
Cohen considers himself very fortunate to have had long-term, regular bridge partners from whom he learned. “Ron Gerard taught me discipline. Marty Bergen helped me immensely with understanding competitive-bidding decisions. David Berkowitz is the best game/slam-decision bidder that I’ve seen.”
In 1981, at age 22, Larry won his first of 25 National Championships. Gerard sets the scene, “After playing for 12 days, we’re in the final of the Spingold. Earlier in the tournament, Steve Weinstein and Fred Stewart had won the Life Master Pairs. We were sitting out the third quarter of the final, and Henry Francis interviewed us for the Bulletin story that would feature the winners and runners-up. He asked Larry, ‘How does it feel to be in the final of the Spingold at age 22?’ Larry responded, ‘22? The Weinstein kid who won the Life Master Pairs is only 17. I feel like an old man already.”
“It goes without saying that Larry was my favorite partner, Of course, as great a bridge partner as Larry was, more importantly, for some 40-plus years, he has been a great friend.” says Bergen. “
Berkowitz says, “Larry is universally liked and respected by competitors and students for his calm demeanor and friendly attitude. He really enjoys when people say, ‘I hated having to play against you, but I loved being at your table.”
The publication in 1992 of Cohen’s blockbuster “To Bid or Not To Bid: The LAW of Total Tricks” opened up new professional bridge avenues. He started teaching in 1996 and headlined his first cruise in 1998. In 2009, Cohen retired from the tournament circuit to devote himself full time to teaching and writing.
“The joy of teaching is so satisfying,” he says. “When my students leave a cruise or land event happy, I’m happy. I’d much rather hear ‘Larry, I loved the seminar – I learned so much!’ than ‘Congratulations on winning the fill-in-the blank event.”’
Berkowitz describes Cohen as an introvert outside of his teaching role. “His life is devoted to his loves, like Maria Eugenia (his wife), golf, the Yankees and the Law of Total Tricks.” “I once had the passion for bridge tournaments,” says Cohen. “But how much of my life do I need to spend in a hotel ballroom, eating poorly, sleeping poorly and getting stressed? If my tombstone were to say ‘35 national championships’ instead of 25, would it really matter? Now, I travel in style with my wife, with very little stress and few regrets.”
In addition to his NABC titles, Larry has a silver and bronze medal in international competition. He was the 2002 ACBL Player of the Year, the 2011 ACBL Honorary Member and the Lazard Sportsmanship Award recipient in 2003. He received Book of the Year honors from the ABTA in 1993, 2015 and 2019. He also earned ABTA software/technology awards in 2000, 2005, 2011 and 2012.
Texas businessman Ira Corn is no doubt best remembered as the driving force in the creation of the famous Aces team in 1968. Corn had grown weary of the domination of the Italian Blue Team in world championship events, so he gathered a squad of players from the U.S. who would train together. Their goal was to win world championships.
Corn contacted Bobby Wolff, Bobby Goldman, Jim Jacoby, Mike Lawrence, Billy Eisenberg and Bob Hamman to be a part of the squad. All agreed except Hamman, who later changed his mind and joined the team. The Aces succeeded in their quest for gold medals beginning with a victory in the Bermuda Bowl in 1970.
As the founder or co-founder of 24 companies, Corn was a successful businessman. In addition, Corn was an expert on World War II, according to Bobby Wolff. “Just before his death, Ira completed a book on the Normandy invasion. That book is something special in that it tells the story both from the Allied and the German sides.”
Corn also wrote and had published The Story of the Declaration of Independence . This was shortly after he paid $407,000 for an original copy of the document, prompting this headline in an English newspaper: “Wealthy Texan buys rebel document.”
Wolff’s favorite story, however, concerns Corn and backgammon. “Ira wanted me to write the definitive book on backgammon by Ira Corn. ‘Why would you write a book of backgammon when you don’t even know how to set up the pieces?’ I asked. ‘Bobby,’ Corn replied, ‘you don’t understand. That’s what makes it so great.’”
Corn served as president of the Dallas Bridge Association in 1968 and was elected to the ACBL Board of Directors in 1971. He served as ACBL president in 1980 and as chairman of the Board in 1981. Corn died in 1982.
Barry Crane, widely recognized as the top matchpoint player of all time, was a successful director/producer of film and television. He is one of a small group of world champion bridge players whose presence enhanced many tournaments while they maintained active and highly respected careers outside of bridge.
Crane became ACBL’s top masterpoint holder in 1968, a position previously held only by Oswald Jacoby and Charles Goren. Crane amassed points at an astounding rate until, at the time of his death, he had 35,138, more than 11,000 ahead of any other players. On July 5, 1985, Crane was the victim of a brutal, murder that went unsolved until 2019.
Crane’s bridge career spanned almost four decades, beginning in the late Forties when he won his first regional. In 1951 when he was 23, his team finished second in the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams and he became ACBL Life Master #325.
He subsequently won 16 NABC titles – the first in 1953 and the last in 1983. He won the Open Pairs seven times, the Master Mixed Teams three times, the Mixed Pairs three times and the North American Swiss Teams, the NABC Men’s Pairs and the NABC Men’s Swiss Teams once each.
Records indicate the Crane won more than 1000 tournament championships, some 700 of which were pairs titles at the regional or higher level.
Crane won the McKenney Trophy six times, and was runner-up six times. He exerted so much influence on the race that after his death it was renamed the “Barry Crane Top 500.”
World-wide recognition came to Crane when, at the 1978 World Championships, he and Kerri Shuman (now Sanborn) ran away with the World Mixed Pairs in a field loaded with international stars. This stunning victory, by more than five boards, further enhanced Crane’s claim to the title of world’s best matchpoint player.
Despite his bridge addiction, Crane had an abiding passion for his work. It never bothered him when he couldn’t go to a tournament, because his job was his prime interest.
He usually could arrange his TV production schedule so he could attend most tournaments for a few days.
A habitual weekend commuter, he said he would travel anywhere within flying distance for a regional and anywhere within driving distance for a sectional.
Many of the personal and professional attributes that led to Crane’s success in television carried over to his remarkable mastery in the world of tournament bridge.
In his TV classic, Mission Impossible, Crane’s contributions were many and varied. He produced the show, directed it, wrote it and advanced many innovative ideas to both the script and the remarkable technology.
Crane was once asked why he didn’t write up his bidding style and publish it. He never bothered, he said, because the financial rewards from such a book wouldn’t have been worth his time. He could bat out a script for a show that would make more money in less time.
In many respects Crane was an A-1 ambassador and publicist for bridge all over North America . No one gave as many interviews to the media in as many different cities and towns.
One Crane obituary recalled the words of S. J. Simon, who said that there are two kinds of bridge players – the Parrots and the Naturals. “Barry Crane,” the story said, “was a Natural. We shall not see his like again.”
When he first rose to bridge prominence, John Crawford was known as a boy wonder. His tournament record – three world titles and 37 North American championships – proved he was no flash in the pan.
When he died of a heart attack on Valentine’s Day in 1976, the 60-year-old Crawford was eulogized as one of the brightest stars of bridge.
Handsome and debonair, the irrepressible Crawford first attracted attention in 1934 when he and a teenage partner nearly broke up a tournament with their daring psychic bidding and imaginative play.
Three years later he was consorting with the likes of Charles Goren, B. Jay Becker and Sidney Silodor.
Crawford was known for his table presence, epitomized by the following story of his exploits in a high-stakes rubber bridge game. Late in the evening, Crawford reached a grand slam in clubs holding seven clubs to the A-K-Q-10 opposite a singleton. If he made the contract, that deal would be the last of the night, so when Crawford noticed that the kibitzers had not stirred, he drew the inference that the slam was not a lay down. Backing his judgment, Crawford played the singleton trump from dummy and finessed the 10, the only play to make the slam since his right-hand opponent held four clubs to the jack.
Crawford became Life Master #19 in 1939, the youngest of the select group of early Life Masters. In 1950, 1951 and 1953, he was on the winning team in the Bermuda Bowl. He and his teammates so dominated bridge in the 1950s that they won the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams five times in six years, a feat that has never been approached.
Crawford won the Chicago Trophy (since 1965 the Reisinger) ten times. The first of those wins, in 1937, came when he was only 22. At the time, he was the youngest player ever to win a North American championship.
He won the title the following year, then flew to Pittsburgh from a Florida honeymoon to defend it successfully again in 1939. Crawford’s last victory in the prestigious event came in 1961.
In 1957, Crawford held all five national team titles at once: the Vanderbilt, the Spingold, the Chicago (now Reisinger), the Men’s and the Mixed.
Never at a loss for words, Crawford brimmed with confidence and hubris. He was once approached at a tournament by a player who wanted his opinion on a hand.
“Before you give me the hand, who’s my partner supposed to be?” Crawford asked.
“It’s unimportant,” answered the player.
“I have to know,” said Crawford. “It might make a difference.”
“Okay then – another good player. Make it yourself or your twin brother.”
“Who are my opponents?”
“If you insist on that, too, make it two more Johnny Crawfords.”
Said Crawford: “I’m sorry, I wouldn’t play in that game, it’s too tough.”
An expert in many card games and forms of gambling, Crawford lectured extensively during his wartime Army service in an attempt to help service men avoid being cheated.
Crawford helped found the New York Card School in 1950. He moved to New York City from Philadelphia in 1959.
His writings include Crawford’s Contract Bridge, How to be a Consistent Winner in the Most Popular Card Games and books on canasta and samba.
Perhaps the most colorful and flamboyant figure in the history of bridge was Ely Culbertson. His career was so varied that it defies a brief synopsis, but in the world of bridge Culbertson is remembered as an extraordinary organizer, player and — above all — showman.
His success in all of these endeavors made Culbertson fabulously wealthy even at the height of the Great Depression.
A self-educated man, Culbertson was also an author and lecturer on mass psychology and political science. He was born in Romania but was an American citizen from birth by registration with the U.S. consul, being the son of Almon Culbertson, an American mining engineer who had been retained by the Russian government to develop the Caucasian oil fields and who had married a Russian woman, Xenia Rogoznaya, daughter of a Cossack atamon or chief.
Culbertson belonged to a pioneer American family who settled about Titusville PA and Oil City PA. Later he joined the Sons of the American Revolution to refute rumors that he had changed his name or falsified his ancestry.
He attended gymnasia in Russia and matriculated at Yale (1908) and Cornell (1910), but in each case remained only a few months.
Later (1913-14) he studied political science at l’Ecole des Sciences Economiques et Politiques at the University of Paris (Sorbonne) and in 1915 at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, but he was largely self-educated, and the erudition for which he was admired can principally be attributed to a self-imposed and invariable regimen of reading a book designed to improve his knowledge at least one hour before going to sleep each night. In this he was aided by an aptitude for languages.
He conversed fluently in Russian, English, French, German, Czech, Spanish and Italian, had a reading knowledge of Slavonic, Polish, Swedish, and Danish-Norwegian, and had a knowledge of classical Latin and Greek.
In 1907 Culbertson participated as a student in one of the abortive Russian revolutions. He pursued his revolutionary ideas in labor disputes in the American Northwest and in Mexico and Spain (1911-1912), serving as an agitator for the union and syndicalist sides.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917 wiped out his family’s large fortune there, Culbertson lived for four years in Paris and other European cities by exploiting his skill as a card player.
In 1921 he returned to the U.S. , almost penniless, and continued to derive his chief living from winnings in card games. In 1923, having acquired some reputation as a bridge player, he married Mrs. Josephine Murphy Dillon, one of the highly reputed bridge teachers in New York City.
Together they became a successful pair as tournament players and bridge authorities. Between 1926 and 1929, the then new game of contract bridge began to replace auction bridge, and Culbertson saw in this development an opportunity to overtake the firmly entrenched authorities on auction bridge.
Culbertson planned a long-range campaign that included the construction of a dogmatic system, the publication of a magazine to appeal to group leaders in bridge, the authorship of a bridge textbook to serve as a “bible”, an organization of professional bridge teachers, a dramatization of himself and his wife as largely fictitious personalities and the expansion of the appeal of bridge by breaking down religious opposition to card playing. The plan proved conspicuously successful.
Culbertson founded his magazine, The Bridge World, in 1929. Through the same corporation he published his earliest bridge books, all of which were best sellers. He manufactured and sold bridge players’ supplies, including the introduction of Kem playing cards, maintained an organization of bridge teachers (Culbertson National Studios), which at its peak had 6000 members, and conducted bridge competitions through the United States Bridge Association and the World Bridge Olympics and American Bridge Olympics.
In its best year, 1937, The Bridge World, Inc., grossed more than $1,000,000, of which $220,000 were royalties payable to Culbertson before profits were calculated.
As a regular tournament competitor Culbertson had the best record in the earliest years of contract bridge. In 1930 he won the Vanderbilt and American Bridge League Knockout Team events, also the ABL B-A-M Team event, and finished second in the Master Pairs.
That year he led a team that played the first international match, in England, and defeated several teams there. In 1933 and 1934 his teams won the Schwab Cup.
Culbertson seldom played tournament bridge after 1934, but he was second in the ABL’s 1935 matchpoint team contest and in the International Bridge League’s first intercontinental tournament in 1937. Culbertson continued to play high-stake rubber bridge until about two years before his death.
The success of Culbertson’s Blue Book in 1930 caused the established auction bridge authorities to join forces to combat his threatened domination of contract bridge. Culbertson countered by challenging the leading player among his opposition, Sidney Lenz, to a test match, offering 5-1 odds.
