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The Real Game of Bridge, and Its Relatives

Generally speaking, these days, when four people say they are about to sit down to play a game of Bridge, they will in fact sit down to play a closely related, but different, game. This has been true for some time; in most of the early years of the 20th Century, that game would have been Auction Bridge, and in at least the latter half of the 20th Century and thereafter, it would have been Contract Bridge.

This is because Contract Bridge has a long lineage, as a member of a family of closely related games. As is well known, these games are played by four people seated at the sides of what, ideally, should be a square (or round, or octagonal) table, with the players sitting opposite one another being partners.

Ruff and Honors

This is the game which preceded Whist. Here, twelve cards are dealt to each player, and the remaining four cards are left in a pile of which the top card is turned up. The suit of that top card is the suit which is trumps for the hand.

The dealer then takes the pile of four cards into his hand, and then discards four cards so as to have a hand of twelve cards. It may be noted that this arrangement appears to grant an advantage to the dealer.

The surviving accounts of this game are incomplete, but a reconstruction of the rules which I find quite reasonable is present on this site.

Whist

In Whist, for each hand the cards are dealt one by one to the players, in counter-clockwise order, beginning with the player on the dealer's right. (The dealer shuffles the cards, and the player on the dealer's right cuts them.) The last card is placed face up on the table in front of the dealer, and remains there until the first trick is played.

The first trick begins with the player on the dealer's right playing a card, and then each of the other players does so, going counter-clockwise. For the remaining twelve tricks, the winner of the previous trick will lead.

A trick consists of one player leading a card, and then the remaining three players playing a card in response to it.

If a player responding to the card led holds any cards of the same suit as that card, he must play one of those cards, whether higher or lower. If not, he may play a card from the trump suit. This remains true even if a trump card has already been played. If any trump cards have been played, the highest one wins the trick; otherwise, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick.

Failure to follow suit is a revoke, which has severe penalties.

In order from low to high, the cards are 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A.

The partnership that has scored the most tricks scores one point for each trick won after the first six.

The three court cards, J, Q, K, and the Ace, of the trump suit are called Honours. There is a bonus of two points if a player and his partner together hold three honours, and a bonus of four points if they hold all four.

A member of a partnership which already has at least eight points towards the game may inquire of the other partner if he has any Honours; if so, the two partners then display their Honours and claim the game without further play. A game is won as soon as either partnership, in one or more hands, makes ten points; points are counted as soon as they are earned, which is why the ability to claim one's bonus for Honours before any tricks are played is important.

A game won by ten or more points to no points counts as a triple game, and a game won by ten or more points to one through four points counts as a double game.

A rubber consists either of two games won by the same partnership, or three games in which one partnership one two. For determining who wins the rubber, double games and triple games still count as only one game.

The value of the rubber is in a second type of point, distinct from the points used to determine when a game is won. A game is worth one point, but a double game two points and a triple game three points. In addition, two extra points go to the winner of the rubber. The partnership that won the rubber scores the difference between the points of this type they obtained and those their opponents obtained.

Short Whist

In Short Whist, the game is five points instead of ten.

In Short Whist, three Honours are worth one point, and four Honours are worth two points. A member of a partnership which already has four points towards the game may inquire of the other partner if he has any Honours; if so, the two partners then display their Honours and claim the game without further play.

A game won by five or more points to no points counts as a triple game, and a game won by five or more points to one or two points counts as a double game.

A rubber consists either of two games won by the same partnership, or three games in which one partnership one two. For determining who wins the rubber, double games and triple games still count as only one game.

The value of the rubber is in a second type of point, distinct from the points used to determine when a game is won. A game is worth one point, but a double game two points and a triple game three points. In addition, two extra points go to the winner of the rubber. The partnership that won the rubber scores the difference between the points of this type they obtained and those their opponents obtained.

Modern Whist

Current books on games, when they describe Whist, actually describe a modified version of Short Whist.

