Duplicate Bridge: The Mechanics
Will assist the transition between the bridge you may now be playing and the world of duplicate bridge. As you arrive at the table, this helps you come up to speed on behaviour, etiquette, and the ways one is expected to do things at the duplicate bridge table.
This book is about playing bridge, not how to play bridge. As you start playing duplicate, the skills you have acquired so far are still part of your repertoire. This book looks at etiquette, behaviour, and the flow of the game in areas not yet experienced.
© 2015 All Rights Reserved
Michael S. Abbey
As we cut our teeth on bridge, we are bombarded by rules, conventions, and more. If one is not careful, one’s bridge career could get derailed not long after starting. As experience increases and one enters the duplicate bridge world, some soft skills enter into the picture that may not be part of one’s repertoire up to that point. Knowing some of this stuff will/could propel one into the duplicate bridge world, armed with the suggestions and ideas presented herein.
In a few places throughout this book, there are examples of bidding that illustrate the substance of some popular conventions some experienced players use at the table. We do not get into the details of what these bidding conventions are all about; we just use them to illustrate a few points. The American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) defines a bidding convention as “A call or play with a defined meaning that may be artificial.” For the scope of this book this is sufficient without getting into the details of what they are all about.
If you find the volume of material in this book is overwhelming for someone just starting duplicate bridge, I would suggest to not to read it from start to finish. Look at material that interests you and proves most valuable to you as you get started. Then go back and cover the pieces you chose not to discover the first time through. Repeat until you are comfortable with the advice and explanations given. Similar to one of my themes in a previous work entitled Bridging the Gap, a little bit at a time and what you feel comfortable with is the best way to proceed.
To assist with your studying what is in this book, each header is suffixed with a number. Each number is a suggestion about what to study when. It may be wise to read, study, and experience the number (1) topics before the (3).
Components of Duplicate Bridge (1)
The main components of duplicate bridge are not very different from more casual bridge. There are some differences as discussed in this section. A room is set with a number of tables, each with four bidding boxes. Each table is numbered, a card on each indicating where the players sit – North/South and East/West. Players arrive at the bridge room and either sign up for spots, are asked to sit somewhere by the person in charge if the game, or just pick a table that has room. Some clubs insist that all players show up with partners; some others are fine if you come alone.
The Director (1)This is a person knowledgeable in the laws of duplicate bridge, and trained in officiating at games. There are many things that could happen at a bridge game that need adjudication by this skilled person. A few examples are:
· Suppose play has started and your partner plays a h on a s trick led by your opponents. As it turns out, your partner did have a h and could have followed suit. Not following suit violates the rules of bridge and needs attention from the Director.
· North wins a trick, and East quickly starts the next trick believing the East/West partnership won the trick. In fact, East had just led out of turn.
· At the start of a new round with West as the dealer, South pulls a Pass card out of the bidding box before West has started the bidding. South has just started the bidding process out of turn.
If you show up at a club without a partner, the person in charge may be willing to try to find someone for you to play with. You may end up paired with someone much better than you. On the other hand, if you are a very skilled player, there is no guarantee that you would get paired with someone of your expertise.
There are a number of bids that you may end up making at the bridge table that need to be accompanied by an announcement. Once your duplicate bridge life starts, you will soon find yourself at a table where an opponent opens the bidding with 1nt. Immediately after the 1nt card is placed on the table, that person’s partner will announce the range of points they use for such an opening for example, “15-17.” This is the most common point range for a 1nt opening, but from time-to-time you may hear something different like “15-18.” It is best to consult the ACBL’s web site to discover the details of what needs to be announced at the table. Suffice to say, when you hear a bid by your partner that needs an announcement, it is your responsibility to say out loud what is required.
As you gain more experience at the duplicate bridge table, knowing what to announce and saying what has to be said, becomes second nature.
During the bidding process, whatever you, your partner, and your opponents say must be understood by all players at the table. If at any time players would like an explanation of a bid made by one of their opponents, they simply wait until it is their turn to bid, look at the partner of the opponent whose bid needs some explanation, and says “Explain the ____ bid please.”
Pre-play activities (1)
Once the contract is decided and play is ready to begin, what you do next depends on who owns the contract and the answer to the following question:
Am I making the opening lead or preparing to lay down the dummy?
If the answer is yes, then cease all activity, such as recording the nature of the contract in your score sheet:
· If making the opening lead, finish your thought process (and then proceed as per the advice in the next section)
· If poised to be the dummy, cease all activity until the dummy is down
· Once the dummy is down, mark your scorecard with the details of the contract
If the answer is no, then be prepared to play a card when your turn comes around.
Insufficient bids (2)
Before looking at the beginning of play, we need to mention something that is often mishandled at the table, sometimes with disastrous results. Suppose your partner opens the bidding with 1s. Your RHO bids 2d. While that bid is being made, your concentration wanders, and you do not notice the opponent’s 2d bid. You then bid 2c – an insufficient bid. A player at the table brings this to everyone’s attention, and you believe you must immediately make your bid sufficient. That is not the case and do not let anyone at the table try to tell you it is.
The only thing to do if there is an insufficient bid made at the table is to suspend all further bidding, say nothing to anyone about the bid, and immediately summon the Director. If and when this happens, the Director will explain the options available to correct the insufficient bid and you will see what they are. Even when you know what the options are, you still need to politely summon the Director.
End-of-hand activities (1)
Once the hand ends it is wise to do the following:
· Leave your trick capture record on the table undisturbed until everyone at the table agrees on the outcome
· Once agreement is reached, shuffle your cards and place them back on the board
· Record the score·
If the last hand in the board, thank your opponents and await the Director’s announcement to move to the next table; if that announcement has already been made, proceed with haste to your next destination.
The first bullet point above is a 2-fold piece of advice. From time-to-time there may be a need to reconstruct the play to assist the teams’ arriving at an agreement on what was the result. Picture the following dilemma in a 5h contract (vulnerable and doubled) by N/S where E/W show them going down 3 tricks (800 pts. for E/W) whereas the declarer believes they were only down 2 (500 pts. for E/W):
Say it Isn't So (2)
We deliberately saved this section for last. How many times have you met someone who has been doing something a lot longer than you? The tendency is to trust everything these people say – hey he’s been playing bridge for over 30 years; he must know what he is doing.
A few months ago, I ran into a man at one of the clubs I frequent. He must have decided he was going to pick a fight with someone that day and wasted no time. During the round when my partner and I visited his table he laced into my partner for leaning on the table. He claimed it was poor etiquette. Polite but crabby words were exchanged and we took them down in 3 hands in a row. Serves him right. Upon checking in with a few others at the club, we were asked twice if his name was “Fred.” When we confirmed that was him, they both told us about rules he made up once when they were playing with him. That leads very well into our next section – the know-it-all; there are 2 types of these people at the bridge table. Do not let them intimidate you.
A few final words to close off this book, and they are all the same … play, play, and then play some more. There is no better way to learn than by playing as much as you can.