Culbertson’s victory in this match, played in the winter of 1931-32, fortified his leading position. The great publicity accorded the match enriched Culbertson; he and his wife both acquired contracts for widely syndicated newspaper articles, he made a series of movie shorts for $360,000 and he received $10,000 a week for network radio broadcasts. In 1935 Culbertson tried to recapture the magic of his match against Lenz by playing a similar match against P. Hal and Dorothy Sims, but although the Culbertsons won this match also, there was no such publicity advantage as accrued from the Lenz match.
The publicity accorded Culbertson throughout his professional career can be attributed equally to his unquestioned abilities, his colorful personality and his grandiose way of life. Culbertson lived in the grand manner, with total disregard of expense whether at the moment he happened to be rich or penniless.
Once he strolled into Sulka’s (then) on Fifth Avenue in New York and bought $5,000 worth of shirts. He smoked a private blend of cigarettes that cost him $7 a day. When he decided to buy a Duesenberg automobile in 1934, he did not sell his Rolls Royce but gave it away.
His home for years was an estate in Ridgefield CT, with a 45-room house, several miles of paved and lighted roads, greenhouses, cottages, lakes and an enclosed swimming pool with orchids growing along its periphery.
He always had caviar with his tea and made special trips to Italy to buy his neckties. When he died in 1955, he owned five houses for his own use — four of them with swimming pools. But Culbertson rationalized these extravagances as publicity devices. He actually lived in one small room with a cot and a table, and he spent most of his time pacing the floor and thinking.
In 1933, when a newspaper reporter asked him, “Mr. Culbertson, how did you get ahead of those other bridge authorities?” he answered, “I got up in the morning and went to work.”
Culbertson’s contributions to the science of contract bridge, both practical and theoretical, were basic and timeless. He devised the markings on duplicate boards for vulnerability and the bonuses for games and partscores.
He was the first authority to treat distribution as equal or superior to high cards in formulating the requirements for bids. Forcing bids, including the one-over-one, were original Culbertson concepts, as were four-card suit bids, limited notrump bids, the strong two-bid and wholesale ace-showing including the 4NT slam try.
These were presented in the historic Lesson Sheets on the Approach-Forcing System (1927) and in numerous magazine articles written by Culbertson in the Twenties and early Thirties. Specific bridge principles attributable to Culbertson, separately described, include among others Asking Bids, the Grand Slam Force, Jump Bids, and the New-Suit Forcing principle, which Culbertson first introduced and later repudiated.
In 1938, with war imminent in Europe, Culbertson lost interest in bridge and thereafter devoted his time to seeking some grand achievement in political science.
To affect world peace he proposed international control of decisive weapons and a quota for each major nation in tactical forces. After formation of the United Nations, to which Culbertson’s ideas made a discernible contribution, he persisted in a campaign to give it adequate police power.
At one time 17 U.S. Senators and 42 U.S. Congressmen subscribed to a proposed joint resolution of Congress advocating Culbertson’s proposals. But in the course of these activities Culbertson lost his position as the leading bridge authority; by 1950 or earlier, Charles Goren had surpassed him in the sale of books and other bridge writings and in the adherence of bridge teachers and players. When a bridge Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 1964, nine years after his death, however, Culbertson was the first person elected.
Though never an ACBL Life Master, he was named Honorary Member in 1938. Ely and Josephine Culbertson were divorced in 1938 and in 1947 Culbertson married Dorothy Renata Baehne, who was 35 years younger than he.
There were two children by each of his marriages. Culbertson suffered in later years from a lung congestion (emphysema) and died at his last home in Brattleboro VT of a common cold that proved fatal because of the lung condition.
Minor works by Ely Culbertson, such as paperbound books and pamphlets, are literally too numerous to mention, and all or nearly all were written by members of Culbertson’s staff, as also were most of the newspaper and magazine articles published under Culbertson’s name from 1932 on.
Earlier articles in bridge periodicals were written by Culbertson, as were the following of his major books, each of which was published in many editions: Contract Bridge Blue Book, 1930; Culbertson’s Self-Teacher, 1933; Red Book on Play, 1934; The Gold Book or Contract Bridge Complete, 1936; and Point-Count Bidding, 1952. Culbertson’s autobiography, The Strange Lives of One Man, was published in 1940. His principal works on political science were Total Peace, 1943, and Must We Fight Russia?, 1947.
“The modern miracle — the woman who can play on even terms with the best men” was the second woman elected to the Bridge Hall of Fame.
Josephine Culbertson (1899–1956) was the first woman to achieve championship caliber and, as such, helped to pave the way for Helen Sobel, Sally Young and others.
As a member of The Bridge World team, with Waldemar von Zedtwitz as her partner and later Michael Gottlieb and Albert Morehead, she won national and international championships including the Schwab Cup in 1933 and 1934.
With husband Ely, she played many high-stakes set games, won international matches in England and France, and achieved national fame in the Culbertson-Lenz match.
Ely Culbertson, in his autobiography the Strange Lives of One Man, described his meeting Jo at the Knickerbocker Whist club in New York . “I couldn’t help noticing,” he wrote, “that she stood out among the many attractive women present as if she were alone.
“Not that there was anything immediately arresting about her. But the ensemble of her gestures, speech and features, like the ensemble of her clothes, indefinably suggested a distinct and yet restrained personality.
“She was extraordinarily young for a bridge teacher and for her reputation as America’s greatest woman player — not over 22. She was decidedly attractive, at times beautiful; tall, slender, with large Irish eyes, a slightly retroussé nose and a most winning smile.
“I was particularly impressed with her hands — long, narrow, alive with suppressed feeling. Her gestures were smoothly slow, controlled by thought rather than impulse.”
After the two had played bridge together for the first time, Ely Culbertson wrote that Jo had “a man’s mind — and something else more precious; something so rare that only one in a thousand women is endowed with it: charm. It emanated in tranquil waves from the attitudes of her heart, that angle of her thoughts, her pregnant silences, the dignity of her movements, the shyness of her voice, the structure of her smile.”
Culbertson, in a later chapter quotes an old Western gambler who had just played the couple. “Mrs. Culbertson,” the gambler said, “I apologize for thinking that women are not as good players as men. You and your husband have not only given me the licking of my life, but you yourself are the finest bridge player I have ever seen.”
Years later, Alphonse Moyse Jr., who succeeded Ely Culbertson as editor and publisher of The Bridge World, wrote Jo’s obituary and recalled her early years in bridge:
“Jo Culbertson carved a unique niche for herself among men who theretofore had not taken kindly to the idea of playing with women. . .
“She endeared herself by neither demanding nor expecting gallantry: she met these men on even terms, fought them fiercely at the card table and won her full share of victories.
“It was like that throughout her bridge career. And, of course, since she despised coyness and all feminine subterfuges, she gained the deep respect and affection of every partner and every opponent.”
Moyse concluded: “I knew Jo Culberston for 23 years. I was with her through good times and sad times.
“Not once in those 23 years did I see or hear of any act of hers that was mean or small or unkind.
“I can still hear her lovely laughter.”
DANGER HAND. The player who, should he gain the lead, can cash established winners or play through a vulnerable holding in declarer’s hand or in dummy (e.g., K-x, when the ace is known or likely to be over the king). With options for developing tricks, an experienced declarer will select the option that, should it fail, will leave the “non-danger” on lead.
DECK. (1) All 52 cards. In some sections of the world, all 52 cards are called the pack instead of the deck. (2) A wealth of high cards held either in one hand or over the period of many hands, as in the statement, “I had the deck.”
DECLARER. The player who first bid the denomination of the final bid. If the final bid is hearts, the player who first named hearts is the declarer. He becomes the declarer when the opening lead is faced, and controls the play of the dummy and his own hand as a unit.
DEAD. Bridge jargon to describe a player in a hopeless situation. It usually refers to the play of the hand, as in, “North made a killing shift, and I was dead.” Also said of a hand, especially dummy, which has been robbed of (or never had) an entry, or of a worthless holding, such as three low ones: “Dummy had three dead hearts.”
DEAL. (1) To distribute the 52 cards at contract; (2) the privilege of thus distributing the cards; (3) the act of dealing; (4) the cards themselves when distributed.
The dealer distributes the cards face down, one at a time in rotation into four separate hands of 13 cards each, the first card to the player on his left and the last card to himself. If he deals two cards simultaneously or consecutively to the same player, or fails to deal a card to a player, he may rectify the error, provided he does so immediately and to the satisfaction of the other players. The dealer must not allow the face of any card to be seen while he is dealing. Until the deal is completed, no player but the dealer may touch any card except to correct or prevent an irregularity.
In duplicate, the cards may be placed into any pocket. If the sponsoring organization wishes, the dealing may be from computer printouts or by dealing machine.
DEALER. The player who distributes the cards in a game of bridge. At the start of a rubber of regular bridge or of Chicago, a cut is made for partners and for the deal privilege. The player who receives the highest card becomes dealer. The entire deck is given out one by one in turn to each player starting at the left of the dealer, each fourth card going to the dealer himself. The dealer speaks first in the auction by bidding or passing. Subsequent calls proceed normally in a clockwise direction.
The term dealer is also a specialized slang word applying to a person who knows how to cheat at cards by arranging or stacking the deck in such fashion as to give himself and/or his partner by far the best of the cards continuously.
DEATH HOLDING. A holding in a suit that seems an a priori certainty to kill the partnership’s chances of playing or defending successfully. Among the most common examples are (1) a holding of two low cards in the opponents’ suit in a deal with slam possibilities; with a low doubleton in one hand, it is likely that neither partner can adequately control the opponents’ suit for slam play; (2) a defensive holding of Q-x in front of a long suit headed by A-K in dummy or declarer’s hand; such a holding gives little hope of a trick on power, and no hope that declarer will misplay or misguess.
DEFEAT THE CONTRACT. To prevent the declaring side from making as many tricks as required by the final contract.
DEFENDER. An opponent of the declarer; one whose main aim is to attempt to prevent declarer from making his contract or to hold declarer to the fewest tricks possible.
DEFENDING HAND. Either opponent of the declarer; occasionally used in the bidding to refer to an opponent of the player who opened the bidding.
DEFENSIVE BIDDING. Bidding by a partnership after the opponents have opened the bidding, although at times the bidding by the opening side could be termed defensive.
DEFENSIVE TRICK. A card or card combination that may be expected to win a trick if an opponent becomes the declarer.
In some situations, a player with a solitary defensive trick may need to take positive action. If 6 ♥ is reached voluntarily and the bidding has indicated that 6 ♠ is a possible sacrifice, the player with a hand that is known to be very weak may have the conventional agreement to double with one defensive trick. This should help partner make the right decision (which may still be to bid 6♠), and avoid a “phantom sacrifice” or “phantom save.”
Artificial uses of doubles and passes to reveal whether the partnership has enough defensive tricks to defeat the slam is part of a common agreement known as “double for sacrifice.”
DENOMINATION. The suit or notrump specified in a bid. A synonym is “strain.”
DESCENDING ORDER. The order of the rank of the denominations: notrump, spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs. The opposite order is up the line.
DEUCE. Another name for the two. The card of lowest rank in a suit.
DIAMOND. (1) The suit second lowest in rank, next above the club suit, represented by the symbol ♦ . This represents the third estate, although the symbolism is not obvious. (2) The symbol. The suit originated in France in the 16th Century. The name obviously comes from the diamond-shaped lozenge used for the pips.
DIRECTION. The designation of North, South, East, West or the hand held by these players, respectively.
DISCARD. (1) To play a card that is neither of the suit led nor of the trump suit, or (2) the card so played. Colloquialisms for discard include ditch, pitch and shake. Defenders can and do convey information to each other by the specific nature of certain discards.
DISCIPLINE. The ability of both members of a partnership to follow an agreed system when partnership action is called for. The Roth-Stone system was the first to stress partnership discipline as a requirement, although all systems imply its necessity without stressing it. Discipline is considered a key component of a successful partnership and for a player individually.
The term can also describe actions taken against players who break the rules of the game. Disciplines run the gamut from reprimand to expulsion.
DISTRIBUTION. The manner in which the cards of a suit are dispersed among the four hands of a deal, or the manner in which the number of cards in the four suits are distributed in one hand. Variations in distribution are the basis of various bidding systems in use.
DOUBLE. A call that increases the scoring value of odd tricks or undertricks of an opponent’s bid. A double can be made only over the opponent’s last bid with only passes intervening. Double has many meanings in today’s modern bidding beyond penalty.
DOUBLE DUMMY. (1) Play by declarer or defender(s) that cannot be improved upon, as though the person or pair could see all four hands, as in Double Dummy Problems (next entry).
Originally, double dummy was a two-handed form of whistin which each player had a dummy. Some players exposed all four hands, thus giving rise to the modern usage.
Some bridge-playing computer programs can look at the cards of the other three players during play in order to play as well as possible. (2) Trademark of a two-hand contract game, introduced in 1975, in which each player has a dummy. Since each player already sees two hands, no dummy hand is put down on the table.
DOUBLE DUMMY PROBLEM. Problems in the play of the hand in which the solver knows the holdings in all four hands – as opposed to single-dummy problems, in which the solver can see only the declaring hand and the dummy. In double-dummy problems, the contract and the opening lead are specified. The software program known as Deep Finesse is a double-dummy deal analyzer.
DOUBLE TENACE. A tenace in which the sequence is broken in two places, such as A-Q-10, K-J-9.
DOUBLED INTO GAME. Making a doubled contract and collecting a game bonus that would not have been scored without the double – i.e., any doubled contract, except 3NT, between 2 ♥ and 4 ♦ .
