Eric Bottle says now is the perfect time to learn how to play bridge.
Eric Bottle says now is the perfect time to learn how to play bridge. Contributed

Everything you need to know about basics of bridge

THE following is a very brief summary of this game that is played all around the world.

The good news is that you can play online, which is what many of our members are doing while our clubs are closed.

Even better news is that there are now free lessons for beginners online and I have added some links at the end of the article to both.

Bridge in a nutshell

Duplicate contract bridge, is its correct name, and this is said to be any easy game to learn and impossible to master.

So here are  the basics:

- Each hand  is played by two opposing pairs who have 13 cards per player..

- The object is to bid (and win) the most number of tricks above SIX.

This is the auction and the final or winning bidthe contract.

- Each player gets a turn at being the dealer, and he/she has the first bid in the auction.

- The cards are ranked Ace high through Kings etc to 2 the lowest.(NO joker or bowers).

- Suits are ranked with No Trumps as the highest scoring, then Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs. which are the TRUMP suits.

- A trump will beat any card of another suit BUT you must follow suit if  you can.

- There are bonus points for bidding to game (and winning) = 3NT, 4S, 4H, 5D, 5C.

- Even bigger bonus points are scored for bidding and making 6 (i.e. 12 tricks) = a "slam", or 7 (all 13 tricks) = "Grand Slam".

Firstly you have to evaluate your hand:

- An Ace is worth 4 points, King 3, Queen 2, Jack 1 = 40 points total in the pack.

- Because it is important to get into the right contract, there are some conventions or signals that you are allowed to bid providing the opposition (and your partner) know what they mean.

- For instance an opening bid of 1 in a suit usually means I have 12-18 points partner.

1C says I don't have 5H or 5S.

1D indicates 4 (or 5) diamonds, again no 5H or 5S.

1H or 1S means I have at least 5H or 5S.

1NT means I have 16-18 points and a "balanced" hand = no single-carded suit and only one two-carded suit.

- Your partner then needs to respond to this bid according to the strength of their hand.

From here on the conventions continue, but it's best to see a hand bid (and played).

- Here's the interesting bit: As soon as the opposition plays their first card, the partner of the winning bidder lays their hand on the table  face up.

The same hand is played at each table, and again there are bonus points for making more tricks than the pairs at other tables.

Where to learn and play online

Joan Butts is our Australian Bridge Federation Coach so to see and learn how this all comes together  just go the Joan Butts Bridge on YouTube.

If you're already a player and getting withdrawal symptoms, there is an Australian not-for-profit ABF affiliated online club called StepBridge, which is where I am now  playing.

They have so many clubless players that they have started graded pairs, < 100 points or novice is played most mornings at 9.50am and 4.10pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Just go to the website and click on the tab that says "getting started & downloading the app".

Why not learn a new skill? Or at least drop into Joan's lessons and see what it's all about.

- Eric Bottle, Airlie Beach Bridge Club

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