Contract Bridge

When this page was first written (in late 1995), there was already a fair amount of bridge-related information on the Internet, but most of it was aimed at people who already knew how to play. This page was produced to fill the gap by explaining how bridge is played. The explanation is intended for people who have some experience of cards and card games, but no knowledge of bridge.

As I write this update (in February 1997), several other sites with information of use to bridge beginners have appeared. Some of these appear among the links at the end of this page.

Types of Bridge

Contract Bridge was invented in the 1920's and in the following decades it was popularised especially in the USA by Ely Culbertson. Bridge currently occupies a position of great prestige, and is more comprehensively organised than any other card game. There are clubs, tournaments and championships throughout the world.

Rubber Bridge is the basic form of Contract Bridge, played by four players. Informal social bridge games are often played this way, and rubber bridge is also played in clubs for money.

Duplicate Bridge is the game normally played in clubs, tournaments and matches. The game is basically the same but the luck element is reduced by having the same deals replayed by different sets of players. At least eight players are required for this. There are some significant differences in the scoring. Two types of duplicate bridge will be covered:

Chicago Bridge is played by four people (like rubber bridge), but a game is complete in four deals.

Contract Bridge developed from Auction Bridge, which is different mainly in the scoring. In Auction Bridge, overtricks count towards making game, so it is only necessary to bid high enough to win the contract - there is no incentive to bid all the tricks you can make.

Before Auction Bridge there was Bridge-Whist or Straight Bridge (at the time this game was just called Bridge). In Bridge-Whist there is no bidding at all - the dealer either names a trump suit or passes, in which case the dealer's partner must choose trumps. In either case the dealer's partner is dummy. Either opponent may double before the lead to the first trick, and if doubled, the dealer's side may redouble.

Rubber Bridge

Players and Cards

There are four players in two fixed partnerships. Partners sit facing each other. It is traditional to refer to the players according to their position at the table as North, East, South and West, so North and South are partners playing against East and West. The game is played clockwise.

A standard 52 card pack is used. The cards in each suit rank from highest to lowest: A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.


The cards are shuffled by the player to dealer's left and cut by the player to dealer's right. The dealer deals out all the cards one at a time so that each player has 13. Turn to deal rotates clockwise.

It is traditional to use two packs of cards. During each deal, the dealer's partner shuffles the other pack and places it to the right. The dealer for the next hand then simply needs to pick up the cards from the left and pass them across to the right to be cut. Provided all the players understand and operate it, this procedure saves time and helps to remember whose turn it is to deal, as the spare pack of cards is always to the left of the next dealer.


There is next an auction to decide who will be the declarer. A bid specifies a number of tricks and a trump suit (or that there will be no trumps). The side which bids highest will try to win at least that number of tricks bid, with the specified suit as trumps.

When bidding, the number which is said actually represents the number of tricks in excess of six which the partnership undertakes to win. For example a bid of "two hearts" represents a contract to win at least 8 tricks (8 = 6 + 2) with hearts as trumps.

For the purpose of bidding the possible trump suits rank as follows: no trumps (highest), spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs (lowest). A bid of a larger number of tricks always beats a bid of a smaller number, and if the number of tricks bid are equal, the higher suit beats the lower. The lowest bid allowed is "one club" (to win at least 7 tricks with clubs as trumps), and the highest is "seven no trumps" (to win all 13 tricks without trumps).

It is also possible, during the auction, to "double" a bid by the other side or to "redouble" the opponents' double. Doubling and redoubling essentially increase the score for the bid contract if won and the penalties if lost. If someone then bids higher, any previous doubles and redoubles are cancelled.

The dealer begins the auction the turn to speak passes clockwise. At each turn a player may either:

If all four players pass on their first turn to speak the hand is said to be passed out. The cards are thrown in and the next dealer deals.

If anyone bids, then the auction continues until there are three passes in succession, and then stops. After three consecutive passes, the last bid becomes the contract. The team who made the final bid will now try to make the contract. The first player of this team who mentioned the denomination (suit or no trumps) of the contract becomes the declarer. The declarer's partner is known as the dummy.