DOUBLER. A player who has doubled.
DOUBLETON. An original holding of only two cards in a suit. If an opening lead is made from a doubleton, the top card is customarily led first. (A low lead from a doubleton is normal in Polish systems and also occasionally in Italian.) Related: Distributional Point Count.
DOWN. Defeated. Said of a declarer who has failed to make a contract. The term is used in various ways, such as, “We are down two” or “down 800,” meaning the side has failed to make a doubled contract by three tricks (four if not vulnerable) or has incurred a penalty of 800 points.
DRIVE OUT. To force the play of a high card, i.e., to lead or play a card sufficiently high in rank to force the play of an adverse commanding card to win the trick, or to continue until this result is achieved, as in “drive out the ace.”
DROP. To capture an adverse potential winning card by the direct lead of a higher card or series of higher cards, as to drop an unguarded king by the play of an ace; also, the play that is aimed at capturing an adverse card, as to “play for the drop” instead of finessing.
Whether to finesse or play for the drop is generally a case of determining the correct mathematical probabilities. However, this preference is considerably modified by information derived from the bidding and play, and it is the policy of good players to obtain as much information as possible, inferential as well as exact, before committing themselves.
If East shows up with an ace or king during the play, it is highly unlikely that he will hold another high honor or he would not have passed his partner’s opening bid. It would therefore be indicated for South to disregard the mathematical probabilities and confidently place all missing honors in the West hand.
DROP-DEAD BID. A bid that tells partner to do no more bidding. The most common bid of this type is a two-level non-conventional response (2 ♦ , 2 ♥ or 2 ♠) to 1NT, showing a weak hand – or at least no interest in exploring for game. Another common variety is a 3NT response to 1NT.
DUB. (1) A player whose game is below the standards of the players with whom he competes. (2) A doubleton (colloquial).
DUCK. To deliberately not win a trick when one had the possibility of so doing. This is a common tactic in card play.
DUFFER. A bridge player of inferior ability.
DUMMY. (1) The declarer’s partner after he has placed his cards face up on the table, which is done immediately after the opening lead is faced by the opponent on the declarer’s left; (2) the cards held by the declarer’s partner, also called the dummy’s hand. The name originated in dummy whist, in which there were only three players, the fourth hand being exposed as the “dummy,” an imaginary and silent player. The dummy in bridge takes no part in the play; he may not suggest by word or gesture any lead or play, but at the conclusion of play, he may call attention to irregularities. In North America, dummy may ask partner if he has any or none of the suit led to prevent a revoke. If dummy looks at his partner’s hand or the hand of either adversary, he forfeits his right to protect his partner from revoking.
DUMMY PLAY. The management of the assets of the declarer and the dummy, synonymous with “declarer’s play.”
DUMMY REVERSAL. A procedure by which declarer takes ruffs in his own hand – which usually has longer trumps than dummy – rather than the dummy.
DUPLICATE. A term applied to the playing of the same deal of cards by more than one table of players; successively applied to whist, auction bridge and contract bridge.
DUPLICATE BOARD. Also known simply as a “board.”
DUPLICATION OF DISTRIBUTION. More widely known as “mirror distribution.” This occurs where the suit lengths in a partnership’s hands are evenly matched. A distributional flaw that limits the trick-taking potential of a pair of hands, it manifests itself in the absence of a long suit that can be developed.
The presence of a long card in either hand would permit the development of an additional trick, but with the above distribution, no game contract is likely to be fulfilled, though sufficient values are held.
DUPLICATION OF VALUES. A concentration of strength and control in the same suit between two partners.
EAST. One of the four positions at the bridge table. East is the partner of West and the left-hand opponent of North.
ECHO. A high-low signal. In England, it is called a “peter.”
ECONOMY OF HONORS. A technique in card play intended to preserve honor cards from capture by opposing honors or trumps.
EIGHT or EIGHT-SPOT. The seventh-highest ranking card in each suit, having eight pips of the suit to which it belongs on the face.
EMPTY. A colloquial term indicating that the spot cards in a suit are of no value. “King empty fourth” means a four-card suit headed by the king with poor spot cards.
ENCOURAGING. (1) A term applied to a bid that strongly urges partner to continue to game. Similar to invitational. (2) A term applied to a defensive signal by which a player urges his partner to continue playing the suit led.
ENTRY. (1) The form used for entering events at bridge tournaments and clubs. At tournaments, the entry blanks are used to control seating assignments, in particular to assure proper seeding (certain entries are set aside for known expert players so that in multi-section events, the top players do not end up in one or two sections). (2) A means of securing the lead in a particular hand.
EQUAL VULNERABILTY. Both sides are vulnerable or both sides are not vulnerable. The vulnerability is a significant factor in competitive bidding decisions, notably when the vulnerability is “favorable” to one side (not vulnerable when the other is) or “unfavorable” (vulnerable when the other is not).
EQUALS. Cards that are in sequence, or cards that are effectively in sequence because all cards of intervening rank have been played.
ESTABLISH. To make a suit or an individual card good by forcing out the opponents’ guards or winners. For example, you can establish four tricks with K-Q-J-10-9 of a suit by driving out the ace.
ESTABLISHED CARD. A card that has been promoted to winning rank after all higher-ranking cards in the other hands have been played.
ESTABLISHED ENTRY. An entry developed by driving out a higher card.
ESTABLISHED REVOKE. With one exception, a revoke that may not be corrected. A revoke becomes established as soon as the revoking player or his partner leads or plays to the next trick, or, if the revoke is made in leading, as soon as the revoking player’s partner plays to the trick on which the revoke is made; or by the act of making a claim. A revoke made on the 12th trick must be corrected.
ESTABLISHED SUIT. A long suit in which a player holds all the remaining high cards, which at notrump or after trumps have been drawn in a suit contract will all be winners when the suit is led and run. The object of notrump play is essentially to establish one or more long suits by drawing or forcing out whatever high cards the opponents may hold in that suit.
EVEN. A term applying to the equal distribution of the outstanding cards in a suit, as a 3-3 division of six outstanding cards.
EVENT. A contest of one or more sessions in duplicate bridge played to determine a winner.
EXHAUST. To draw all cards of a suit from the hand of any player. A player becoming void of a suit during the play is said to be exhausted of that suit, as distinguished from holding no cards of that suit originally.
EXIT. To “get out of one’s hand,” particularly when it is undesirable to have the lead, usually by making a lead that is not likely to jeopardize the value of any partnership holding.
EXIT CARD. A card by which one can exit from one’s hand, offering an escape from an opponent’s attempted throw-in or elimination play.
EXTRA TRICK. A trick scored in excess of the number of tricks required to fulfill a contract. In rubber bridge, such tricks are scored above the line and do not count toward game at their trick value. Extra tricks – also called overtricks - carry premium values if the contract has been doubled or redoubled. In duplicate pairs games, extra tricks are so highly regarded that a declarer often will risk his contract for an overtrick.
FACE (of a card). The front of a playing card, containing the suit and rank of the card.
FACE CARD. The cards that have a representation of a human figure, originally called coat cards, later court cards.
FALL, FALL OF THE CARDS. The play of a card or cards on a trick; the order in which they are played.
FALSE PREFERENCE. A return to partner’s original suit at the lowest level when holding greater length in the second suit. For example, holding:♠7 5 4 ♥ K 3 ♦Q 10 8 ♣A 7 6 5 4,
if partner opens 1 ♥ and rebids 2 ♦ over your 1NT response, a false preference to 2♥ could work out well if opener has a forward-going hand, perhaps:♠A K 9 ♥ A Q 10 7 6 ♦K 9 4 3 ♣J.
Keeping the bidding open will allow opener to make one more move.
FAST PAIRS. The event is broken down into two or three fields based on masterpoints. Each field competes as a separate event. The flight for which a pair is eligible is determined by the masterpoint holding of the player with more masterpoints. Pairs may opt to play in a higher category but not in a lower one.
FAST PASS. An action at a speed that may improperly and unethically convey weakness. The prevention of a fast pass is one of the justifications for the skip-bid warning. When bidding boxes are in use, the Stop card takes the place of the skip-bid warning.
FAVORABLE VULNERABILITY. Not vulnerable against vulnerable. Penalties are smaller, so there are more opportunities for competitive bidding and sacrifices. Preempts are much more likely to prove effective, in part because vulnerable opponents will often push on instead of doubling for what might be a lesser score than the value of their game. On occasion, bidding on instead of doubling will result in a minus for the vulnerable opponents. Experienced players usually take the sure plus by doubling.
FEATURE, FEATURE SHOWING. A feature is usually defined as an ace or king (occasionally a queen) that may be of particular importance in a given deal. Showing of features in a hand through the bidding commences usually when a suit is agreed on and a game is assured. A familiar tool for responding to weak two-bids is to use 2NT as a feature-asking bid. Opener is directed to show a side ace or king if he is at the top of the range for his weak two-bid.
FIELD. All the players entered in an event.
FIFTH HONOR. The ten-spot of the trump suit.
FINAL BID. The last bid in the auction, followed by three consecutive passes. There can be no further bidding. The final bid becomes the contract.
FINESSE.The attempt to gain power for lower-ranking cards by taking advantage of the favorable position of higher-ranking cards held by the opposition.
The most common uses of the finesse are:
(1) To avoid losing a trick.
South cannot afford to lose a club trick. He therefore leads a club to North’s queen, finessing against the king.
If West has the king, the queen will win, and South will avoid a club loser.
West leads the ♠3, and South must avoid a spade loser. If South reads the position correctly, he will play the ♠10 from dummy, finessing against the ♠J. This enables South to avoid a spade loser.
(2) To gain a trick with low-ranking cards
Needing two heart tricks, South cashes North’s ace and leads toward his queen. If East holds the king, the queen will score a trick for South.
South needs one diamond trick. His best chance is to find West with both the A-K. He therefore leads toward the queen in the North hand.
(3)To prepare for a second finesse in the same suit. A finesse can often be used to create a second finesse. When this is done successfully, the second finesse usually results in the direct gain of a trick.
Needing two club tricks, South leads low to dummy’s 10. If this finesse loses to an honor in the East hand, declarer is in position to take two tricks via a second finesse if West has the remaining high honor.
Needing two spade tricks, South leads low toward the North hand. When West follows low, he finesses the 9. If West started with K-10 or Q-10, this will drive a high honor from the East hand and a second finesse of the jack will result in two tricks for South.
(4) To prepare for a pinning play in the same suit. A finesse can also be preparatory to a different form of trick-gaining play in a suit. By taking an early finesse, it may be possible to reduce the length of the suit in one enemy hand.
Needing three heart tricks, South leads low, and finesses dummy’s 7. East wins with the 10, but declarer later enters the North hand, and pushes the queen through East, blotting out the entire defensive holding. This combination of plays is now called an INTRA-FINESSE.
With some other suit as trump, South must develop two diamond tricks. He leads low from his hand, finessing North’s 8. Later, the queen is led from the North hand to ruff away East’s remaining honor. The suit will now fall after the second ruff.
(5) As an avoidance play. A finesse may prove useful for keeping a particular opponent off lead.
Against South’s 4♠ contract, West leads the ♠3. East plays two round of spades.
South now leads a club from dummy. If East follows low, South should finesse the 8! This is an avoidance play, designed to keep East off lead and avoid the killing play of the third trump.
If East has the ♣A, the next club lead will score the ♣K, and produce the game-going trick. However, if West has the ace, East can be prevented from leading the third round of trump. South later enters dummy with a heart, and leads a club to his king. This loses to West’s ace, but declarer cannot be prevented from ruffing his third club in dummy.
(6) As a safety play. A finesse is often part of a safety play.
South wishes to avoid losing two spade tricks. He cashes the ace and then leads toward dummy. If West follows with a small card, he finesses dummy’s 9 to guard against West having started with Q-10-x-x (See SAFETY PLAY).
South wishes to avoid losing two spade tricks. He leads from either hand, and finesses by playing low from the opposite hand. In this way, Q-J-x-x in either hand can be picked up with only one loser.
(7) To gain one or more entries
This hand demonstrates many techniques in the play of the cards. With best play on both sides, it hinges on repeated finesses to gain entries. South opens 4♠ in third position, and all pass. West leads the ♥K which holds. West cannot continue with the ♥A, for declarer will discard a diamond from his hand, later establishing the diamond suit by ruffing (see LOSER-ON-LOSER), preventing a lead through the ♣K. If West leads a lower heart, declarer will play the ♥J to force East’s queen. He will later pass the ♥8 to West while discarding a diamond and will thereby make his contract (see AVOIDANCE).
Nor can West profitably shift to diamonds. If West leads the ♦Q, declarer lets him hold the trick; if West leads the ♦2, declarer wins the king, draws trumps, leads a diamond and ducks West’s queen. (Declarer cannot succeed in this deal if he leads diamonds himself. He can lead to the ♦A and play a low diamond from both hands next, forcing West to win, but declarer cannot then unblock the ♦K before he draws trumps.) Since West cannot profitably lead clubs, his only chance is to shift to a trump. Because of the recurring finesse for entry position in the trump suit, it makes no difference which trump West plays.
Suppose West leads the ♠2. Declarer finesses dummy’s 4, which holds. The ♥J is played from dummy, East covers with the queen, and declarer ruffs with an honor. Now the ♦K and ♦A are cashed, West unblocking the ♦Q under the ♦K to avoid being thrown in with that card. The ♥8 is played. When East cannot cover, declarer’s last diamond is discarded.