In this version of Whist, three Honours score two points, and four Honours score four points, as in regular Whist. However, a partnership that has four points going into a hand cannot score bonus points for Honours during that hand, so Honours are only counted at the end of each hand.

A game won by five or more points to no points counts as a triple game, and a game won by five or more points to one or two points counts as a double game.

A rubber consists either of two games won by the same partnership, or three games in which one partnership one two. For determining who wins the rubber, double games and triple games still count as only one game.

The value of the rubber is in a second type of point, distinct from the points used to determine when a game is won. A game is worth one point, but a double game two points and a triple game three points. In addition, two extra points go to the winner of the rubber. The partnership that won the rubber scores the difference between the points of this type they obtained and those their opponents obtained.

Bridge

The game originally known as Bridge, of which Auction Bridge and Contract Bridge are modifications, is also termed Straight Bridge at present so as to avoid confusion. Sometimes it is also called Russian Whist, but that name is also used for Vint as well. Two minor changes to the scoring took place between when the game was first described and when its rules were codified and it became widely played.

In this game, all the cards are dealt face down to the four players. As in Whist, the deal is counterclockwise, the player to the dealer's right leading to the first trick, and the winner of a trick leading to the next.

The dealer may choose the trump suit, specify that the game will be played with no trumps, or ask his partner to do this.

Either player of the opposing partnership may double, and if this happens, either player of the dealer's partnership may redouble; then, the opportunity to re-redouble goes back to the opposing partnership; there is no set limit to the number of times the value of the hand may be doubled.

The value of a trick made beyond the first six tricks depends on the trump suit:

```No Trumps   12 (originally, 10)
Hearts       8
Diamonds     6
Clubs        4
```

A Grand Slam, taking all 13 tricks, earns 40 points; a Petit Slam, taking 12 of the 13 tricks, earns 20 points.

The game is 30 points, and a rubber is either two games both won by the same partnership, or three games, two of which (including the last) are won by the same partnership.

Winning a rubber earns 40 points, and the value of a rubber is these points plus the regular points scored within it (rather than there being two different kinds of points as in Whist).

Bonus points are awarded for Honours, but these points do not count towards the winning of a game at 30 points. They do have the same value as other points in determining the value of a rubber.

For a hand at no trumps, the four Aces are the Honours; otherwise, the Honours are the Ace, Ten, Jack, Queen, and King of the trump suit. The bonus points for Honours are:

```Three Honours (with a trump suit):   2 points
Three Honours (no trumps):           3 points
Four Honours:                        4 points
Five Honours:                        5 points

Four Honours in the same hand:       8 points
Five Honours in the same hand:      10 points (originally, 9)
```

those for five honours not being applicable to the no trump case.

If bonus points are scored for Honours, and one player has a hand with no trump cards in it, then if that player is in the partnership opposed to the side scoring Honours, the value of Honours for that side is diminished by two points; if that player is in the partnership scoring Honours, two points are added to their value. (This part of the scoring is termed Chicane.)

Before play of tricks begins in any hand, the dealer's partner places all his cards on the table face up, to be played by the dealer, and is thus Dummy.

Vint

In the game of Vint, players bid, as in Auction Bridge, for the privilege of naming the trump suit. But there is no dummy, and all tricks taken by both partnerships, including tricks in the first six, score towards game (or "below the line") regardless of which partnership wins the hand.

Game is 500 points; tricks count 10 points if a bid of one is made, 20 points if a bid of two is made, up to 70 points if a bid of seven is made; where, as in Auction and Contract Bridge, a bid of two clubs is an offer to win two tricks over the basic six tricks if clubs are trump.

There is a bonus of 1,000 points for game, and a 2,000 point bonus for winning a rubber. These points are scored above the line as bonuses. Other bonuses are:

```Grand Slam, bid and won:         12,000 points
Grand Slam won, Little Slam bid:  7,000 points
Grand Slam won, not bid:          2.000 points
Little Slam, bid and won:         5.000 points
Little Slam, not bid:             1,000 points
```

Jack, Queen, King, and Ace of the trump suit are Honours when No Trump is not the winning bid; there are bonuses for Aces as well as for Honours when there is a trump suit. Since increasing the bid increases the value of the game, there is no doubling.