Example of an auction (North dealt):

 North      East      South       West
 pass      1 heart    double     3 hearts
3 spades    pass     4 spades     pass
 pass       pass
North-South will try to win at least 10 tricks with spades as trumps; North, who mentioned spades first, is the declarer. South's double of one heart was cancelled by West's bid of 3 hearts.

The Play

The player to the left of the declarer leads to the first trick. Immediately after this opening lead, the dummy's cards are exposed. The dummy should arrange them neatly in suits, so that all the cards are clearly visible, with the trump suit if any to dummy's right (declarer's left).

Play proceeds clockwise. Each player must if possible play a card of the suit led. A player with no card of the suit led may play any card. A trick consists of four cards, and is won by the highest trump in it, or if no trumps were played by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next.

Dummy takes no active part in the play of the hand. Whenever it is dummy's turn to play, the declarer must say which of dummy's cards is to be played, and dummy plays the card as instructed (as long as it is legal). Dummy is not permitted to offer any advice or comment on the play. When dummy wins a trick, the declarer specifies which card dummy should lead to the next trick. If when calling for a card the declarer specifies the suit only, dummy is to play the lowest card of that suit.


As its name suggests, rubber bridge is played in rubbers. A rubber is the best of three games. A game is won by the first team to score 100 or more points for successful contracts, over several deals if necessary.

A side which has already won one game towards the current rubber is said to be vulnerable. A side which has not yet won a game is not vulnerable. A side which is vulnerable is subject to higher bonuses and penalties than one that is not.

The score is kept on a piece of paper divided into two columns headed WE and THEY, for the two teams, with a horizontal line part-way down (see example). Scores for successful contracts are entered below the line, and count towards winning a game. Other scores, such as bonuses for tricks made in excess of the contract (overtricks), or penalties for tricks short of the contract (undertricks) are entered above the line, and do not count towards winning the game.

Score for making the contract

For a successful contract, the score below the line for each trick (in excess of 6) bid and made is as follows:

If the contract was doubled the above scores are doubled. If it was doubled and redoubled, they are multiplied by 4.

In addition, the declarer's side scores an extra 50 points above the line if they succeed in a doubled contract. This is sometimes known as "50 for the insult". For making a redoubled contract the bonus is 100 above the line.

Because of the difference in score, clubs and diamonds are called the minor suits and hearts and spades are the major suits.

Slam bonus

A contract to make 12 tricks is known as a small slam. A contract to make all 13 tricks is called a grand slam. For bidding and making a slam, declarer's side get an extra bonus above the line, depending on their vulnerability, as follows:

Slam bonus         small slam       grand slam
not vulnerable        500              1000
vulnerable            750              1500

Score for overtricks

If the declarer's side wins more tricks than were bid, and were not doubled, then in addition to the score below the line for the contract, they score for the overtricks above the line at the same rate as for bid tricks - i.e. 20 per trick if a minor suit was trumps; 30 per trick in a major suit or no trumps.

If the contract was doubled or redoubled, the bonus for overtricks does not depend on the trump suit, but does depend on whether the declarer's side was vulnerable as follows:

Score per overtrick    doubled    redoubled
not vulnerable           100         200
vulnerable               200         400

Penalty for undertricks

If the declarer's side win fewer tricks than they bid, neither side scores anything below the line, but the declarer's opponents score above the line. This score depends on the declarer's side's vulnerability, and whether the contract was doubled or redoubled, as follows:

Undertrick penalty:            not vulnerable    vulnerable

Not doubled - each undertrick:       50             100

Doubled - first undertrick:         100             200
Doubled - 2nd and 3rd undertrick:   200 each        300 each
Doubled - subsequent undertricks:   300 each        300 each
Redoubled undertricks cost twice as much as doubled undertricks.


