"Bridge is such a sensational game that I wouldn't mind being in jail if I had three cellmates who were decent players and who were willing to keep the game going 24 hours a day." - Warren Buffett, billionaire 62 times over and total bridge nut.
Contract bridge is a simple game to play as it is based on a variation of whist named Biritch. The intricacies of Bridge come in the bidding and contract phase prior to play.
Legends of Contract Bridge
Stirling Vanderbilt - Contract Bridge Inventor
In 1925 Harold Stirling Vanderbilt invented Contract Bridge. Vanderbilt changed the bidding process of forerunner Auction Bridge. Now only tricks contracted for counted. Bidding became much harder as a result. In 1928 he created the Vanderbilt Trophy, one of the most coveted titles in bridge to this current day. In 1969 the World Bridge Federation made him their first honorary member. In 1964 Vanderbilt was one of the first of three persons elected to the Bridge Hall of Fame.
Ely Culbertson - "the man who made contract bridge"
In the 1930s Culbertson was key to the rapid growth of Contract Bridge and promoted himself heavily as the game's leader. In 1929 Culbertson founded Bridge World Magazine which is still in publication today. He was also owner of the renowned playing card company Kem Cards. “All bridge and chess players are slightly cuckoo.”
Norman Bach - The Bermuda Bowl
In November 1950 Norman Bach and the Bermuda Bridge Club put on the first World Championship of Bridge. The Bermuda Government donated the Bermuda Bowl for the winner, which is still the most prized title in bridge. This inaugral tournament was contested by Europe, Great Britain and the United States (who won). A great bridge player himself, in 1938 Bach helped win the Gold Cup for Great Britain and captained the team to European glory on two further occasions.
Pietro Forquet and The Italy Blue Team
Between 1957 and 1974 Forquet won an incredible and still unbeaten fifteen titles at the World Championship of Bridge. Forquet was a member of the infamous "Blue Team" which also included, amongst others, bridge legends Eugenio Chiaradia and Guglielmo Siniscalco. Forquet was famed for his nerves of steel.
Boris Schapiro and The Buenos Aires Affair
In 1965 Schapiro and his playing partner Terence Reese were contesting the World Championship of Bridge in Buenos Aires. The USA accused the pair of finger signaling. The World Bridge Federation found them guilty and imposed a three year ban, despite being cleared by the British Bridge League. Schapiro's opening line to all women was his famed one-liner "What about a spot of adultery?".
Rixi Markus MBE
In 1961 Markus won the Gold Cup and went on to win five world bridge titles. Markus was the first woman to be granted the status of Grandmaster by the World Bridge Federation. She has been described as intense and argumentative at the table. Markus also organized the annual bridge match between the House of Lords and the Commons.
Contract Bridge Tactics
Know what you are bidding for!
In Bridge the trick bid is actually in addition to a minimum bid of six tricks. For example a bid of "three diamonds" is actually a promise (contract) to win a minimum of nine tricks (3 + 6) with diamonds as trumps.
Players are not allowed to deliberately put our mis-information outside table play. However Bridge players are indeed expected to use bids and card lay to mislead their opponents and create confusion. The ruling is that these bids must not be pre-planned or arranged with a playing partner.
Play to the Maxim
Bridge maxims are accepted principle of play. For example it is wise to prefer major suits (hearts and spades) to minors (diamonds and clubs), as these suits score higher. It is also advisable to prefer length to strength i.e. a suit with more cards in your hand as it is likely lower value cards will pick up trump tricks in the latter stages of a Bridge game.
Be a System Addict
In the contract phase of Bridge there are only 35 possible bids. If everyone followed the same interpretation there would be no need for strategy and it would be very dull! Instead partners agree their own bid cipher, which is usually a combination of common convention (natural bids) and their own code (artificial bids). Popular conventions include Stayman, Jacoby and Blackwood.
The Beer Card!
In Bridge the Seven of Diamonds is traditionally known as the Beer Card! Whilst not a formal ruling, the losing pair commonly buy the winner a beer of their choice if they win the last trick with the seven of diamonds. It's not all good news though. If the declarer fails to make their contract and their opponents win the last trick with the Beer Card, the liquid honour is reversed! The Beer Card tradition originated in Denmark.
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