The famous line, “To be, or not to be”, from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, can be tweaked when it comes to the game of bridge: To bid, or not to bid. And, for bridge players, it does not end there! ‘What to bid’ pops up as the next question.
As you know already, after each of the four players gets his own 13 cards in his hand, it is the dealer who must start the bidding. The first task before him is to decide if his hand is worthy of any bid at all.
Basic hand evaluation
The legendary Charles Goren, who contributed greatly to the development of bridge in its early days, came up with a simple, neat solution. He introduced a 4-3-2-1 points scale for hand evaluation. He attached 4 points for each Ace, 3 for each King, 2 for every Queen and 1 for every Jack. To elaborate, let us say you are dealt following 13 cards: A432, K543, KQ6, J2. It means you have 4 + 3 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 13 points. He called this as High Card Points (HCPs). The next thing Goren said that if your HCPs total is at least 13, your hand is worthy of an opening bid. But what if it is less than 13? No problem, “Pass” is also a bid available to each bidder. If dealer says pass, the next player checks his hand and decides if he has a hand to open the bidding.
What to bid?
Now comes the next challenge. What to bid? To understand this, let us revise the purpose and the goal of the bidding process. The purpose is that a bid should express the cards you hold and the goal is to arrive at a good contract. All this must happen through the 35 legal bids only. A bid is like a coded message. This needs to be decoded by your partner and vice versa. What is this code? The name for this coding programme is the “Bidding System”. This is a set of prior agreements that your partnership as agreed to follow. It helps a bidder understand what partner is trying to convey. Of course, your opponents too will have their bidding system. I must add here that the bidding system adopted by the rival pairs is not necessarily be the same and it is not supposed to be their secret understanding. The basic system that your partnership is following needs to be told your opponents and vice versa.
The bidding system
How does any bidding system evolve? Are there any vastly popular bidding systems that anyone can learn and adopt? Yes, there are. The “Precision” and the “Standard American” are the names of the two most popular bidding systems played across the bridge world. These are popular because these are fundamentally sound, are well-documented and easy to learn at the basic level. Also, lot of bridge literature is written where these systems are involved. A beginner will normally need the text and a teacher both for learning a basic system. A disciplined bidding within the framework of the bidding system can help any partnership in reaching good contracts.
(The writer is a National Championships winner, advanced Life Master rank holder, and bridge teacher. You can reach out to him on email@example.com)