The top five trumps (A K Q J 10) are called honours. If one player holds all five of these cards, that player's side scores a bonus of 150 above the line. Four honours in one hand score 100. If there are no trumps, and a player holds four aces, that player's side scores 150 for honours.

Scores for honours are to be claimed at the end of the play (it is assumed that the players will remember what they held).

As there is no skill in scoring for honours, players often agree to play without the honour bonuses.

Game and Rubber

A side that accumulates 100 points or more below the line has won a game. A new line is drawn under the scores. Anything the opponents had below the line does not count towards the next game - they start from zero again.

It is important to notice that, starting from zero and in the absence of doubles, to make a game in one hand you need to succeed in a contract of at least three no trumps, four spades, four hearts, five clubs or five diamonds.

The side which first wins two games wins the rubber. For this they get a bonus of 700 if they won it two games to zero, or 500 if it was two games to one. Both sides scores are then totalled and the side with the higher score wins the difference in money (if playing for money) from the side with less.

If play ends for any reason with a rubber unfinished, then a side with a game gets a bonus of 300 points, and a side with a part score (i.e. a score below the line towards an uncompleted game) gets a bonus of 100.

Example of Rubber Bridge scoring

The scoresheet of a completed rubber might look like this (the letters in brackets refer to the footnotes - they would not appear on the scoresheet):

      WE       |    THEY
     500 (f)   |
      50 (f)   |
     100 (f)   |  
     200 (e)   |    500 (i)
     300 (b)   |     30 (g)
      60 (a)   |     30 (c)
  =============|==============    <-- the line
      60 (a)   |    100 (c)
     360 (f)   |     90 (d)
      60 (h)   |     40 (g)
               |     90 (i)
(a) we bid 2 hearts and made 10 tricks - 60 below the line for the contract and 60 above for the overtricks
(b) they bid 4 spades, we doubled them, and they took only 8 tricks - we score 100 for their first undertrick and 200 for the second
(c) they bid 3 no trumps and made 10 tricks. This gives them a game (100 below the line). Another line is ruled to indicate this.
(d) they bid and made 3 spades
(e) they bid two diamonds and made 6 tricks - they are now vulnerable so we score 100 for each undertrick.
(f) we bid 6 hearts; they doubled us, but we won all 13 tricks. We score 360 (180 x 2) below the line for our doubled contract, giving us a game; 100 above for our doubled non-vulnerable overtrick; 50 above for making a doubled contract; and 500 bonus for a small slam bid and made.
(g) they bid one no trump and took 8 tricks; note that their 90 was part of the previous game, so the 40 below does not give them a game.
(h) we bid 3 clubs and made exactly 9 tricks.
(i) they bid 3 hearts and took exactly 9 tricks giving their second game and the rubber, for a bonus of 500 (two games to one).

Adding up the scores, we have 1690 and they have 880. Therefore we have won by 810 points (even though they won the rubber).

* Note on recent changes in scoring

Some details of bridge scoring were changed recently. Before the changes, the penalty for doubled undertricks was 100 for the first and 200 each for all others (and twice as much for a redoubled contract). Also the bonus for making a redoubled contract was 50, not 100, and the bonus for a part score in an uncompleted rubber was 50, not 100.

Partnership agreement and conventions

As in most card games, partners are forbidden to convey information to each other by talking, gestures, facial expression, etc. However there is considerable scope for partners to exchange information within the rules of the game by their choice of bids or cards played.

The bidding mechanism is such that if a player makes a bid (or double or redouble), it is always possible for the player's partner at their next turn to override that bid with a higher bid. This makes it possible for partners to assign arbitrary meanings to bids. Bids which can be taken at face value - that is they convey a genuine wish to play a contract to take the relevant number of tricks or more with the trump suit stated - are called natural. Bids which carry an agreed meaning other than this are called artificial or conventional.

For example if we are partners, we might agree that a bid of one club by me shows a strong hand, but has nothing to do with wanting clubs as trumps. Provided that we both understand this, you will not leave me to play a contract of one club, but will make some other bid, natural or artificial.