West wins and cannot lead a club or a heart, so he plays another trump. Declarer finesses the 7 (or wins the king while unblocking from his hand if West plays the 8), underplaying with his 6, ruffs a diamond to establish the suit, re-enters dummy with the remaining spade, and runs the diamonds.
On this deal, two finesses were taken against West’s trump cards to obtain a third entry to dummy. Notice that if South must lead spades himself, he can enter dummy only twice against best defense by West.
FIRST HAND, FIRST SEAT. The dealer.
FIT. A term referring to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of two partnership hands in combination commonly used to refer specifically to the trump suit. When the deal as a whole is considered, the fit may be distributional. With a sound trump fit, a shortage in each hand in different suits is likely to lead to an effective crossruff.
When both hands are balanced or even have identical or “mirror” distribution, this is considered an unsatisfactory fit. Fit can also be considered in terms of honor cards, which may or may not be effective in play.
FIVE or FIVE-SPOT. The tenth-ranking card in a suit, having five pips of the suit to which it belongs.
FIVE OR SEVEN. A phrase indicating the type of partnership holdings on which a successful play makes a grand slam, but if the play is not successful, the opponents can cash a second trick immediately, holding the result to five-odd.
In rubber bridge, probably the grand slam contract should be preferred, but there may be situations at duplicate where a six-odd contract is tactically better, even though this is neither the maximum nor the safest contract.
FIVE-BID. Any bid at the five level, to take 11 tricks if it becomes the final contract. As an opening bid, it indicates a hand of unusual power. As a bid made during the auction, it may be a slam invitation or part of a specialized slam convention. To play 5♠ or 5♥ voluntarily and fail is one of the most ignominious results possible at the bridge table. Experts prefer to estimate slam possibilities below the game level. A direct bid of five in raising partner can also be an advance save.
FIXED. A colloquial term to describe a pair or team saddled with a bad score through no fault of their own. It was initially applied to a situation in which an opposing player made a technical error or suffered a legal misadventure and gained a good result thereby. His innocent opponents, who suffered, but probably not in silence, can say that they have been fixed. Now it can be any successful good play by a bad player or even being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as when an expert reaches a difficult contract at one’s table and brings it home. Some players have been known to complain about being fixed by their system, meaning that a bid that could extricate a pair from a difficult situation is not available because it has a meaning that would not be successful in the given case.
FLAT. (1) Hand: A hand without distributional values, particularly one with 4-3-3-3 distribution. “Square” and “round” are also used to describe this type of hand.(2) Board: A deal on which no variations in result are expected in the replays. In team play, a board in which the two scores are identical and therefore do not affect the score – known as a “push.”
FLIGHT. A division of a game in which competitors are separated according to the number of masterpoints held. Usually the top flight is open to all comers, while lower flights have upper masterpoint limits.
FLIGHTED TEAMS. An event that is broken down into two or three fields based on masterpoints. Each field competes as a separate event. The flight for which a team is eligible is determined by the masterpoint holding of the player with the most masterpoints. Teams may opt to play in a higher classification but not in a lower one. Often the breakdown is as follows:
- Flight A—0 to infinity
- Flight B—0-750
- Flight C—0-300
All teams are eligible to compete in Flight A. Only teams with fewer than 750 points for each player (Flight B limit) are eligible to play in Flight B. Only teams with fewer than 300 points for each player (Flight C limit) are eligible to play in Flight C. Teams eligible for Flight A only may compete in Flight A only.
FLOAT. A colloquialism meaning that three passes follow. “1NT, float” means 1NT - Pass - Pass - Pass. A similar term is swish. In the play, declarer may be said to float a card when he leads it and passes it for a finesse.
FLUKE. A lucky profit. An extreme case would be represented by a player dropping a card that appears disastrous but produces a brilliant result. It would also be considered a fluke if an inexperienced pair – with all their mistakes working out to their benefit – won in a field of much more accomplished players.
FOLLOWING SUIT. The legal obligation of each player to play a card of the suit led if possible.
FORCE. (1) Noun: Any bid making it incumbent upon the bidder’s partner to bid at least once more. (2) Verb: To cause to ruff; to cause a player to use a high card.
FORCED BID. A bid a player must make according to the system being played. When playing Cappelletti, for example, the partner of the player who overcalls 1NT with 2 ♣ must normally bid 2 ♦ if there is no intervening action.
FORCING. A bid or call requiring further action by partner.
FORCING BID. A bid that, because of system or convention, requires partner to keep the bidding open by making some call other than a pass if there is no intervening call.
Perhaps the most widely used forcing bids are the strong jump shift by an unpassed hand and a response of 1/1 (e.g., 1 ♣ - Pass – 1 ♥ ) or 2/1 (e.g., 1 ♠ - Pass – 2 ♦ ) by an unpassed hand.
FORCING CLUB. A bidding system in which a bid of 1 ♣ is strong, artificial and forcing. The most widely known system is Precision.
FORCING PASS. A pass that forces partner to take action – usually relevant in a competitive bidding context.
FORCING RAISE. Perhaps nothing in bidding has changed as much over the years as the way in which responder makes a forcing raise of opener’s suit, particularly when the opening is in a major suit. A double raise used to be the only way to indicate a forcing raise. Today, in a non-competitive auction, the double raise usually is a limit bid (even a weak raise in some systems). Diverse methods of showing the forcing raise have been developed, and the most prevalent in tournament play is a response of 2NT to an opening bid of one of a major to indicate a hand with at least four-card trump support and game-going values. There are many other methods that carry the same message.
FORCING REBID. A rebid by the opening bidder to show sufficient values for game even if responder has a minimum for his action.
FORCING SEQUENCE. A series of bids that requires the bidding to continue.
FORWARD GOING. Synonymous with “constructive” in the context of bidding.
FOUR or FOUR-SPOT. The eleventh-ranking card of each suit, designated by four pips of the suit symbol on the face.
FOUR-BID. A bid at the four level to take 10 tricks if it becomes the final contract.
FOUR-DEAL BRIDGE. The Chicago form of rubber bridge.
FOUR-ODD. Four tricks over book, or 10 tricks in all.
FOURTH HAND. The fourth player to have the opportunity to make a call or play to a trick. The player to the dealer’s right.
FOURTH-SUIT ARTIFICIAL. This usually refers to the convention known as fourth-suit forcing, which most players play as forcing to game.
FOUR-THREE-TWO-ONE COUNT. The elements of point-count hand evaluation.
FREE BID. A bid made by a player whose partner’s bid has been overcalled or doubled by right-hand opponent. A similar term, now obsolete, is voluntary bid.
FREE DOUBLE. A double of a contract that represents a game if undoubled. Usually confined to rubber bridge, when a partscore will convert an earlier partscore into game. If both sides have a partscore, judgment of a high level is required. All players may be straining their resources.
Doubles of game and slam contracts cannot properly be described as free.
FREE FINESSE. A defensive lead that allows declarer to take a finesse without the risk of losing the trick, or which allows him to take a finesse that could not normally be taken.
FREE RAISE. A single raise of opener’s suit after an overcall.
FRIGID. Another variation on “cold,” used to describe a contract that should make easily barring exceedingly poor play.
FULFILLING A CONTRACT. Taking as many tricks, in the play of the hand, as contracted for in addition to the book of six, i.e., eight tricks in a contract of two. A bonus of 50 points is awarded for a less-than-game contract in duplicate, 300 for a non-vulnerable game and 500 for a vulnerable game.
GADGET. A general reference to a bidding tool that can be added to standard bidding methods but that is not part of any system. Examples include Unusual over Unusual (a defense to the unusual 2NT, which shows minors, when opener’s suit is a major), Michaels cuebid and Puppet Stayman. Nearly all artificial bids could be considered gadgets.
GAME. In duplicate bridge, this is a bid for 3NT, four of a major suit or five of a minor suit.
GAME BONUS. Points awarded for bidding and making a game. In duplicate and Chicago, the award is 500 if vulnerable, 300 if not vulnerable. In rubber bridge, the award is 700 for winning a rubber two games to none and 500 for winning a rubber two games to one.
GAME CONTRACT. An undertaking of a contract which, if successful, will earn enough points in trick-score to make or complete the 100 required for a game. In notrump, three-odd; in hearts or spades, four-odd, and in clubs or diamonds, five-odd tricks produce at least the 100 points necessary from a love score. With a partscore, lower contracts become game contracts. Some rubber bridge players will double a game contract more freely than below-game contracts, although such tactics are misconceived.
GAME-FORCING BID. A bid that announces that the partnership should reach a game contract or higher, and thereby establishes a game-forcing situation.
GAME-FORCING SITUATION. A sequence of bids that, taken together, commit both members of a partnership to reach a game contract. These are also known as forcing sequences.
GAME-GOING. A term applied to any hand or bidding situation that promises to develop a game for the partnership.
GET A COUNT. To determine during play the number of cards held in one or more suits by one of the hidden hands. This can also refer to getting a count on the location of the opposition high cards.
GIN. Colloquialism indicating total certainty of making a contract: “When the heart finesse won, I was gin.”
GIVE COUNT. As a defender, to give a length signal to one’s partner.
GO DOWN. Fail to make a contract.
GO FOR A NUMBER. Suffering a heavy penalty, presumably in four figures, almost always doubled.
GO OFF. Fail to make a contract.
GO TO BED. Failure to take an obvious winner, usually an ace, and never taking a trick with it: “West went to bed with the ace of spades.”
GO UP. To play a high and possibly winning card when faced with a choice of playable cards.
GOLDEN RULE. The Golden Rule of bidding, as laid down by Alan Truscott, is that a suit should not be bid twice unless it has at least six cards. This applies to opener, responder, and the opponents of the opening bidder. Beginners do well to adhere to this rule, which is valid more than 90% of the time. Experienced players will be aware of some exceptions: (1) when a fit has been established, directly or by implication, (2) after a 2/1 response, guaranteeing a rebid in the modern style and (3) in a second suit. A player with 6-5 or 5-5 distribution can bid first suit, second suit and second suit again.
GOOD. An adjective used to describe a hand that is better than the simple point count would suggest, as in “a good 18.” This may be owing to distributional factors, to the presence of body (10s and 9s), to the location of honors in long suits or to a combination of these items.
Also a description of a set of cards that have been established during play and are winners ready to cash. This usually occurs toward the end of a deal and is expressed in a claim by declarer: “My hand is good” or “Dummy is good.”
In a wide sense, a player of a partnership holding good cards has more than a fair share of the honor strength. But the term is sometimes used in a more precise technical meaning, referring to honor cards that have improved in value as a result of the auction. In a competitive auction, the improvement may arise because the significant honors are over the opponent who has bid the suit – a positional factor.
GOREN POINT COUNT. Traditional method of valuation: ace = 4 points; king = 3; queen = 2; jack = 1. The method also incorporates distributional count.
GRAND SLAM. The winning of all 13 tricks by the declarer. The bonus for a grand slam, 1000 points when not vulnerable and 1500 when vulnerable, make a grand slam, bid and made, one of the best-rewarded accomplishments at rubber bridge, and one of the more effective methods of shooting at duplicate. While the general tendency among rubber bridge players is to avoid bidding grand slams except in ironclad situations, the mathematics of the game suggest rather freer acceptance of the risks involved in view of the large rewards.
For a brief period (1932-1935) the grand slam bonuses were higher than they are now: 1500 non-vulnerable, 2250 vulnerable.
GRASS ROOTS. A term used by ACBL to describe an event for which qualification begins at the club or unit level. Pairs or teams that qualify must further qualify at the district level in order to compete in the final stages at one of the ACBL major tournaments. The pairs events are known as North American Pairs and Grand National Teams.
GUARD (STOPPER). An honor holding in a suit that will or may prevent the opponents from running the suit.
A guard may be:
- (1) Positive: A, K-Q, Q-J-10, J-10-9-8, 10-9-8-7-6.
- (2) Probable: K-J-x, K-10-x, Q-J-x.
- (3) Possible: Q-x-x, J-9-x-x.
- (4) Positional: K-x.
- (5) Partial: K, Q-x, J-x-x, 10-x-x-x.
GUARDED HONOR or GUARDED SUIT. A high card with enough accompanying low cards that the high card will not be captured if the outstanding higher card(s) in the suit are cashed: e.g. K-x, Q-x-x, J-x-x-x. All are subject to capture, of course, from a positional standpoint, as when the doubleton king is led through and the ace is over the king.
GUIDE CARD. A card, usually printed, with prearranged instructions to each contestant, telling him which seat to occupy and which boards to play at each round. The guide card may also enable a contestant to check the positions and identities of his opponents.
Guide cards may be in the form of printed instruction cards remaining permanently at each table (suitable only for cyclic movements) or they may be in the form of separate cards to be hand-carried by each contestant (suitable for either cyclic or non-cyclic movements).
Guide cards are used for Howell movement pairs games, team games and individual contests.
HALF TRICK. A holding in a suit that will yield a trick about 50% of the time, although the valuation may change with information gained from the bidding. The most common half-trick holdings are A-Q and a guarded king. In the former, a finesse against the king is a priori a 50% proposition, as is a finesse against the ace in the latter. The bidding, however, may reveal that a finesse in either cases is doomed to failure.
HAND. Thirteen cards held by one player. Hand and “deal” (all 52 cards) technically are not synonymous, although popular usage has made them so. The term is also used to indicate the order in bidding rotation, as in “second hand” or “fourth hand.”
