(Information courtesy of the
Welcome to Duplicate Bridge!
So you've decided to try duplicate bridge and want to
know what to expect? Well, come on! We've been having parties and
tournaments, making partnerships and meeting new friends, playing as much
fascinating bridge as we want each week, all without having to clean the
house, bake or look for a fourth! There are 200,000 of us, all ages and
conditions, and we welcome new duplicate players every session. Here's what
Where Can You Start?
Duplicate games are held daily (often both afternoons and
evenings) in every big city in the U.S. and Canada. Even small towns and
sites in Mexico and Bermuda have weekly or bi-weekly sessions. You may start
in either an open or a novice game, at a club or at a tournament. A novice
game (meaning new to duplicate, not necessarily new to bridge) is clearly
preferable if your town has one.
Most novice games have a 20-minute mini-lesson prior to
game time. Partners are often available. Here you will find time to brush up
on your game and learn modern bidding strategy with other new-comers. You
will make friends and find partners while you increase your playing speed
If you must begin in an open game (a mix of newer and
experienced players), you may initially find the tempo of the game and the
number of deals played exhausting. Duplicate bridge is a sport, and you are
essentially coming in without warming up. However; if you and your partner
stick it out for a few months, you will have no problem fitting right in and
you will learn quickly.
Are You Good Enough To Play? Yes!
The quality of play in any duplicate game varies widely.
Some players think Stayman is a variety of apple while others are tournament
champions aware of many conventions. The fact of the matter is: you don't
get good to play duplicate; you play duplicate and then get good. And don't
be surprised when your rubber bridge game improves dramatically!
Arriving At Your First Game
Going out to play duplicate bridge is just like going to
a movie, except you are in the show. You may go to a session whenever you
wish, you pay when you enter and you take part in the action. You do not
have to dress up. Attire is casual, and jeans are fine.
Upon entering, the first thing you do is look for the
entryseller and get in line. Cost varies from about $3 to $5 a game. Your
entry form will tell you where to sit and in which direction. Ask for an
East-West entry your first time. If you need a partner come early and tell
the director as soon as you come in.
Now pick up a convention card and a pencil. You can keep
track of the actual contracts and scores inside the blank card you pick up
at the club. Place it inside the convention card in this booklet that is all
ready for you to use at the game.
That's it! Get yourself a cup of coffee and a cookie, sit
down and meet your opponents.
How The Game Works
The director, who runs the game, will place duplicate
boards on your table and ask you to shuffle (just for the first round!). You
will play and then replace the cards in the pockets in order to keep the
deals intact for the remainder of the game. You will notice each board has
an imprint designating who is dealer and which side is vulnerable.
Count your cards before you look at them. If you don't
have 13, call the director! Now, to keep the deal intact for the next round,
you place each card face up in front of you on the table as you play --
until the trick is complete. If your side wins the trick, you turn your card
face down (still in front of you) vertically so it points toward you and
your partner. If you lose the trick, the card is turned horizontally so it
points to your opponents. The played cards remain on the table in front of
you. At any given time, you can see how many tricks each side has taken by
looking at the position of the cards.
When the deal is complete, and both sides agree on a
result, count your cards (to be sure none got mixed with an opponent's) and
put them back into the board. Now you are ready to score.
Scoring Each Hand
Duplicate is scored like Chicago or party bridge. If your
side makes a contract, you receive your trick score, plus a bonus of 50
points if you bid and made a partscore, 300 points if you bid and made a
nonvulnerable game or 500 points if you bid and made a vulnerable game. Each
deal stands alone, having no effect on any following deal. The North player
at the table will enter the contract and result on the traveling score along
with your pair number. He then puts the traveller back into the board so
when it is played at other tables by different pairs in the subsequent
rounds, they can enter and compare their scores.
The Game Continues..
Next Round. Depending on the size of the game, you will
play between two and four boards at each table, and about 20 to 28 deals for
the entire game. You will also be expected to play the deals in a reasonable
amount of time, about 7-8 minutes each. This will keep the game moving well
and make it enjoyable for all.
When you have finished all 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 move to
the next higher table and the boards go to the next lower table. (In some
smaller games, all the players, as well as the boards, will move.)
Most newcomers to duplicate do not realize the function
of the director ("referee"). First, he usually sells the entries, makes the
coffee and occasionally sweeps the floor. He is also responsible for setting
up a workable movement for the game, depending on how many tables there are.
His manner determines the tone of the game: friendly and peaceful, noisy and
If an irregularity occurs at the table, the director is
responsible for making a ruling (according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract
Bridge) that is not only fair to both pairs involved but that will also
protect the other pairs who will play the board ("the field"). And as a good
director; he must do this in a manner that doesn't embarrass or upset
At the end of the game, he must do the scoring and award
the masterpoints (the prizes for winning or placing). He must make sure the
boards are put away properly and lock up the clubhouse.
It is true that many novices are afraid to call the
director on a lead out of turn or a revoke or whatever. They think it makes
the game unfriendly. This is wrong on two counts. The director will
alleviate any strain there is or that may develop, actually making the game
more fun. By calling him, you will ensure that the game is fair for
everybody, not just you and your opponents. Duplicate bridge is a sport the
director must put his hands on the ball to get it back into play
End of the Game: How Did You Do?