The main restriction on agreements between partners about the meaning of bids is that all such agreements must be declared to the opponents. A bidding system is a comprehensive set of partnership agreements about the meanings of bids.

Players should declare their system (if any) at the start of a session. If it is at all complicated, this is done by means of a convention card which sets out the meanings of bids. In addition, any player, at their turn to bid or at the end of the auction, may ask for and be given an explanation of the opponents' bidding agreements. The explanation should be given by the partner of the player who made the bid in question.

Similar considerations apply to the play. Partners may agree on the meaning of the choice of card played in certain circumstances. For example we may agree that when leading from a sequence of adjacent high cards such as K-Q-J we always lead the highest. Again, the opponents are entitled to know about such agreements. They should be declared on the convention card, and may be asked about during the play.

In rubber bridge one does not often come across complicated systems and partnership agreements. One is often playing with an unfamiliar partner, or in an informal setting. Complicated agreements are more often encountered in duplicate bridge, where the players are often long standing partners who have devoted considerable effort to agreeing their system.

Duplicate Bridge

In rubber bridge, although the better players have a noticable edge and will undoubtedly win in the long run, the outcome of a single rubber depends heavily on which side is dealt the better cards. The idea of duplicate bridge is to eliminate this element of luck, by having the same hands played more than once, by different sets of players.

Suppose we are partners and play a hand of duplicate bridge as North-South. Instead of being rewarded for our absolute score on that hand, our score is compared with those of other players who played the same deal as North-South against other opponents. We win if we score better than other players managed with our cards, and lose if we score worse.


An almost essential piece of apparatus for playing duplicate bridge is a set of duplicate boards, and a pack of cards for each board. Each board contains four pockets marked North, East, South and West in which the cards for the four players are stored. Each board also carries a number to identify it, and has marks showing which of the players is dealer and whether each team is vulnerable or not. The usual marking of the boards is as follows:

Before the boards are played the cards are shuffled, dealt and placed in the pockets, by a neutral person or by a player in the presence at least one opponent. Alternatively the cards may be dealt by computer, with the aim of ensuring perfect randomness. Generally, the computer produces printed slips (curtain cards) which specify which cards should be in each hand on each board; a neutral person then has to construct the hands according to the curtain cards and put them in the pockets. It is also possible for the playing cards to be physically sorted and placed in the boards by a machine controlled by the computer.

When about to play a board, the players take their cards from the appropriate pockets, check to see that they have 13 each, and then bid as usual. The mark on the board showing the 'dealer' in practice just indicates which player is to begin the bidding. During the play, the cards are not played in the centre of the table but in front of the players. At the end of each trick, all four players turn their played card face down. It is customary to overlap the played cards, with the longer axis of the card pointing to the winners of the trick (i.e. the cards belonging to tricks you have won are placed upright from your point of view, and the ones belonging to lost tricks sideways). That way you can easily see how many tricks you have won. Also, if the cards are kept in order, any dispute about revokes can be settled by reconstructing the play. At the end of the play, each player's cards are replaced in the correct pocket, ready for the next time the board is to be played.


Because duplicate bridge depends on comparing the results on individual boards, it is necessary that each group of players who play a board should start from the same position. Therefore it is not practicable to play rubbers, in which scores are carried forward from deal to deal and affect the tactical situation. Instead, each board is scored in its own right, and does not affect the scores for subsequent boards.

The concept of vulnerability is however retained. Each board is marked to show whether both sides, one side or neither side is vulnerable for that board. You still need to score at least 100 points for tricks bid and made to make a game, but on each board, both sides start with zero points towards games - there are no 'part scores' carried forward.

In place of the rubber bonus, there are game and part score bonuses:

Making a game when vulnerable:       500 points
Making a game when not vulnerable:   300 points
Making a part score any time:         50 points
The rest of the scores are the same as in rubber bridge. So for example: These scores are of course not yet the final scores. They have yet to be compared with the scores achieved by other people who have played the same cards as us on this board. The method of doing this comparison varies according to what kind of duplicate is being played. Perhaps the commonest types are teams of four with international match point (imp) scoring, and match pointed pairs.