HAND HOG. A player who (often mistakenly) feels that he is better qualified than his partner to manage the hands as declarer. The usual method of operation is to pass with minimum opening bids but to respond with jumps in notrump.
HAND RECORDS. (1) Diagrams set up by players after a deal in a major match is completed; (2) the sheets on which individual computer-dealt hands are printed for distribution to players for duplication; (3) the sheets distributed to players at the conclusion of a game on which all the hands from that session are printed.
In some tournaments, particularly in Europe, players make a record of each hand after they have played it on the first round. This card is then placed with the hand in the pocket, and can be used by succeeding players to check whether the cards they hold are the ones that were originally dealt into that hand. Such hand records are known as Curtain Cards.
HARD VALUES. Aces and kings. Also known as “primary values.”
HANDICAP PAIRS. The Handicap Pairs is conducted like an Open Pairs game, but the scoring method is different. The game produces two sets of winners, scratch and handicap. The scratch standings are the same as they would be in an open game. However, the handicap standings are based on the scratch score plus handicaps that are awarded to make the event more evenly contested.
The handicap can be figured in either of two ways. First, it can be based on the players’ ranks (a measure of expertise), with more matchpoints awarded the lower the rank. Second, it can be based on recent performance as compiled either by the director or the computer. Full awards are given for scratch scores that place overall.
Fifty-percent awards are given for handicap scores that place overall. A pair that is eligible for matchpoints, both scratch and handicap, receives the higher of the two awards, not both.
HANDICAP KNOCKOUT TEAMS A handicap is assigned to each team based on a formula that takes experience and ability into consideration. The handicap is in the form of International Matchpoints (IMPs) and is added to the IMP total of the less experienced team. The winner is determined by the score after the handicap has been added in.
HEART. The symbol © for the second-ranking suit in bridge. Hearts are between spades and diamonds in ranking order. The suit designation originated in France in the 16th Century and takes its name from the shape of the pips used in designating card rank.
HIGH CARD. A ranking card, an honor card, a card that wins a trick by virtue of its being higher in pip value than the other three cards in the trick. A spot card that becomes the master card in the suit also is said to be high.
HIGH-CARD POINTS. A basis for determining the relative strength of a hand, especially for notrump contracts. The most common method for figuring high-card points is: ace = 4, king = 3, queen = 2, jack = 1. Many authorities also count an extra point for holding all four aces and a half point for each 10. Most of the schemes for opening notrump bids are based on this count.
The total of high-card points, taking into consideration suit lengths, often is used as a basis for opening the bidding with a suit bid. Usually a hand that contains a total of 13 points in combined high-card plus distributional points is considered an opening bid; a 12-point hand usually is considered optional, although the modern style has migrated more and more to light opening bids.
Great efforts by Charles Goren in many books and articles popularized the point-count method of bidding. Bridge players everywhere suddenly found they could estimate the strength of their hands reasonably accurately by using this method. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in notrump bidding. Goren told his students that 26 HCP in the partnership hands usually would be enough to produce game, and statistical studies have proved him correct.
The 4-3-2-1 method of evaluating high cards is not the only one that has been promulgated. It is acknowledged that the ace is somewhat undervalued using this count, so there also have been adherents of a 6-4-2-1 count. Another that has had its share of popularity is the 3-2-1-½ count. But the method used by the vast majority of players all over the world is the 4-3-2-1. Although it may not be the most accurate, it is easy to use and accurate enough to get a partnership to the correct bidding level the vast majority of the time.
HIT. Slang used as two distinct transitive verbs: (1) To double. (2) To ruff.
HOLD. (1) To possess a certain card or cards. A player will often start a problem or account of a bridge adventure with, “You hold ... ” (2) To win or guarantee the winning of a trick (by the play of a certain card), as in “hold the lead.” Thus, if partner plays the king when you hold the ace, and no ruff is impending, the king is said to hold the trick unless you decide to overtake it.
HOLD OFF. To refuse to play a winning card.
HOLD UP. The refusal to win a trick.
HOLDING. (1) The cards one is dealt in a particular suit, as in the expression, “a club holding of king, queen and two low.” (2) A descriptive term used in reckoning one’s entire hand, and often used in the question, “What would you bid holding five spades to the ace-queen. . .?”
HONOR SCORE. An extra bonus in rubber bridge and in Chicago scored above the line when claimed by a player (declarer, dummy, or defender) who held during the current deal any of certain honor card holdings as follows: 100 points for holding any four of the five top trump honors, 150 points for all five trump honors and 150 points for all the aces at notrump. Honors are not scored at duplicate.
HONORS. The five highest-ranking cards in each suit, specifically – for the purpose of scoring honor premiums – the ace, king, queen, jack, and 10 of the trump suit or the four aces at notrump.
HOOK. Colloquialism for a finesse.
HOSPITALITY. The general term for efforts by a host unit at a bridge tournament to make the players feel more comfortable and welcome. Among the forms that hospitality takes are souvenir programs and pencils; free juice, coffee or soft drinks; after-game refreshments; between-sessions buffets and even dinners; after-session dancing; morning tours to places of local interest; style shows and brunches; panel discussions; daily bulletins, etc.
ICY. Synonym for cold, as in a “cold contract.”
IMP. Abbreviation for International Matchpoint.
IMP PAIRS. An IMP Pairs event is played like a regular pair event but is scored in a totally different way. A basic score is set for each board—usually an average of all the scores compiled on that board. Sometimes the top and bottom scores are eliminated before the average is taken so that extreme scores will have less impact on the average. Then your score is algebraically compared with the average and translated into International Matchpoints (IMPs) according to the IMP formula. The IMP scale is printed on the ACBL convention card.
IN BACK OF. A term describing the relationship of a player to the opponent on his right; i.e., a player who plays after the player on his right is said to be “in back of” that player. Equivalent terms are “over” and “behind.”
Individual Events. The individual game is the only form of duplicate bridge in which you do not have a partner chosen by you. The game is set up in such a way that each player is a separate contestant who plays with a multitude of different partners. Sometimes you play only one board with each partner; other times you play two or three, rarely more.
IN FRONT OF. The phrase used to describe the relationship between a player and his left-hand opponent; i.e., the player who plays before another player is said to be “in front of” that player. An equivalent term is “under.”
IN THE RED. A seeming paradox in bridge terminology: In rubber bridge or Chicago it would mean being a loser, but in duplicate, it describes a score good enough to earn masterpoints, because rankings that qualify for points used to be indicated in red on the recap sheet before computer scoring.
INITIAL BID. The first bid of any deal.
INITIAL LEAD. The first lead of any deal.
INSTANT MATCHPOINT PAIRS. A very special method of scoring is used for the Instant Matchpoint Pairs, a rare event—it is run only three times annually by the ACBL.
Identical hands are played throughout the ACBL (throughout the world in the Worldwide Pairs). As soon as the hand is played, the players can learn their Instant Matchpoint result by looking at the traveling score. All hands are scored in advance. A good-looking program book is distributed to all players at the conclusion of the game in which each and every hand is thoroughly analyzed by an expert.
INSTANT SCORER. A small sheet that lists all possible scores for all possible contracts.
INSULT. The 50-point penalty the doubling side pays for doubling a contract that the declaring side makes. The insult bonus is 100 if the contract succeeds when redoubled.
INTERIOR CARD. An intermediate card; formerly, the second card in sequence, as the jack in a holding of queen, jack, and others.
INTERIOR SEQUENCE. A sequence within a suit such that the top card of the suit is not a part of the sequence, as the Q-J-10 in a holding of A-Q-J-10, or the J-10-9 in a holding of A-J-10-9. Some experts play that the lead of the jack against notrump denies a higher honor, and therefore lead the 10 from A-J-10 and K-J-10. By extension, a lead of the 10 can promise a higher honor by partnership agreement. The 9 would then be led from a holding headed by 10-9.
INTERMEDIATE CARDS. Usually 10s and nines, occasionally eights, all of which add “body” to a suit and improve its valuation.
INTERNATIONAL MATCHPOINTS (abbreviated IMP). A method of scoring used in most team events, especially Swiss teams and knockouts, and occasionally in pairs events.
INTERMEDIATE PAIRS. Only new and inexperienced players are eligible to play in the Intermediate Pairs. Upper masterpoint limits vary.
INTERVENTION, INTERVENOR. Action by a player (intervenor) when the opponents have opened the bidding.
INVITATION, INVITATIONAL BID. A bid that encourages the bidder’s partner to continue to game or slam, but offers the option of passing if there are no reserve values in terms of high-card strength or distribution.
JACK. The fourth-ranked card in the deck. In some countries, the jack is known as the knave, and it is one of the so-called “coat cards.”
JETTISON. The discard of a high-ranking honor, usually an ace or a king, to effect an unblock or other advanced play.
JUMP BID. A bid at a level higher than is necessary to raise the previous bid. A bid of two or more than necessary is termed a double jump, etc. Skip bid is a more general term, embracing jumps to any level.
JUMP SHIFT. A new suit response at a level one higher than necessary:
In standard methods this shows a hand of great strength that can almost guarantee a slam (19 points or more including distribution). The hand is usually one of four types: a good fit with opener’s suit, a strong single-suiter, a strong two-suiter or a balanced hand with more than 18 points.
JUNIOR. In international competition, a player 25 years old or younger.
JUNIOR PAIRS. Both members of all pairs must be age 25 or under of age in order to compete in the Junior Pairs. It is run along the lines of Open Pairs.
JUNIOR TEAMS. All members are younger than 26.
JUNK. A term used to describe a hand or a holding felt to be particularly valueless by the person describing it.
KEEPING THE BIDDING OPEN. Bidding instead of passing. This can apply when responding to an opening bid or to the action of balancing.
KEY CARD. Each of the aces and the king of the agreed trump suit when using any of the key card ace-asking bids.
KIBITZER. An non-playing onlooker at bridge or other games.
KILLED. (1) Captured, as in, “The king was killed by the ace.” (2) The fate of a player or pair playing well but scoring badly. At duplicate, the term implies that the opponents have played luckily and well on a group of boards. At rubber bridge, it would refer to a session of poor cards and bad breaks. The term is always born of frustration and frequently of a desire to avoid admissions to one’s teammates or oneself of poor play; (3) Denuded of whatever entries it may have had, as “The spade lead killed the dummy.”
KISS OF DEATH. A penalty of 200 points on a partscore deal in a pairs contest, usually down two vulnerable or down one doubled vulnerable.
KITCHEN BRIDGE. A social game, perhaps within a family, with little emphasis on technique and skill.
KNAVE. The jack, the fourth-highest ranking card of a suit. This term is obsolete in American usage, and obsolescent elsewhere, although it had considerable currency in England and Continental Europe until the Forties. One reason for the quick acceptance of the term “jack” instead of “knave” is that in reporting hands or in any abbreviated diagram or description of play, the initial J can be used, whereas previously “Kn” had to be used because a plain K would have been ambiguous.
KNOCKOUT TEAMS. An event with a descriptive name: Contestants play head-to-head matches scored by IMPs (International Matchpoints), and the loser is eliminated or “knocked out.” The major world championships are contested as knockouts (usually after a series of qualifying rounds) and three major North American championships are played in knockout format – the Vanderbilt, the Spingold and the Grand National Teams. Bracketed knockout teams are the most popular form of the contest and are featured at most regional tournaments today. Especially at large regionals and NABCS, losers in the KOs usually do not have to wait more than half a day to enter another knockout event. There are many different formats for KOs, all of which can be found in Tournaments.
LAYDOWN. A colloquial adjective describing a contract so solid (or seemingly so) that declarer can claim virtually as soon as dummy is exposed. Of course, surprising things happen to “laydown” contracts with disconcerting frequency. Pianola is a synonym.
LEAD THROUGH. To lead through a particular opponent is to initiate the lead in the hand to the right of that opponent, forcing that opponent to play to the trick before the leader’s partner plays to it. A dubious tenet of defensive play is to lead “through strength and up to weakness.”
LEAD UP TO. To lead, in defense, with the object of enabling partner’s hand to win a trick because of weakness in the hand on the leader’s right. Occasionally, a strong hand may be led up to, when the object is not necessarily to win the trick.
LEADER. The person who first plays to any given trick. The person who leads at trick one is known as the opening leader.
LEAGUE. Informally, the ACBL. Also, an organization (also called association, federation or union) that may be on a local, regional, national or international scale. Members of the league may be individuals, clubs, teams or other groupings.
LEFT-HAND OPPONENT. The player on your left, abbreviated LHO. In assessing penalties, there has been a differentiation between left- and right-hand opponents in respects to power or right to invoke penalties. Generally, however, the term is restricted to use in describing situations on play. A colloquialism is “Lefty.”
LENGTH. The number of cards in a particular suit, usually referring to five or more, as opposed to strength, a reference to the high-card values held in a suit.
LEVEL. The “odd-trick” count in excess of the book – that is, each trick over six. Thus, an overcall of two (suit or notrump) is at the two level, contracting to make eight tricks. An opening bid of four is said to be made at the four level.
LHO. Left-hand opponent.
LIFE MASTER PAIRS. All contestants must be Life Masters.
LIGHT. (1) Down in a contract – “He was two light.” (2) Fewer than standard values, especially in opening the bidding.
LIMIT BID. A bid with a limited point-count range. Although a traditional forcing jump raise (1 ♠ – Pass – 3 ♠) is limited in the wide sense of the term, limit is normally applied only to non-forcing bids below the game level. With some exceptions, a bid is limited and non-forcing if it is in notrump, if it is a raise, if it is a preference or if it is a minimum rebid in a suit previously bid by the same player.