It is not necessary to hold lots of aces to win in
duplicate bridge. Winning is done by comparing how well you did with the
cards when you held them as opposed to how the others did with those same
So when all the boards have been played, the travellers
will go to the director; who compares the results by matchpointing. He ranks
each pair according to how well they did in comparison to the other pairs
who played the board. You will receive one point (called a match point) for
each pair whose result you have beaten and one-half a matchpoint for each
pair you have tied.
Example: If a board was played five times, and you scored
420 in a 4H contract, while two others scored 450 (Making five! Where did I
lose that overtrick?), one went down 1 (-50) and one forgot to bid game
(scoring only 170), you will get two match-points for beating two pairs. The
pair who went down will get a zero, a bottom on the board. The folks who
made 450 will share a top on the board, getting three and one-half
matchpoints (they beat three pairs and tied one). The most matchpoints that
were available on that board were four; since it was played five times and
the opportunity existed to beat only four other pairs.
An average result on a board would be two matchpoints, so
if 20 boards were played in the game, an average score for the entire game
would be 40. When you add up all your matchpoints, you will be able to see
whether you did better or worse than the average players in that game. You
will also be able to see which boards you found troublesome and take the
opportunity to discuss them with some nice former opponents. Lasting
friendships and partnerships (and sometimes marriages) are made this way!
Are You A Winner?
If you placed in the top third of your section in this
game, you will be awarded a prize! In duplicate bridge this comes in the
form of masterpoints (or fractions thereof, called club masterpoints). The
larger the game and the higher you placed, the more masterpoints you will
receive. Most newcomers play for a month or two before they win, so don't
buy an adding machine yet!
Your ranking in the bridge world is easily (if not always
totally accurately) described by bragging to your friends about how many
masterpoints you have!
The Postmortem: What Was That Again?
Since duplicate bridge involves comparison among many
tables and is played more as a competitive sport than as a social game, it
is imperative to ensure the greatest possible degree of fairness.
Consequently, you may encounter some new situations at your first duplicate
game, particularly if you are playing in an open game.
Home bridge players mostly know and play the basic
conventions: Blackwood, Stayman, Gerber; takeout doubles. However; many
modern players in duplicate bridge have added some other conventions to
their game. Remember; a convention is an artificial bid used to describe
your hand or to ask or answer a specific question. For example, a 4 NT bid
usually has nothing to do with playing notrump; it asks partner how many
aces he has (the Black-wood convention).
Since his opponents may be unaware that certain bids are
artificial, the partner of the player employing the convention may be asked
or required to say "ALERT" The player next to bid may now inquire what the
ALERT signifies if he wishes. (You are entitled to know what your opponents'
bids mean and the "Alert" gives you the opportunity to ask.) This is only
fair. But you probably will not hear many of these "Alerts" in a Novice
Another duplicate novelty is the SKIP BID WARNING.
Obviously, when you preempt, you are trying to give your opponents a
problem. Unfortunately the next player to bid often overrides you by making
a fast pass or a slow overcall or a loud, firm double. In duplicate, before
you make ANY jump bid, you say: "I am about to make a skip bid; please wait
10 seconds before bidding. Three hearts." Or you may use the short form:
"Skip bid, three hearts." After 10 seconds, your opponent will make his call
in a calm, uninflected tone of voice, and unauthorized information will be
kept to a minimum. Fairness. (We'll, of course, do the same for him.)
Lastly, in duplicate bridge you must make your opening
lead face down on the table, and say, "Any questions, partner?" The question
that most often results is, "Why are you leading when it is not your turn?"
Now you can put your card back in your hand without a big fuss and let the
proper hand lead. This adds a little class to your game.
Do's and Don'ts
A few of the customs of home rubber bridge are inappropriate at duplicate
For instance, do not go around the table and look at
declarer's hand. As dummy in duplicate, you are an active participant at the
table charged with turning cards for your partner and preventing him from
revoking or leading from the wrong hand.
Please do not write down the contract in your convention
card until there have been three passes! Writing it down prematurely is
tantamount to telling your partner you want him to pass.
And most importantly, do not engage in extraneous
conversation or verbiage at the table once you have taken your cards from
the board. There are only 16 words in bridge, and "I bid one club" contains
two too many. "I guess I'll have to pass" is five words heavy. Slow passes,
fast doubles, loud overcalls, etc., are also treated with some justifiable
lack of humor in duplicate. This does not mean duplicate bridge is an
unfriendly game; it is just a FAIR game or sport.
When the hand is over; by all means say what is necessary
and proper; but within realistic time limits. Don't become the bore who
drones on and on at his partner; holding up the game and irritating
everybody. Partner will not play better immediately if you tell him how he
misplayed or missed in front of others; in fact, he probably will not be
your partner for very long.
You will notice as you become experienced that the
popular player is the one who bids evenly in tempo and tone and is courteous
to all, even when he has cause for rage or meanness. This is one of the
hardest lessons bridge teaches us. It takes a person of quality to play
bridge not only well, but with character.
This last fact tends to make duplicate players the most
interesting group it will be your pleasure to meet. They are people who
constantly put their skill, courage, psychology and learning capacity on the
line and attempt to do it with class! Not bad, eh?