Teams of Four

A match can be played between two teams of four - eight players in all. Each team consists of two partnerships, and you need two tables - preferably in separate rooms so that players cannot overhear events at the other table. Before starting the players agree how many boards will be played - this could be 24, 32, 48 or more, depending on the seriousness of the match and the time available. A 24 board match should easily be completed within three hours.

Call the tables 1 and 2 and the teams A and B. Then the pairs of team A sit North-South at table 1 and East-West at table 2, and the pairs of team B occupy the other seats. Take a convenient number of boards - say boards 1 to 12 - and give the first 6 to table 1 and the other 6 to table 2. As each table finishes their 6 boards they pass them to the other table to be replayed. When all 12 boards have been played at both tables, it is a convenient time to have a break and compare scores.

It may be agreed that for the next session, the two pairs of one one of the teams should swap places. This gives each pair the opportunity to play against both pairs of the opposing team. The procedure about the number of sessions in a match and the choice of seats for each session may be laid down by the organiser of the event - otherwise it needs to be agreed between the team captains.

Each player should have a scorecard to record the score on each board. The card has a row for each board. The beginning of North's card from table 1, when completed, might look like this:

   Board       Final                      Score           IMPs
Deal # Vul    Contract   By   Tricks   Plus   Minus    Plus   Minus

 N   1  -       4S       S      10      420
 E   2  NS      5D*      W       8      500
 S   3  EW      3NT      W      12             690
 W   4  All     2H       N       9      140                        
In the contract column 5D* means 5 diamonds doubled. The 'By' column shows who was declarer. The score is recorded from North's point of view - so when West goes down in 5 diamonds it is positive. The IMPs can only be filled in when this card is compared with one of the cards from the other room. Suppose that our team mate East on table 2 has a card like this:
   Board       Final                      Score           IMPs
Deal # Vul    Contract   By   Tricks   Plus   Minus    Plus   Minus

 N   1  -       4S       S      11             450
 E   2  NS      4H       N      10             620
 S   3  EW      6NT      W      12     1440       
 W   4  All     4H       N       9      100                        
Now the differences can be converted to IMPs for the team. The following standard table is used:
Point difference    IMPs

    0 -   10         0
   20 -   40         1
   50 -   80         2
   90 -  120         3
  130 -  160         4
  170 -  210         5
  220 -  260         6
  270 -  310         7
  320 -  360         8
  370 -  420         9
  430 -  490        10
  500 -  590        11
  600 -  740        12
  750 -  890        13
  900 - 1090        14
 1100 - 1290        15
 1300 - 1490        16
 1500 - 1740        17
 1750 - 1990        18
 2000 - 2240        19
 2250 - 2490        20
 2500 - 2990        21
 3000 - 3490        22
 3500 - 3990        23
 4000 or more       24
So in the example, on the first board the difference between the two tables was 30 against us, and we lose 1 IMP. On the second board we lose 3 IMPs. Although on table 1 we defeated West's 5 diamonds, on table 2 with the same cards we allowed North to play and make 4 hearts. On board 3, where we bid the small slam on table 2, while they stopped in game on table 1, we gain 13 IMPs for a 750 point difference. On board 4 both Norths made 9 tricks in hearts, but we gain 6 IMPs because we just bid 2 hearts rather than 4. Overall we are 15 IMPs up on those four boards.

After each scoring interval, the captains of the teams should check that the scores agree. The purpose of every player keeping score is to make it easier for errors to be traced and corrected.