Opening notrump bids are invariably limited. Once it has been decided that a certain bid is limited, the vital question arises: How wide can the limits be? The nearer the bidding is to game, the closer the limits must be.
When the bidding reaches 2NT with the possibility of 3NT, or when the bidding reaches 3♠, there is no longer any margin for exploration. So to give partner the chance to make an accurate decision, all such bids must have a range of approximately 2 points.
Thus, 1♥ – Pass – 2NT by a passed hand shows 11–12, and 1♥ – Pass – 1NT – Pass; 2NT shows 17–19. Similarly 1♠ – Pass – 3♠ by a passed hand shows 10-11 or the equivalent, and 1♥– Pass – 1♠ – Pass; 3♠ shows 17–18 or the equivalent. All these are typical encouraging bids, indicating that the partnership has a minimum of 23-24 points and urging partner on to game if he has a little more than his promised minimum.
Conversely, any bid of 1NT and any limited bid of two of a suit can afford a range of 3 or 4 points because there is still room for partner to make an encouraging bid below the game level. So 1♥ – Pass – 1NT or 1♥ – Pass – 2♥ are each 6-9 (and may have to stretch a little), and 1♥– Pass – 1♠ – Pass; 2♠ is 13–16, or the distributional equivalent.
LOCK. A colloquial term used principally in postmortems to mean a 100% sure play or contract. For example, “Four spades was a lock.”
LOCKED (IN OR OUT OF A HAND). To win a trick in a hand from which it is disadvantageous to make the lead to the next (or some later) trick is to be locked in. It usually refers to an endplay against a defender (as in a “throw-in”) or to a declarer who is forced to win a trick in the dummy hand, when he has high cards established in his own hand, which he is unable to enter. Locked out refers to situations in which established cards in dummy cannot be cashed because an entry is not available.
LONG CARDS. Cards of a suit remaining in a player’s hand after all other cards of that suit have been played.
LONG HAND. The hand of the partnership that has the greater length in the trump suit, or, in notrump play, the hand that has winners that are or may be established. This can have application in avoidance plays.
LONG SUIT. A suit in which four or more cards are held. Frequently the term is used in connection with a hand of little strength but with great length in a particular suit.
LONG TRUMP. Any card of the trump suit remaining after all other players’ cards of the suit have been played.
LOSER. A card that must lose a trick to the adversaries if led or if it must be played when the suit is led by an adversary. At notrump, all cards below the ace and not in sequence with it are possible losers, but may become winners if the play develops favorably. At a suit contract, the same may be said with the exception that losers may possibly be ruffed. A distinction must be made between possible losers and sure losers. The former may be discarded on a suit that has been established, or they may be ruffed. Occasionally it is an effective strategy to discard a loser on a winner led by an opponent. If a loser cannot be disposed of, it must, of course, lose a trick to the opponents.
LOW CARD. Any card from the two to the nine, sometimes represented by an “x” in card or hand descriptions. Sometimes inappropriately called “small” card.
MAJOR SUIT. Either of the two highest-ranking suits, hearts and spades, so characterized because they outrank the third and fourth suits in the bidding and scoring. The term is sometimes shortened to “major.”
MAJOR TENACE. An original holding of ace-queen (without the king) of a suit. After one or more rounds of a suit have been played, the highest and third-highest remaining cards of the suit in the hand of one player are called a major tenace (when the second highest remaining card is not held by the same player).
MAKE. Used in bridge in four different senses. As a verb, it may mean (1) to shuffle the deck, as in “make the board,” (2) to succeed in a contract, (3) to win a trick by the play of a card. As a noun, it means (4) a successful contract but usually a hypothetical one in the postmortem: “Five diamonds would have been a make.”
MARKED CARD. (1) A card that is known, from the previous play, to be in a particular hand. (2) A damaged card. (3) A card fixed so that it can be read in a cheating situation.
MARKED FINESSE. A finesse that is certain to win because (1) an opponent shows out, (2) the position of an honor has been pinpointed by the bidding or (3) the previous play has indicated the location of a crucial opposing card.
MASTER CARD. The highest unplayed card of a suit. It can also be thus characterized while actually being played.
MASTER HAND. The hand that controls the situation – more particularly, the one that controls the trump suit, leading out high trumps to prevent adverse ruffs and retaining a trump or two to prevent the adverse run of a long side suit. It is usually declarer’s hand, but sometimes, when declarer’s trumps are more valuable for ruffing, dummy is made the master hand as in a dummy reversal.
MASTER PAIRS. A Master Pairs is usually run in conjunction with a Non-Master Pairs. An arbitrary lower limit of masterpoints is set, and at least one member of every pair must have at least that number of masterpoints. The game itself is run along the lines of Open Pairs.
MASTER TEAMS. A Master Teams usually run in conjunction with a Non-Master Teams. An arbitrary lower limit of masterpoints is set, and at least one member of each team must have at least that number of masterpoints.
MASTERPOINT. A measurement of achievement in bridge competition (ACBL). In general, at tournaments, the larger the field and the more expert the competitors (as in the Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs), the greater the masterpoint award will be for those who place in the overall. Masterpoints at clubs are usually limited, although special games can increase the payoff.
MATCH. A session or event of head-to-head competition between two pairs or two teams.
MATCH PLAY. A team-of-four contest in which two teams compete for an appreciable number of boards.
MATCHPOINT. A credit awarded to a contestant in a pairs or individual event for a score superior to that of another contestant in direct competition.
MIDDLE CARD. The middle card of an original three-card holding. Generally referred to in connection with opening leads.
MINIMUM. The least possible for a particular action. It can apply to suit length or high-card points. Examples: (1) 12 HCP to open bidding; (2) 6 HCP for a response to an opening suit bid; (3) 15 HCP for a strong 1NT opening bid; (4) 4 HCP for a positive response to an forcing two-bid; (5) a six-card suit for a preemptive bid, etc.MINI-KNOCKOUT TEAMS The Mini-Knockout Teams consists of a series of very short matches. It is designed to produce a winner in just one session of play. It often is played as a midnight game at regionals and NABCs. It’s often called a Lose and Snooze Teams because the winners play on while the losers can get to bed a little earlier.
MINI-NOTRUMP. An opening 1NT with a range considerably lower than the standard 15-17 high-card points – usually 10-12 HCP. Other very weak ranges are sometimes used, but are often barred by organizing bodies. Lighter 1NT openings are allowed by ACBL, but conventional responses (including Stayman) are prohibited.
MINOR PENALTY CARD. A single card below honor rank that is exposed (faced) inadvertently – as by accidentally dropping it on the table face up – is a minor penalty card.
MINOR SUIT. Either of the two lower-ranking suits, diamonds or clubs.
MINOR TENACE. An original holding of king-jack (without the ace or queen) of a suit. After one or more rounds of a suit have been played, the second and fourth highest remaining cards of the suit in the hand of one player are also called a minor tenace.
MIRROR DISTRIBUTION. Both partners have identical suit distribution. Also known as Duplication of Distribution.
MISBOARD. Replacement of hands in the wrong slots in duplicate play. If the next table is unable to play the board, the guilty pair or pairs may be penalized. A misboard may also occur during duplication.
MISERE. A bad line of play that seems guaranteed to fail. The name comes from solo and other card games in which it may be desirable to lose tricks. An alternative term is butcher.
MISFIT. A situation in which two hands opposite each other are unbalanced, each containing two long suits and extreme shortages or voids in the third and fourth suits, and further, where these lengths are met by shortages in partner’s hand, and the short suits correspondingly are met by lengths in the reverse hand. Where not even one 4-4 or better trump fit can be found in a set of 26 cards, the deal may be said to be a misfit as respects those two hands.
MISINFORMATION. Incorrect information given to opponents. It includes such items as wrong explanations of bids, incorrect rulings by the director and incorrect advisories on signaling methods. Rulings by directors are subject to review if players feel the director made a wrong interpretation or applied the wrong Law. Situations involving misinformation given to opponents frequently are subject to appeal.
MIXED PAIRS. All pairs must consist of one man and one woman.
MIXED TEAMS. A Mixed Teams comprises at least two men and two women. The maximum number of team members is six, and the breakdown by gender must be as even as possible—for instance, with a six-player team, three must be men and three must be women. The team at all times must field mixed pairs—at no time may a pair consist of two men or two women. The event can be a Knockout, a Board-a-Match or a Swiss.
MONSTER. A bridge hand of great trick-taking potential either because of a preponderance of high-card winners or because of concentrated strength in long suits and extreme shortness in weak suits. Also, a very big score, usually in a single session – a big game.
MOVE. The change of seats in duplicate bridge after a round has been completed.
MOYSIAN FIT. A contract in which declarer’s trump suit is divided 4-3, usually thus described when the selection is made deliberately. Named for Alphonse Moyse Jr., whose ardent advocacy of this choice was part of his case in favor of opening four-card majors and raising with three trumps.
NATURAL CALL. A call that reflects the character of the hand, suggests a suitable final strain and does not have an artificial or semi-artificial meaning. A bid is not natural if it promises possession of a specific other suit.
NEGATIVE RESPONSE. An artificial response that shows weakness.
NEWCOMER. The term for a new player, replacing the out-of-favor “novice.”
NEWCOMER PAIRS. A Newcomer Pairs, which is run along the lines of Open Pairs, is for new players only. Usually, the upper masterpoint limit is 5.
NEWCOMER TEAMS. All members of every team have fewer than a previously determined number of masterpoints. The event usually is run either as a Swiss or a Knockout.
NLM. See Non-Life Master.
NON-FORCING. Description of a bid that can be passed by the partner of the player making the bid.
NON-LIFE MASTER (NLM). (1)Any ACBL member who has not achieved the rank requirements for Life Master. Non-Life Master ranks include Rookie, Junior Master, Club Master, Regional Master, NABC Master and Advanced NABC Master. (2) Games for players who have not yet achieved the rank of Life Master. NLM games are generally offered in a variety of masterpoint ranges such as 0-5, 0-20, 0-50, 0-100, 0-200 and 0-500.
NON-MASTER PAIRS. A Non-Master Pairs is usually run in conjunction with a Master Pairs. An arbitrary upper limit of masterpoints is set, and both members of every pair must have that number of masterpoints or less. The game itself is run along the lines of Open Pairs.
NON-MASTER TEAMS. A Non-Master Teams is usually run in conjunction with a Master Teams. An arbitrary upper limit of masterpoints is set, and all members of each team must have no more than that number of masterpoints.
NON-VULNERABLE. Not vulnerable.
NORMAL EXPECTANCY. The holding in either high cards or distribution that a player might expect in partner’s hand when he decides whether to open the bidding. For an unpassed partner, this can be roughly approximated as one-third of the missing high cards or high-card points, and one-third of the remaining cards in the suit. Partner’s responses and future actions modify this concept as the bidding progresses.
NORTH. A position in a bridge foursome or in a bridge diagram opposite South and to the left of West. In duplicate games, scoring is usually done by North (although in some countries it is always South), a matter designated by the sponsoring organization. In print and electronic media, North is usually the dummy.
NOT VULNERABLE. A term applied to a side that is subject to smaller rewards and penalties.
NOTRUMP. A ranking denomination in which a player may bid at bridge. Notrump is just above spades in precedence. Only nine tricks are necessary for game at notrump because the first trick over book of six counts 40 points and the subsequent tricks are 30 points each, as in a major suit. As the name denotes, contracts in notrump are played without a trump suit. The play therefore is entirely different from that of suit contracts, one of the chief differences being that declarer, while planning his line of play, attempts to count winners rather than losers. At notrump, a primary concern of the side contracting for game or partial is stoppers in the suits bid or held by the opponents. More game contracts are played at notrump than at any other denomination. In Britain, it is normal to use two words and pluralize the second: “no trumps.” The hyphenated form – “no-trump” – is a compromise in common usage in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
NOTRUMP DISTRIBUTION. Balanced distribution.
NPC. Non-playing captain.
NUISANCE BID. A bid made to hinder the opponents by disrupting the flow of their bidding.
NUMBER. Used as in “going for a number,” after having been doubled for penalty. Number as used here refers to the high numerical value of a set contract that a competitor sustains (e.g., 500, 800, 1100). A number usually represents a loss because it exceeds the value of the score the opponents could have obtained on their own by declaring the contract plus any bonuses that might be connected to the fulfillment of their contract.
ODD TRICK. A trick won by declarer in excess of the first six tricks. The term is a holdover from whist, in which the winning of the odd trick was paramount.
OFFENDER. The player who commits an irregularity (Laws).
OFFENSE. The attack. An offensive play or bid is an attacking move, as distinguished from a defensive play or bid. This is not to be confused with declarer or defender because both must take offensive or defensive positions with certain suit holdings. Also, a breach of law (Laws).
OFFICIAL SCORE. In duplicate bridge, the account prepared by the director (or the official scorer) that sets forth each contestant’s score for each board, his score and rank for the session and for the event. Scoring can be done via written pickup slips or by wireless scoring devices. The final scores are posted after the last result is made available to the director. The final score becomes the official score after expiration of the correction period.
OFFSIDE. A card so placed that a finesse, if taken, will lose: “The king was offside.”
OFFSIDE DOUBLE. A penalty double, usually of a game contract in a suit, based on an inference by the doubler that his partner has trump length. The bidding may have made it clear that the declaring side is at full stretch, with borderline game values.
ONE-BID. A bid contracting to win one odd trick, seven tricks in all.
ONE-SUITER. A hand with a suit at least six cards long that contains no other suit with more than three cards.