If one partnership holds the majority of Honours and the majority of Aces it scores 10 times the value of a trick in effect for the hand for each Honour and each Ace that it holds, with the opposing partnership's Honours and Aces not counting in any way.

When one side holds the majority in Honours, and the other side the majority in Aces, then the majorities held by the two sides are subtracted, and the side with the greater majority earns 10 times the value of a trick for its excess in Honours and Aces together.

When there is a tie, the side that won the hand in tricks scores 10 times the value of a trick for all its Honours and Aces.

In the case of a hand at No Trump, the partnership with the most aces earns 25 times the value of a trick for each Ace it holds. When the distribution of Aces is even, there is no score for Honours.

Originally, the value of a trick did depend on the trump suit as well as the size of the bid.

Auction Bridge

The game of Auction Bridge, also known simply as Auction or as Auction Whist, was invented in India by three Englishmen stationed there, one Francis R. Roe, and a Mr. Hudson, the name of the third being unknown. The rules were initially pubilshed by F. R. Roe under the pseudonym John Doe in the year 1904.

The term Auction Whist is also used for the game when played without a dummy.

Initially, the points for tricks were the same as those for Bridge; then the option of bidding for tricks with "Royal Spades" as trumps was added, in which case a trick would count 10 points instead of 2 points. A number of other changes took place during the early part of the development of Auction Bridge:

```      Misére             14
No Trumps  12  12  12  12  12  10  10
Royal Spades             10  10   9   9   9
Hearts      8   8   8   8   8   8   8
Diamonds    6   6   6   6   6   7   7
Clubs       4   4   4   4   4   6   6
Spades      2   2   2   2   2   2
```

A misére bid was one which proposed to lose tricks rather than win them. Scoring for chicane, retained from Bridge, was dropped in the 1913 revision of the rules; this is also when the official scoring changed from that of Bridge to that in the second-last column; thus, the four columns excluding the first and the last two were only short-lived experiments. Also, when tricks counted only two points for Spades, the dealer was obligated to make a bid rather than passing. The versions where Spades could be bid as either Spades or Royal Spades (or Lilies) were also termed Royal Bridge or Lily Bridge. Until the bid of Spades at 2 points a trick was eliminated, there was a rule limiting the maximum loss, that is, the maximum penalty points gained by the opposing partnership, on a hand bid at one Spade to 100 points.

The modern schedule of points, where there was only one way Spades could be bid, for 9 points a trick, was adopted in the 1920 revision to the rules for Auction Bridge.

The cards are dealt to the four players, as in Bridge.

Bidding begins with the dealer, and proceeds counterclockwise as does dealing and play. One specifies the number of tricks one offers one's partnership to win, less six (again, this is as there are thirteen tricks to the hand, and so if one wins only six or fewer tricks, one has lost the hand) and the suit that is to be trump. Players may also pass instead of bidding, and when three players pass in a row, the previously made high bid (of course, each bid must be higher than the preceding one) is accepted. As well, it is during this phase that the players of either partnership may double, and then those of the other partnership may redouble; no further doubling is permitted.

The rank of a bid is determined by the number of points the stipulated number of tricks would make given the trump suit specified; only if two bids would make the same number of points is the number of tricks significant as breaking the tie between them.

In Auction Bridge (as well as in Plafond and Contract Bridge), only the Declarer (the successful bidder) can score the basic points for tricks towards game, and only if he fulfills his contract.

Here, the successful bidder, or his partner, if the partner was the first member of the partnership to make a bid involving the same suit, takes the place of the dealer in Bridge, and the player on that player's right as in Whist leads to the first trick. Thus, the successful bidder does not begin with the advantage of control of the play, but must earn it. Otherwise, the play of tricks is exactly as in Whist or Bridge: following suit is compulsory, and if one cannot follow suit, playing a trump is optional.