At the end of the match, the result is the difference in IMPs between the teams. Sometimes there is then a further conversion of this margin into a match result, in which some fixed number of victory points is apportioned between the teams. There is no standard conversion table, but here is an example table for a 24 board match:

IMP difference    Victory Points

    0 -  2            10 - 10
    3 -  6            11 -  9
    7 - 11            12 -  8
   12 - 16            13 -  7
   17 - 21            14 -  6
   22 - 27            15 -  5
   28 - 33            16 -  4
   34 - 39            17 -  3
   40 - 46            18 -  2
   47 - 54            19 -  1
   55 or more         20 -  0
In the example, if we were still 13 IMPs ahead having played 24 boards, using this table we would win the match 13-7. If the match was part of some larger competition, such as a league, then we would score 13 victory points and our opponents would score 7.

There are also events in which many teams of four compete. There are various ways of organising these. At any particular time in such an event you will be playing a part of a match against some other team, and at some time your team-mates will play other cards of the same boards against the other half of that same team. The scores are eventually compared to find how many IMPs you won or lost against that team.


This is the game most usually played in Bridge clubs, and there are also many tournaments organised this way. As implied by the name, it is played between a number of fixed partnerships or pairs. For a pairs event you need a minimum of three tables (6 pairs, 12 players), and it works better with more players - say 10 tables (40 players) or more.

Generally you play two or three boards at a table - this is called a round - and then one or both pairs move to another table and play other boards against other opponents. The movement will be organised by the director in such a way that no one ever plays boards they have played before, or against opponents they have played before.

The score for each hand is recorded to a travelling scoresheet, which is kept in the board. None of the players may look at this sheet or take it out of the board before the board has been played. North is then responsible for entering the result and showing the completed sheet to East-West to check that it has been done correctly. Each pair has a number to identify them, and this must also be entered on the scoresheet, to show whose result it is. North is also responsible for the movement of the boards - checking at the start of the round that the correct boards are being played and passing them on at the end of the round.

At the end of the whole session, each scoresheet will contain the results of all the pairs who have played that board. The scoresheets are then collected by the organisers and the scores compared. Each pair is awarded 2 match points for each pair who scored worse than them on that board, and 1 match point for each pair who scored equally.

A completed score sheet might look like this:

                   Board No. 1
Pair No.                         North-South   Match points 
NS   EW   Contract  By  Tricks   Plus  Minus    NS     EW
 1    8      4S      N    10      420            5      7
 2   13      3NT     S    10      430            8      4
 3   11      5C*     E     8      500           12      0
 4    9      4S      N    10      420            5      7
 5   14      4S      N    11      450           10      2
 6   12      5S      N    10             50      0     12
 7   10      3S      N    10      170            2     10

Then the total match points scored by each pair over all the boards are calculated. This is generally converted to a percentage for each pair of the points they scored compared to the theoretical maximum. This gives a fair comparison between pairs who have played different numbers of boards. The winners are the pair with the highest percentage. There may be prizes for 1st, 2nd, 3rd place, etc.

Sometimes the movement is such that the North South pairs stay put and the East-West pairs remain East West throughout. In this case the results for the East-West pairs and the North-South pairs are separate, and there are two winning pairs. To enable all the pairs to be placed in a single ranking order, the last round is sometimes played with an arrow switch. This means that the players who were previously North-South play the East-West cards for that round and vice versa.

Duplicate bridge procedure and ethics

During a duplicate event, where play will be in progress at several tables at the same time, it is important that players to not see, overhear or otherwise take an interest in the play at the other tables. Any attempt to do so would be cheating, as it might give unauthorised information about the distribution of cards or the result of a board which the player would later be playing. For similar reasons, partners should not discuss the boards they have played in the hearing of other players until the end of the event (or a suitable break at a time when everyone has played the same boards).

In some places devices are used to enable the bidding to proceed silently, reducing the chance of hearing bids from another table. The best arrangement is for each player to have a bidding box, which is a box containing cards displaying all the possible bids, pass, double and redouble. At your turn to bid you display the relevant card. All the cards used for bids remain on view until the end of the auction, thus also avoiding the problem of players forgetting or mishearing part of the bidding. A cheaper but less satisfactory method is to use a large card with a compartment for each possible bid; at your turn you point to the bid you wish to make.