ONSIDE. A card so placed that a finesse, if taken, will win: “The king was onside.”
OPEN. (1) To make the first bid in a given auction, (2) to lead to the first trick in the play, (3) description of a tournament contest (pairs and teams) in which any pair or team of whatever constituency may play, (4) description of a room in a championship event in which spectators may be present in somewhat substantial numbers as opposed to a closed room that is limited as to both audience and accessibility, (5) description of a club game in which anyone may play.
OPEN HAND. The dummy’s hand, exposed on the table, as distinguished from the closed hand of the declarer.
OPEN PAIRS. Any two players can compete as partners—no restrictions of any kind.
OPEN TEAMS. In an Open Teams there are no restrictions on the makeup of the teams—except the numerical limit is six. The event can be run as one of the three basic types.
OPENING BID. The first call in the auction other than a pass.
OPENING BIDDER or OPENER. The player who makes the first bid of an auction.
OPPONENT. A member of the adverse team or pair at bridge.
OPPOSITION. (1) The opponents at the table on a deal, set of deals or rubber; (2) the contestants in direct competition (in some cases, pairs sitting the same direction as you), (3) the balance of the field, (4) the other team in a head-on team event.
OVER. One’s position at the table in respect to one’s right-hand opponent.
OVERBID. A call offering to undertake a contract for a greater number of tricks than is justified by the bidder’s holding. In competitive auctions or auctions that are likely to become competitive, an apparent overbid may be an advance save or sacrifice.
OVERBIDDER. A player who consistently bids higher than his high-card and distributional strength justify. Playing with an overbidder, it is an accepted strategy to be conservative.
OVERBOARD. The state of being too high in a given auction.
OVERCALL. In a broad sense, any bid by either partner after an opponent has opened the bidding.
OVERRUFF. To ruff higher than the right-hand opponent after a plain-suit lead. Sometimes incorrectly called “overtrump.”
OVERTRICK. A trick taken by declarer in excess of the number of tricks required for his contract. If a player is in 4 ♠ and takes 12 tricks, he has made two overtricks. If a contract is doubled or redoubled, and overtricks are taken, the premium accruing to declarer’s side can be substantial. Under certain conditions, redoubled overtricks can be worth more than the corresponding slam premium. At duplicate, making an overtrick can be all-important – it can actually win a board or even an entire tournament.
PAIR. A twosome or partnership of two players. All games at bridge come down to the basic competitive situation of pair versus pair, bridge being a partnership, or pairs, game.
PAR. The result on a deal if both sides have done as well as possible.
PAR HAND. A hand prepared for use in a par contest. By extension, a randomly dealt hand suitable for inclusion in such a contest because a single technical aspect of play or defense is dominant.
PARTNER. The player with whom one is paired in a game of bridge.
PARTNERSHIP. The two players sitting North-South or the two players sitting East-West. Players who play together frequently are considered to be an established partnership. Players who pair up for a particular event, having played together either seldom or never, have a more casual partnership.
PARTSCORE. A partial; a trick score of fewer than 100 points. At rubber bridge, a successful partscore counts toward game and enables one pair to make game by fulfilling an additional partscore or partscores.
If one side scores a game while the other side has a partscore, that frame ends and both sides start anew in pursuit of game. But that partscore still is added at the end of the rubber (or, in Chicago, after the fourth deal).
In duplicate, the score for making a partial is the sum of the trick score and 50.
PASS. A call by which a player indicates that, at that turn, he does not choose to contract for a number of odd tricks at any denomination, nor does he choose, at that turn, to double a contract of the opponents or redouble a contract by his side that opponents have doubled.
The proprieties require that only one term be used in passing. “No bid” is an acceptable alternative (standard in England), but all calls must be made with uniform usage. The widespread use of bidding boxes has virtually eliminated this as an issue.
PASS OUT or THROW IN. A deal in which all four players pass on the first round of bidding. The score is zero. In duplicate, the deal is scored and returned to the board. Some players believe, mistakenly, that the board can be redealt if passed out on the first round. This is illegal. In rubber bridge, the deal passes to the next player, but in Chicago, a redeal by the same dealer is required. The term “pass out” is also applied to the action of the player who, after two passes, declines to reopen the bidding at a comparatively low level. He is said to be in the “passout seat” or the “passout position.”
PASSED HAND. A player who has passed at his first turn to bid.
PASSOUT SEAT. The position of a player who can end the bidding by making the third consecutive pass.
PATTERN. In general, a reference to hand patterns indicating the number of cards held in each suit – 4-3-3-3, 5-3-3-2, 7-2-2-2, etc. Note that 4-3-3-3 indicates any four-card suit with three cards in the other suits, whereas 4=3=3=3 indicates four spades and three cards each in hearts, diamonds and clubs.
PEARSON POINT COUNT. A guideline for deciding to open the bidding in fourth seat. At one time, the general guideline was that if the total of high-card points and spades held was 14 or more, the bidding should be opened. Most players today use 15 (HCP plus spades) as the benchmark.
PENALTY. The adjustment made in the case of an irregularity or rule violation. The minus score incurred by a player whose contract is defeated.
PENALTY PASS. A pass by a player after a takeout double or balancing double by his partner and a pass by right-hand opponent. For example, if your left-hand opponent opened 1 ♠, your partner doubled for takeout and RHO passed, you would convert the takeout double to penalty by passing if you held:
♠Q J 10 9 8 ♥K 10 4 ♦7 3 ♣Q J 8
Similarly, if you held:
♠5 4 ♥A J 10 9 6 ♦A J 9 ♣Q 7 6
and heard your RHO open 2 ♥, you would pass for penalty if your partner balanced with a double after LHO’s pass.
PERCENTAGE. A quotient obtained by dividing the actual matchpoint score of a contestant by the possible score of that contestant, which is then expressed as a percentage of the possible score. A score of 190 in a game with 13 rounds of two boards each and a top of 12 (312 maximum) would work out to 60.89% (190 divided by 312).
PERCENTAGE PLAY. A play influenced by mathematical factors when more than one reasonable line of play is available. For example, supposed you have a two-way guess for a queen – K-J-8-3 opposite A-10-5-4. If you could ascertain that one opponent had three of the suit and the other two, unless you had other information to guide you (e.g., from the bidding) the percentage play would be to finesse for the queen against the opponent holding three of the suit.
PERFECT BRIDGE HAND. A hand that will produce 13 tricks in notrump irrespective of the opening lead or the composition of the other three hands.
PERMANENT TRUMP. At whist, a variation in which club card committees or other governing bodies declared a suit to be trump for all games under their jurisdiction. The rules of whist provided that the trump suit was the suit of the last card dealt by the dealer to himself.
PHANTOM PAIR. In a pairs game with an odd number of pairs, the pair that would (if present) complete the last table. The contestants scheduled to play against the phantom pair have a bye round.
PHANTOM SACRIFICE. A sacrifice bid against a contract that would have been defeated. Also known as a phantom save. For example, a bid of 5♦ doubled, down two for minus 300, looks good against a vulnerable 4♥ contract, which would have been minus 620 for your side – until you determine that the opponents’ limit in a heart contract was nine tricks.
PIANOLA. A contract at bridge that presents no problems to declarer, so easily makeable that it almost plays itself. The name derives from the old player piano or “pianola” that would “play” itself.
PICK UP. To capture or “drop” an outstanding high card, as in picking up or dropping a doubleton queen offside by playing the ace and king rather than taking an available finesse. Similarly, to drop a singleton king offside by eschewing a finesse and playing the ace. This action is usually the result of declarer’s determining that the key card must be offside, making a finesse a sure loser.
PIP. A small design indicating the suit to which a particular card belongs. The spade suit is indicated by a spearhead, the heart suit by a heart, the diamond suit by a diamond, the club suit by a clover leaf. The spot cards have as many pips as the rank of the card indicates, from 1 (ace) to 10 in the standard deck, in addition to two indices, the lower half of which is a pip. In German cards, the pips of leaves and acorns usually have stems, and are often attached as if on a branch. In the Trappola Pack, the pips often vary in size and design, and the swords and cudgels are usually interlaced.
PITCH. A colloquial term for discard.
PITCH COUNT. An old name for the 4-3-2-1 point count.
PLAIN SUIT. A suit other than the trump suit.
PLATINUM POINTS. Masterpoints awarded by the ACBL in nationally rated events with no upper masterpoint limit at North American Championships. ACBL’s Player of the Year is determined on platinum points earned in a calendar year. Similarly, qualification for the Norman Kay Platinum Pairs, which debuted in 2010, is strictly by platinum masterpoints.
PLAYER NUMBER. The seven-digit number assigned to each member upon joining the ACBL. When the player becomes a Life Master, the first number changes to a letter, starting with J for 1, K for 2, etc.
PLAYING TRICKS. Tricks that a hand may be expected to produce if the holder buys the contract; attacking tricks or winners, as distinguished from defensive tricks or winners when the holder must play against an adverse contract. In estimating the trick-taking strength of a hand, the holder assumes that his long suit (or suits) will break evenly among the other three hands unless the auction indicated otherwise, and adds the number of tricks his long suit (or suits) is likely to yield to his quick-trick total of the other suits. For example, the following hand
♠ K 5 ♥ A Q J 8 6 2 ♦ A Q 7 ♣ 9 3
contains about seven playing tricks: five in hearts, ½ quick trick in spades, 1½ quick tricks in diamonds.
When the long suit is not solid or semi-solid, estimation of playing tricks becomes more difficult because a second factor must be considered – the position of the missing honor cards. Thus, a suit such as ♥K J 8 6 5 3 is worth approximately 3½ playing tricks. With normal distribution, declarer might make four tricks if he can lead toward the suit or find the missing honors well placed, but he could be limited to two or three tricks.
Assessment of playing tricks is particularly important when considering a preemptive bid or an overcall. The Rule of Two and Three is one guideline.
POCKET. One of four rectangular areas in a duplicate board that hold the four hands, designated North, South, East and West.
POINTED. A term coined to describe the spade suit and the diamond suit because the suits have pips that are pointed at the top. The converse (rounded suits) indicates hearts and clubs.
POINTS. (1) The score earned by a pair as a result of the play of a hand, including trick points, premium scores and bonus. (2) A unit by which a hand is evaluated (point count). (3) The holding of masterpoints that have been credited to a player-member in any national contract bridge organization that has a masterpoint system.
POSITION. The place at a table occupied by a player. The various positions are called by the compass points: i.e., North, South, East and West. Also, “position” can describe one’s place in the order of bidding during a given auction. “Second position” means that position directly to the left of the dealer. “Fourth position” is the seat to the dealer’s right. Position also can refer to where an individual, pair or team places in a set of standings.
POSITIVE RESPONSE. A natural constructive response in a forcing situation where there is a bid available for an artificial negative or waiting response.
POSTMORTEM. A term applied to the discussion of bridge hands after conclusion of play or any time thereafter. Generally speaking, postmortems can be of significant value when engaged in by experts, as points of great interest are sometimes highlighted by this type of discussion, and unusual features of a hand often are brought into better perspective.
POWERHOUSE. A descriptive term usually signifying a hand that is very strong in high-card points, but it can apply to one that has extraordinary playing strength.
PRE-ALERT. In ACBL tournaments, players are required to explain or pre-Alert to opponents regarding certain aspects of their methods, including unusual bidding treatments and/or defensive conventions, such as the agreement to lead the low card from a worthless doubleton. In such cases, the opponents may need to discuss their defenses to the unusual systems before play begins.
PREEMPTIVE BID. Sometimes called a shutout bid. An opening bid of three or more with a hand containing a long suit and limited high-card strength. The bid is usually defensive in purpose.
PREPARED CLUB. An opening bid on a three-card suit, used mainly by partnerships employing five-card majors.
PRESSURE BID. An overbid made necessary by opposing action.
PRIMARY HONORS. Top honors, i.e., aces and kings. The king of a suit may instead be considered a secondary honor when it is unaccompanied by the ace or queen and when it is in a suit in which partner is known to be short. Primary honors usually carry more weight in suit contracts than in notrump.
PRIMARY TRICKS. A term first used by P. Hal Sims to describe high cards that will win tricks no matter who eventually plays the hand.
PRIMARY VALUES. Aces and kings, also called “hard values.”
PRIVATE SCORECARD. Players competing in duplicate events usually keep a written record of their performance. Cards that enable participants to keep such a record usually are given out by the host organization. The inside of the ACBL convention card is a private scorecard. There are spaces for the contract, the declarer and the score, as well as matchpoints or IMPs. The ACBL card also lists an IMP scale and two scales for victory point scoring.
PRO-AM PAIRS. One member of each pair is a top-flight player—the pro, so to speak—and the other is a new or relatively new player—the amateur. The purpose is to enable the new player to meet and get to know some of the better players in the area. The new player also gets the benefit of good advice and tips from his or her “pro.” The game itself is run along the lines of Open Pairs.
PROBABLE TRICK. A playing trick that can be reasonably counted on when attempting to forecast the play during the bidding. The guarded king of a suit bid voluntarily on the right is an example.
PROGRESSION. (1) The movement of players in duplicate, (2) the movement of the boards in duplicate, (3) the movement of players in progressive bridge.
PROGRESSIVE BRIDGE. A form of competition at contract bridge played in the home or among social groups. Party contract bridge uses a progressive movement.
PROMISE. A bidding statement indicating the smallest number of cards in a suit or high-card points in a hand. For example, an opening bid of 1♣ promises a minimum of three cards in standard methods.