The scoring given for tricks beyond the first six, which, as noted, affects bidding, is, depending on the trump suit:

```No Trumps   10
Hearts       8
Diamonds     7
Clubs        6
```

Game is 30 points, and, again, a rubber is either two games in a row won by the same partnership, or the best two out of three.

Only points earned from tricks count towards game, Other points that can be earned are:

50 points for each trick one's opponents make less than their bid.

If the hand was doubled, 50 points (and 100 if redoubled) for each trick one makes beyond one's bid (there is no overtrick bonus if the hand was not doubled, rather than one of 25 points).

If the hand was doubled, 50 points (and 100 if redoubled) for making one's contract.

The bonus for a Grand Slam is 100 points, the bonus for a Little Slam (12 of the 13 tricks) is 50 points.

These scores, and the effects on them through doubling and redoubling, can be shown in this table:

```                                 normal  Doubled  Redoubled
Undertrick bonus to opponents:     50      100       200
Overtrick bonus:                   --       50       100
Contract fulfillment bonus:        --       50       100

Little Slam       50
Grand Slam       100
```

The Honours are, as in Bridge, 10, J, Q, K, and A of the trump suit, or the four aces if there are no trumps. The Honours bonus depends on which suit is trump:

```                                                          Spades   Hearts   Diamonds Clubs    No Trumps
5 Honours in one hand                                      90       80       70       60
4 Honours in one hand, 1 Honour in the partner's hand      81       72       63       54
4 Honours in one hand                                      72       64       56       48      100
3 Honours in one hand, 2 Honours in the partner's hand     45       40       35       30
4 Honours divided between the two hands of a partnership   36       32       28       24       40
3 Honours, in one or both hands                            18       16       14       12       30
```

and is not affected by doubling or redoubling. (Note that 3 Honours in No Trumps earning 30 points and not 20 follows the scoring of Bridge above, and reflects the fact that 3 Honours out of four are harder to obtain than 3 Honours out of five.)

The side that wins a rubber receives a bonus of 250 points.

Plafond

This game was also known as Bridge-Plafond, as Contract Auction, or simply as Contract. It chiefly differs from the modern game of Contract Bridge in that the scoring remains similar to that of Auction Bridge, and that it does not include the status of being vulnerable, although that status had been in use in some other variations of Bridge prior to the modern Contract Bridge being invented.

Vulnerability, apparently, was added to Auction Bridge by other players, separately from the innovation of not counting overtricks towards game. A game largely corresponding to Plafond was invented, like Auction Bridge, by a group of Englishmen in India; in this case,their last names were Steven, Allison, Church, and Clayton, the last being Sir Hugh Clayton, but it is possible the same idea was originated on the Continent prior to his publication in the Times in 1914, just as Auction Bridge may have originated independently prior to 1904.

In Plafond, only those tricks beyond the first six which were included in one's bid may count towards game; thus, one's bid is a ceiling, which is the meaning of the word plafond in French.

The points scored for tricks, depending on the trump suit, is the same as in Auction Bridge:

```No Trumps   10
Hearts       8
Diamonds     7
Clubs        6
```

Bidding, however, is different; here, the number of tricks determines the size of a bid, with the number of points being the tie-breaker; the term for this is majority calling.

Overtricks earn 50 points each, according to the most commonly used rule. One source recommended that the game would be improved if another schedule, also known to be in use, was adopted, in which the first overtrick earns 50 bonus points, the second 30 additional,the third 20 additional, and any further 10 additional. That source also noted that in Canada a score of 10 points per overtrick was used.

Only the Declarer can score the basic points for tricks towards game, only if he fulfills his contract, and only those within the contract.

The bonus points gained by the opponent for undertricks are 50 points for the first trick by which one fails to meet one's bid, an additional 100 points for the second, and 150 points each for the third and any further.