In an event of any size, there will be a tournament director whose job is to ensure that the play flows smoothly. This person will deal with any infringements of the rules that occur, referring when necessary to the laws. If some irregularity occurs, such as a bid out or play out of turn, an illegal bid or play, or discovering that the cards have been wrongly boarded (the hands contain more or fewer than 13 cards), the director should be called to the table. This should not be construed as an accusation of cheating - the purpose of calling the director is simply to ensure that the irregularity is sorted out fairly and in accordance with the rules. The instructions and decisions of the director should be followed and respected at all times. In a serious tournament, if you strongly disagree with the director's ruling, it should be possible to appeal against the director's decision. The procedure for this varies according to the nature of the event - the director should be able to advise you on the options.

Stop and alert

In tournament bridge, if you make a bid at a level higher than necessary in that denomination (a "jump" bid), you are supposed to precede your bid by saying "stop" (or displaying your "stop" card if you are using bidding boxes). The next player must then pause before bidding or passing. The reason behind this is that after a jump bid the next player may have reason to hesitate, as your unexpectedly high bid might have disrupted the course of action which that player was planning. The player is forced by the stop rule to hesitate anyway, so avoiding giving unauthorised information. Example:

As South was forced to pause, North gets no clue as to whether South would have bid if it were not for East's interruption.

When a player makes an artificial bid, the partner of the bidder alerts the opponents to the fact that the bid is artificial, by saying "alert", displaying the "alert" card if using bidding boxes, or knocking the table. The rules as to which bids are regarded as artificial and need to be alerted vary somewhat from place to place.

Unauthorised information

This is information which you obtain as a result of some irregularity in the game, rather than as a legitimate deduction from the bidding and play. Unauthorised information might arise from:

The principle is that you are allowed to take advantage of anything done by your opponents at your table, but you are obliged to ignore any unauthorised information gained from your partner's actions or other tables.

In fact if you do obtain unauthorised information from your partner, you should not only ignore it but be prepared to prove that you have done so. This means that if you are involved in any kind of close decision you ought to take the action opposite to the one indicated by the information from your partner. For example if during the bidding your partner passes after a hesitation, you must pass too unless you have a cast iron case for bidding, otherwise you might be accused of making use of the unauthorised information that your partner nearly had a bid.

In bridge it is illegal to behave deliberately in such a way as to try to give spurious information to the opponents. For example if you have only one card of a suit that is led, it is illegal to hesitate before playing it, creating the impression that you had more than one card to choose from. On the other hand there is no ban on making deceptive bids and plays to confuse the opponents - as long as these are not part of an undisclosed partnership agreement. You are free for example to play a card different from what might be expected from your holding, as long as you do it smoothly and without comment. Similarly you are free to make a bid which is inconsistent with your system to upset the opposition, provided that this is as much of a surprise to your partner as it is to the opponents.


There are several versions of this game, also known in the official rules as Four-Deal Bridge. As this name suggests it is a game for four players which is complete in four deals, unlike Rubber Bridge, where the length of a rubber is indefinite. This greater predictability has made it popular in some American clubs where Rubber was formerly played.

The vulnerability varies from hand to hand in a fixed pattern as follows:

The game bonus is 500 when vulnerable, 300 when not vulnerable. If a team makes a part score this is carried forward to subsequent deals until one side makes a game. A team which has an outstanding part-score at the end of the fourth deal scores a bonus of 100.

Note: the original version of Chicago had the vulnerability reversed in hands 2 and 3, so that the dealing side was vulnerable. The more modern scheme, which has the non-dealing side vulnerable as shown above, tends to lead to more competitive bidding.

Chicago with Duplicate Scoring

Chicago is sometimes played using duplicate scoring. There is no accumulation of part scores or games from deal to deal - each deal is scored separately, and a team making a part score gets an immediate bonus of 50 as in duplicate. The sequence of vulnerability is fixed as in the standard version.

A multiple of four hands can be played, repeating the sequence of vulnerabilities as often as necessary. The result is simply the total score over the deals played.

