Want To Learn Bridge? Here’s An Easy Initiation Into The Card Game

Want To Learn Bridge? Here’s An Easy Initiation Into The Card Game

No, this is not about any famous bridge in India or the world. We are simply talking about a card game called Bridge!

Arvind VaidyaUpdated: Saturday, October 14, 2023, 01:11 AM IST
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No, this is not about any famous bridge in India or the world. We are simply talking about a card game called Bridge! Just last week, India’s men’s bridge team won the Silver medal at the Asian Games. And a few weeks before that, India’s youth team had won the Bronze at the World Youth Bridge Championships.

Welcome to Bridge, a global game played with 52 playing cards and played in more than 100 countries. It is a great social game and also a fully evolved competitive sport. It can be played just anywhere — home, club, cruise, activity hall, competition venue, online, you name it! Social Bridge and Competitive Bridge are its main channels.

History

Let’s have a brief look at the history of Bridge and its development. There was a trick-taking game called ‘Whist’ in the 16th century. Later, ‘Biritch’ (or Russian Whist) was created in the 19th century. The name Bridge was derived from this Biritch and it became a popular game in the United States in the 1890s. It further transformed into ‘Auction Bridge’ around the year 1904, when competitive auction through bids started happening. The modern version of Bridge is a creation of the efforts of Harold Vanderbilt of the USA and a few others of his generation. Significant changes in the rules happened and a few new concepts were introduced. Thus the auction bridge became ‘Contract Bridge’, which is its present form and the official name as well.

Sport

Let’s get to a Bridge table now. Fifty-two playing cards, one square table, four players, and four chairs are all that is needed to start a game of bridge. The two players facing each other are partners. This means there are two rival partnerships at a bridge table. Thus, bridge is essentially a partnership game and not an individual sport.

Age no bar

To play Bridge, one can start as young as 10 and continue forever! This year’s Asian Games winner was 60 plus. There is no gender bias and not much of any economic constraint either.

How to play

It is time to start a Bridge session by understanding the mechanics first. Any one player shuffles and deals all 52 cards, one by one, to all four players. The first card is dealt to the player on the left of the dealer. The dealing rotation is clockwise — all other card games do anticlockwise dealing, right? Now each player has 13 cards in his hand and it’s all set for the action to begin. What happens next?

Before getting into that, let’s understand the deck of 52 playing cards from Bridge point of view. Four suits — Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs are what we have. In each, we have four picture cards — Ace, King, Queen, and Jack. Thus, 16 picture cards and the remaining lower cards are the raw material for Bridge. The number 13 is a key number. Thirteen cards in each suit, 13 cards dealt to each player, and 13 tricks to be played each time. (for Bridge players, 13 is not an unlucky number but an auspicious one).
Now, action time! Every Bridge deal has two parts —  Bidding and Card Play. The Bidding happens first and then Card Play begins. This is where the tricks are made (or lost). 

Why is it this way? What is this business of Bidding and Contract? How are the cards played and the tricks made? I will  share  more about this fascinating game in this column over the next few weeks.

Looking forward to it already? I certainly hope so.

(The writer is a National Championships winner, advanced Life Master rank holder, and bridge teacher)

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