Two sources confirm that if one's bid is five tricks, and one makes the Little Slam thus promised, the bonus is 250 points, and 300 points if one makes a Grand Slam. If one's bid is six tricks, and one makes the Grand Slam thus promised, the bonus is 500 points. Another source, however, with more complete information on Plafond, gives the bonus for a Little Slam as 100, and that for a Grand Slam 200, whether or not bid.

For Honours, the bonuses are:

```At No Trumps, Four Aces in one hand:             200
Five Honours in one hand:                        200
Four Honours in one hand, one in partner's hand: 150
Four Honours in one hand:                        100
```

The winner of the first game in a rubber obtains a bonus of 100 points, and there is a 400 point bonus for winning the rubber.

Contract Bridge

This is the game whose rules were developed in 1925 by Harold S. Vanderbilt. One minor change in the scoring that took place later, so that all amounts of points would be simple multiples of ten, was that instead of all tricks counting 35 points at No Trumps, the first trick would count for 40 points, and the rest would count 30. This modern form of scoring was adopted in the 1935 revision of the rules for Contract Bridge, but the 35 point score had been abandoned prior to that; it was initially replaced by a score of 30 points for the first trick (and all odd-numbered tricks) and 40 points for the second trick (and all even-numbered tricks).

In Contract Bridge, the score for tricks is:

```No Trumps   40 for the first, 30 for each subsequent (originally 35 for all)
Hearts      30
Diamonds    20
Clubs       20
```

Game is 100 points. Only the Declarer can score the basic points for tricks towards game, only if he fulfills his contract, and only those within the contract.

The points for tricks are doubled and quadrupled according to whether a double or a redouble has been made, but they are not affected by whether or not the successful bidder is vulnerable. A partnership is vulnerable if it has won one game previously in the current rubber; this doubles the bonus points the opponents will receive for tricks it fails to make towards the contract (undertricks), and it increases, not necessarily doubling, bonus points it receives for other items.

A 100 point bonus is received for each overtrick if the hand has been doubled, and this is further doubled by redoubling and vulnerability. If the game has not been doubled, overtricks score their usual value but only as bonus points instead of towards game; the bonuses, if the score has been doubled, replace this score rather than adding to it.

If the hand has been doubled, there is a 50 point bonus for making the contract; this bonus is not increased by a redouble or by vulnerability.

If one fails to fulfill the contract, one's opponents receive a bonus of 50 for the first undertrick, which is doubled by doubles, and again by redoubling and vulnerability. The penalty points for the second and subsequent undertricks, however, work differently; if the hand is not doubled, the penalty points are the same for a subsequent undertrick as for the first, 50 points unless vulnerable, in which case the penalty is 100 points; if it is either doubled or redoubled, then each subsequent undertrick earns 100 more penalty points than the first one did.

A Little Slam, if bid, is worth 500 points, 750 points if vulnerable; a Grand Slam, if bid, is worth 1000 points, 1500 points if vulnerable.

```                                                              Vulnerable
normal  Doubled  Redoubled   normal  Doubled  Redoubled
Undertrick bonus to opponents:
first             50      100       200       100      200       400
any subsequent    50      200       300       100      300       500
Overtrick bonus:                    *      100       200         *      200       400
Contract fulfillment bonus:        --       50        50        --       50        50

Little Slam                       500      500       500       750      750       750
Grand Slam                       1000     1000      1000      1500     1500      1500
```

Bonus points received for Honours are neither increaded by doubles and redoubles nor by vulnerability.

Honours are again 10, J, Q, K, and A of the trump suit, or the four aces when playing no trumps. Five Honours in one hand score 150 points, as do the four aces when playing no trumps. Four Honours otherwise score 100 points when in one hand. Note that Honour bonuses for the Honours being split between the hands are not provided; as this bonus is a matter of chance, its role is intentionally minimized in Contract Bridge.