PROTECT. (1) To guard with a low card, as an honor, (2) to make a bid in order that partner may have another opportunity to bid, thus “protecting” him if he has greater strength than his first call has implied (this usage is obsolete), (3) in England, to balance.
PROVEN FINESSE. A finesse whose success is guaranteed. For example:
The ♠10 is led and wins, while right-hand opponent discards. Subsequent finesses in the suit are proven or established. Also called a marked finesse, a slightly less absolute circumstance.
PSYCH. A deliberate and gross misstatement of honor strength and/or of suit length.
PUNISH. To double an opponent for penalties.
PUSH. (1) A raise of partner’s suit, usually at the partscore level, aimed at pushing the opponents to a level at which they may be defeated. For example:
Neither side is vulnerable and South holds:
♠ 6 5 3 ♥ K 9 ♦ A 8 4 2 ♣ Q 7 3 2.
It seems likely to West that both sides will make about eight tricks, so he bids 3♥. East is marked with, at worst, a good five-card heart suit. If North-South continue to 3 ♠, in which they will have more heart losers than they expect, they may be defeated, and West will have turned a minus score into a plus. The chance of being doubled in 3♥ is slight, and East should be wary of continuing to game.
(2) A board in a team match in which the result is the same at both tables or, in Swiss teams, with a difference of only 10 points (as plus 110 compared to plus 100). At board-a-match scoring, any difference results in a win for the higher-scoring side.
(3) A rubber in which the net score is zero after rounding off.
QUACK. A contraction of “queen” and “jack” used to indicate (1) either the queen or the jack in situations where it is of no consequence which of the two cards is held or played in the context of a decision involving the theory of “restricted choice,”(2) the two cards together in the context of hand evaluation: Possession of “quacks” usually means the hand holding one or more of the combinations is not as good as the high-card point count might indicate.
QUALIFYING. Finishing high enough in a qualifying session to continue competing in the final session(s) of the event. Such matters are governed by the conditions of contest for the event.
QUALIFYING SESSION. In an event of two or more sessions, one or more of them may be designated as qualifying sessions to select contestants eligible for continued play in the remaining sessions.
QUANTITATIVE. A bid is quantitative if it is natural and limited. A bid of 4NT in response to a 1NT opener (15-17) is said to be quantitative in the sense that it asks the 1NT bidder to advance to 6NT with a maximum -– 17 HCP or perhaps 16 with a five-card suit.
QUEEN ASK. Part of the Roman Key Card Blackwood convention.
QUICK TRICK. A high-card holding that in usual circumstances will win a trick by virtue of the rank of the cards in either offensive or defensive play. Of course, in some distributional holdings or freak hands, such defensive values evaporate. The accepted table of quick tricks is:
- 2 — A-K of same suit
- 1½ — A-Q of same suit
- 1 — A or K-Q of same suit
- ½ — K-x
QUOTIENT. A device used to determine the winner in team competition if a round-robin ends in a tie either in won and lost matches or in victory points won and lost. The total number of IMPs won by a team against all round-robin opponents is divided by the number lost to determine the quotient. Italy won two European Championships by quotient, over France in 1956 and over Great Britain in 1958.
RANDOM DRAW TEAMS The teams that remain in competition are paired for their next match by means of a random draw. Typically, all the possible positions are written on slips of paper, and the captain of each team draws his next assignment at the time he reports his winning match result. The pairings for the first match also are random.
RAGS. Low spot cards.
RAISE. As a noun, an increase of the contract in the denomination named by partner. As a verb, to make a bid increasing the contract in the denomination named by partner.
RANK. (1) The priority of suits in bidding and cutting. Starting at the bottom, the suits rank clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades, with notrump at the top of the list. (2) The trick-taking power of each card within a suit. The ace, king, queen, jack have priority in that order. The lower cards rank numerically. (3) The status of a player in a masterpoint ranking system.
RANKING. The position of a player, pair or team in the section or in the overall.
RATING POINTS. A measure of achievement in bridge competition at an ACBL-sanctioned club. At the beginning of the rating-point system, 100 rating points – initially issued on slips of paper – equaled one masterpoint. Today, clubs report masterpoint earnings of players electronically.
RECAPITULATION SHEET (RECAP). A large printed form on which the scores from a bridge game are posted. In club games and tournaments without electronic scoring devices, most scores are recorded from pickup slips.
Virtually all scoring today is accomplished by using the ACBLscore software, which is programmed to score pairs games and team games (and make matches in Swiss teams).
Instead of the old recap sheet, the product of computer scoring is a printout with matchpoints for every board and scores for every pair. It resembles a smaller version of the old recap. Masterpoint awards for the event are posted alongside the names of players who earned awards (calculated by the computer program). If the event is multi-session, it also indicates the seating assignment for the subsequent session.
RED. Vulnerable. Also a British colloquialism: The “red” side is vulnerable and the opponents are not. Compare to amber, green and white.
RED POINT. Masterpoints won in regional tournaments and NABCs. Red points are required for advancement in rank, starting with Regional Master.
REDEAL. A second or subsequent deal by the same dealer to replace his first deal. Hands are never redealt at duplicate except in special cases on the director’s instructions.
REDOUBLE. A call that increases the scoring value of odd tricks or undertricks of your partnership’s bid following a double by the opponents of your partnership’s bid. A redouble can be made only after an opponent doubles and only when the intervening calls were passes.
RE-ENTRY. A card by which a player who has had the lead (including the opening lead) can regain it.
REFUSE. (1) Deliberate failure to win a trick because of reasons of strategy. (2) Used in the sense of refusing to finesse, i.e., not taking what was previously a winning finesse in order to ensure the contract. (3) An obsolete term formerly used in whist and auction bridge, the laws of which defined it as “to fail to follow suit.”
REMOVE. To bid on when partner has doubled for penalties or has suggested notrump as a contract.
RENEGE. Colloquial synonym for revoke (fail to follow suit when able to). The term is borrowed from such games as two-handed pinochle and French whist, in which it is permissible to revoke.
REPEATED FINESSE. More than one finesse in the same suit, as with leading to the A-Q-10 and playing the 10, followed by a return to hand to play to the queen.
RERAISE. A colloquialism for opener’s rebid of three of his suit after responder has raised to two:
1♠ – Pass – 2♠ – Pass; 3♠. Some players use the reraise as a preemptive device; others consider it an invitational bid.
RESCUE. To bid another suit, or conceivably notrump, when partner has been doubled for penalties. The most common rescuing situation arises when an overcall has been doubled for penalties, a rarer event than it was before negative doubles became popular.
There are three points for the rescuer to consider:
- (1) His length in the doubled suit. The more cards he holds, the less desirable a rescue becomes – it is rarely right with a doubleton and virtually never right with more than two cards.
- (2) The level of the potential rescue. Rescuing is more likely to be effective at the one level and may sometimes be attempted when holding a singleton or void in the doubled suit but no suit of more than five cards. There is less reason for rescuing if it must be done at a higher level.
- (3) The quality of the rescuer’s suit compared with the likely quality of the doubled suit. There must be a reasonable expectation that the rescuer’s suit is more substantial than the doubled suit. In most circumstances, a strong six-card suit or a seven-card suit is necessary.
Another common rescue situation occurs when a 1NT opening has been doubled. Here it is seldom right for responder to sit if he has no high-card strength or if he has a long suit.
RESCUE BID. A bid, based on a long suit, made with less-than-normal values because of a misfit with partner’s bid suit after it has been doubled.
RESERVE. A back-up line of play.
RHO. Right-hand opponent.
RHYTHM. Bidding and play at a uniform speed. The stress here is on uniformity and not on speed. An expert player attempts to foresee possible problems that may evolve during bidding, before choosing his first action so that he may avoid the agony of a later huddle. A good player knows that a huddle followed by a pass, or even a double, places the onus on his partner to not be influenced by the fact that he had a problem. Therefore, he will try to solve his future problems before they occur rather than after.
In the play, the shrewd declarer sometimes attempts to cause opponents to be careless in defense by playing with unusual rapidity, as though the contract was practically a pianola. When confronted by a rapid tempo, a thoughtful defender will deliberately slow his own tempo so that he has the opportunity to analyze declarer’s play to see whether or not he has a problem.
In the play, too, the necessity for defenders to establish a rhythmic tempo to their play is important. In attempting to locate a particular card, such as an adversely held ace or queen, declarer is frequently put on the right track by applying the old adage, “He who hesitates has it.” A declarer takes advantage of a hesitation at his own risk, but the opponent who hesitates before making a play with intent to deceive the declarer is guilty of unethical conduct and is subject to penalty. This is an important element of the Proprieties.
RIDE. (1) To take a finesse with. For example, “Dummy’s jack was led and declarer let it ride.” (2) A large penalty, derived from underworld argot in which a victim is “taken for a ride” by his would-be murderers.
RIFFLE. A light shuffle of the deck; a flexing of the deck with the cards bent and held between the fingers so that a rapid motion ensues as the pack is straightened out.
RIGHT-HAND PLAYER. The player who, in rotation, acts before the given player. There are distinctions in the rules between irregular acts committed by the right-hand or left-hand player. The term is generally used, however, to refer to the player on declarer’s right, after play commences.
RIGHT SIDE. The hand of the declaring partnership that can more successfully cope with the opening lead against the chosen contract. For example, assuming all other suits are adequately stopped, the hand holding A-Q-5 opposite 6-4-3 is the right side from which to play. Sometimes there is no right or wrong side.
The rightness of one side and wrongness of the other may relate to factors other than the safety of the declarer’s holding in the suit led; for example, the inability of one defender to lead the suit profitably (e.g., from four to the king when the declaring side has the ace and queen), or the inability of one defender to diagnose the most effective lead, whereas from his partner’s hand the “right” (most effective) lead would be obvious.
RIGHTY. Right-hand opponent.
RKCB. Roman Key Card Blackwood.
ROCK CRUSHER. A hand with tremendous trick-taking ability, often based on high-card strength.
RONF. An acronym for Raise Only Non-Force, usually applied when one player opens a weak two-bid. Most pairs have the agreement that a raise is the only non-forcing response to a weak two-bid by an unpassed hand.
ROTATION. The clockwise order in which actions take place at the bridge table.
ROUND. A part of a session of bridge at a tournament during which the players and the boards remain at a table. When two boards are played during a round, its duration should be about 15 minutes. Three-board rounds require about 20 minutes; four-board rounds 25.
In rubber bridge, a round refers to the three or four rubbers (or double rubbers) during which each of the players plays with each of the other players as partners.
ROUND HAND. A colloquialism for a hand with balanced distribution, particularly 4-3-3-3. Flat and square are also used to describe such a hand.
ROUNDED. A term used to describe the combination of hearts and clubs, these suits having pips rounded at the tops. The converse is “pointed” to indicate spades and diamonds.
ROUND-ROBIN. A form of competition in which each of the contesting groups (usually teams, though occasionally pairs) plays against each of the other groups in head-on competition. “League” is used as an equivalent term in England.
ROUND ROBIN TEAMS All teams play a match against each other team in the field. Usually IMPs are translated into Victory Points for each match, and the team with the most Victory Points is the winner. The Win-Loss system also is sometimes used.
RUFF. To use a trump to attempt to win a trick when a plain suit is led.
RUFFING TRICK. A trick won by ruffing.
RULE OF ELEVEN. A mathematical calculation applicable when the original lead is construed as fourth best. It is sometimes possible to obtain an exact reading of the distribution in all four hands. The discovery of the rule is generally credited to Robert F. Foster and was published by him in his Whist Manual.
First put in writing in a letter from Foster to a friend in 1890, it is said to have been discovered independently by E.M.F. Benecke of Oxford at about the same time. The rule states: “Subtract the pips on the card led from 11; the result gives the number of higher cards than the one led in the other three hands.” Counting such cards in his own hand and in the dummy, both the leader’s partner and the declarer can determine the number of such cards in the concealed hand of the other. The application of the rule is easier than stating it. For example:
If the lead of the 7 is a fourth-best lead, third hand subtracts 7 from 11 and knows that four cards higher than the 7-spot are held in his, dummy’s, and declarer’s hands. He has three and dummy one, therefore declarer has no card higher than the 7, which can be permitted to ride.
Frequently, only the declarer gains from the application of this rule.
Declarer sees in his own hand and the dummy five cards higher than the 6, so he can bring in the entire suit by successively finessing against the king, jack and 8.
The Rule of Eleven often spots a singleton lead.
If 5 is subtracted from 11, the third hand knows that this is the number of cards higher than the 5 held by himself, dummy and declarer. He sees six of them, so declarer holds none if his partner’s lead is a fourth best. Declarer ducks, the king is played, and declarer plays a seventh card higher than the 5. Third hand sees all cards lower than the 5; therefore the opening lead must have been a singleton.
The rule is based on an honest lead of fourth best in a suit. There is a modern tendency to be less revealing on the opening lead, with the lead of a low card indicating a suit whose return is desired and a middle card to indicate a suit to be abandoned. Care must therefore be taken not to apply the rule rigorously when the lead is not certainly a fourth best.
RULING. An adjudication by the director after an irregularity has occurred at a bridge tournament or a club; in rubber bridge, an application of law by agreement among the players.
RUN. (1) Bidding: to take partner (or yourself) out into a different suit (or notrump) when the first suit is doubled. (2) Play or “run” (a suit): to cash all the winning cards of an established or solid suit by playing them one after the other. (3) Play a card from hand or dummy and, when not covered, play low from the other hand, “running” it through the next player.