Chicago with Russian Scoring

The following method of scoring Chicago originated in Russia. It eliminates some of the luck of the deal by introducing an element of IMPs scoring.

On each deal, there is a target score which depends on the number of high card points held. The cards are played in front of the players, as in duplicate. At the end of the play, the high card points held by each side are counted, according to the following scale:

There are 40 points in all. The team which held more high card points finds its target score, which depends on whether they were vulnerable or not, from the following table:
High Card           Target	
 Points       Not Vul.  Vulnerable
   20              0          0
   21             50         50
   22             70         70
   23            110        110
   24            200        290
   25            300        440
   26            350        520
   27            400        600
   28            430        630
   29            460        660
   30            490        690
   31            600        900
   32            700       1050
   33            900       1350
   34           1000       1500
   35           1100       1650
   36           1200       1800
   37           1300       1950
   38           1300       1950
   39           1300       1950
   40           1300       1950
The difference between the target score from the above table and the actual score is then converted to IMPs, using the standard IMP table. The total IMP scores over a series of hands are totaled to give an overall result.

For example, suppose we are East-West, and on the second deal of a Chicago we bid three hearts and make 10 tricks. We then count our high card points and discover that between us we had 24. We were vulnerable, so our target score from the table was 290. We actually scored 170 (90 for the contract plus 30 for the overtrick plus 50 for the part score). So we are 120 points short of our target. Therefore using the IMP table, our score for this hand is minus 3 IMPs.

Bridge resources on the Internet

Other pages with rules and advice

Bridge is one of the few card games with official rules. Here is a link to The Laws of Bridge.

There is much useful information in the Internet Bridge Archive, which contains the FAQ for the newsgroup

The Bridge World home page has some good introductory material for beginners, as well as problems, a book list, samples from their magazine, and links to other sites.

For an introduction to bidding, Chris Hasney's book on The Basic American Bidding System is available to read on-line.

Here is the web site of the British magazine Bridge Plus.

The Bridge Today University provides Bridge lessons by e-mail.

The Bridge Trix site includes a regular Bridge column by Bobby Wolf, and details of his series of Bridge Mentor CDs.

Warren's Free Bridge Workshop offers instruction based on "Standard-American Goren Party Bridge" techniques.

The BridgePassion.Com site offers a course of Bridge lessons, plus links.

The e-bridge site offers a free online game, and bridge articles at various levels; also live VUgraph of tournaments, and a special junior bridge section.

Sites for playing Bridge online


Bridge software

Bridge Baron - three-time winner of the world computer bridge championship; choice of bidding systems and conventions; choice of random (recreatable) deals, deals to specified profile or preset deals; online option in Windows version.

Lee Edwards' Convention Card Editor for Windows is a free program that allows you to enter information and print out your convention card in the correct format for your country (over 30 different formats supported).

Rodney A. Ludwig's Meadowlark Software: Home Page

MVP Card Games have a shareware Bridge program

Special K Software has software to play the card games of Bridge. This software is available at or

The GOTO Bridge program (French language) includes a large number of predealt and preplayed hands, so that you can compare your performance with others; further deals can be obtained or exchnaged at the FunBridge site.

Other WWW pages with useful Bridge links

The American Contract Bridge League has a links page and a library page.

Jude Goodwin-Hanson maintains a page of Great Bridge Links

Rodney A. Ludwig's Bridge Odyssey

ECats Bridge

Bridge Equipment Suppliers and other Bridge related pages

The Baron Barclay Bridge Supplies site has an on-line catalog of their equipment and links to other Bridge pages.

At the Grand Slam bridge site you can order cards and various other equipment, and there is a discussion forum for Bridge players.

The Mindracer site has a range of bridge products and a bidding quiz.

Finesse Bridge breaks is a UK based company which organises Bridge holidays.

Martin Holcombe runs Bridge Holidays at S'Algar in Menorca.

The Australian Youth Bridge page gives details of forthcoming events and results.

Bridge On Line offers news, a quiz and other services, in English and Italian.

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