Winning a rubber by making game twice in a row, without the opponent making game once, earns 700 points, winning one by the best two out of three earns 500 points.

Contract Bridge as currently played includes an additional factor as part of the rules not yet touched on. To further prevent secret communication between the players, bidding is required to be conducted according to a recognized system of bidding, thus making, in effect, all the existing recognized systems of bidding part of the rules.

It may be noted that one could have divided the scores by five, even before the score for a trick at no trumps was changed from 35 to 40 for the first, and 30 for each subsequent, and still had scores that were an integer number of points. After doing that, one then multiplied the scores by a factor of one and a half, the value of game, and the scores for tricks, would approximate those in the game of Auction Bridge, allowing it to be seen what adjustments were made to the scoring in Contract Bridge. The bonuses for Little Slam and Grand Slam being merely doubled, rather than being multiplied by the factor of three and one-third, have thus in effect been decreased, as one can see.

I have one old book on card games where the scoring of tricks at No Trump was given as 30 points for the first and third tricks, and so on, and 40 points for the second and fourth and so on. Since the scoring is scaled up from that of Auction Bridge so that the intended value could be thought of as 33 1/3 points, and 100 points is game, 40 and then 30 for all tricks thereafter was suitable, and it was not necessary to consider 30, 30, 40, 30, 30, 40... as an option.

Concluding Remarks

The rule against revoking in Whist and its successor games is one that can confidently be categorized as irksome and confusing to beginners. Even after a trump has been played to a trick, or even if one has a trump, but also cards in the initial suit lower than what has already been played, one must follow suit. What point is there to a game that requires those who respond to a trick to make such daft plays?

There is an answer to this question, which ought to be prominently featured in the introductory sections of books on Whist; the rules of games often are put there for reasons, and not simply "Because!", after all.

The answer is that while freedom of responding to a trick would add some small measure of skill and science to the game, it is precisely the restrictions that make possible the very large measure of skill and science that so distinguishes Whist and its relatives from other card games.

With these restrictions, it is possible for the player who leads to a trick to carefully judge what card he will play based on his estimate of what cards are in the hands of his opponents.

It may be noted that if the scoring of Contract Bridge is scaled so as to return to the scoring of Auction Bridge insofar as possible, presumably the scoring schedule would look like this:

The basic scoring for tricks of Auction Bridge would be returned to exactly, even though that would be equivalent to 33 1/3 rather than 35 points for a trick at no trumps, and the value of a trick at Diamonds or Spades would be augmented by one:

```No Trumps   10
Hearts       8
Diamonds     7
Clubs        6
```

and, of course, it would be 30 points rather than 100 points for game.

The other bonuses, scaled by dividing by ten and multiplying by three, would become:

```                                                              Vulnerable
normal  Doubled  Redoubled   normal  Doubled  Redoubled
Undertrick bonus to opponents:
first             15       30        60        30       60       120
any subsequent    15       60        90        30       90       150
Overtrick bonus:                    *       30        60         *       60       120
Contract fulfillment bonus:        --       15        15        --       15        15

Little Slam                       150      150       150       225      225       225
Grand Slam                        300      300       300       450      450       450
```

Rather than scaling down the bonuses for Honours, however, from 100 and 150 points to 30 and 45 points respectively, it might be desired to go back to the points schedule used with Auction Bridge, although this would work against the intent of Contract Bridge as a game that is yet more dependent on exact skill rather than fortunate cards.

The bonuses for winning the rubber, then, would scale from 700 and 500 points to 210 and 150 points.

Increasing 225 points to 250 points (and perhaps also increasing 450 points to 500 points), and decreasing 210 points to 200 points, might be done to remove odd-looking numbers from the scoring schedule, so as to fit it natively to its new size.

My creativity has now gone beyond simply scaling the scoring of Contract Bridge to that of Auction, to the point of inventing a new game, described on the following page:

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Copyright (c) 2008 John J. G. Savard