Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Bridge is a very popular game and is widely played around the world. It is played online, it is played in clubs, it is played in people's homes. It is so popular that virtually every cruise ship has a bridge card game room and many bridge holidays are run in a variety of venues around the world.

It is fun, it's sociable, it's a great way of meeting new friends and keeping your brain active. So it isn't surprise that each year many people decide they want to learn how to play.
Here are a few hints, tips and some basic rules to get you started.

Basic Rules
To play bridge you need four people, a table and a standard pack of 52 playing cards (you discard the jokers). The players form partnerships and partners sit opposite each other. Each player is assigned to one of the four points of the compass as they sit around the table. East & West are one partnership and North & South are the other.

At the start of a game, each player is dealt 13 cards. They sort the cards into suits and then value their hand. To value a hand the player counts 4 points for each Ace they hold, 3 for each King, 2 for each Queen and 1 for each Jack.

As an example, imagine you have been dealt this hand:

A, J 10 5 Spades, K Q 7 Hearts, Q J 6 5 Diamonds, K 2 Clubs.
You hold 1 Ace (worth 4 points), 2 kings (worth a total of 6 points), 2 queens (worth a total of 4 points) and 2 jacks (worth a total of 2 points). So the value of your hand is 16 points.
Bridge is a trick taking game and each trick comprises 4 cards - one from each player. At the start of each trick the player who won the previous trick plays a card. The other players must play a card from the same suit, if they hold one. If they don't they can play another suit. If a "trump" suit is being used, playing a card from the trump suit will win the trick, provided another player doesn't play a higher trump card.

Whether or not a trump suit is being used is decided before the card play starts, when the players make their "bids". The aim of bridge is to win at least the number of tricks that your partnership has said it will make if you win the bidding. The main aim of the bidding is to give your partner information about the content of your hand to help you decide how many tricks you think you can win.

In the bidding, players bid in a clockwise direction. A player won't open the bidding unless they hold at least 12 points in their hand. If all players hold fewer than 12 points then the cards are redealt, although the final player has the option to open with fewer than 12 points if they feel their hand merits doing so.

Once a player has opened the bidding, there are two main decisions to be made. The other partnership has to decide whether to bid against the opener and their partner, or whether to let the opener and partner continue bidding unopposed. Meanwhile, opener and their partner are trying to exchange information about the make-up of their hands to decide how many tricks they think they can win.

There are 13 tricks in each game of bridge. The first 6 tricks are not bid for, so a bid of 1 means that the player believes they can win 7 tricks (6 +1). Bids can be suit bids or No Trumps. If the game is being played with a suit bid then a player can win a trick by "trumping" with a card from that suit IF they don't hold a card in the suit being played. If the game is being played in No Trumps, then trumps are not played. (Note here that trumping is often referred to as ruffing by bridge players.)
Those are the basic rules that it is helpful to know before learning the intricacies of the bidding.

Hints and Tips

Practice. As with many things, practice is the best way of learning. If you enrol on a class or take lessons online, it is very helpful to try and play in between sessions. There are many websites or downloadable apps which allow you to play bridge against "robots" or dummy players. The great thing about the robots is they have infinite patience and really don't care if you make wrong moves. A great way of learning and having fun in the comfort of your own home.

Learn one thing at a time. Learning bridge bidding can seem daunting with many conventions and rules. If you try to learn too much at once it will seem overwhelming. Find a good teacher or online site and learn one topic at a time. Don't try to rush ahead - make sure you have understood each topic before moving on and trying to learn something new. As I have said to many of my own students: "It's not a competition. Learn at your own pace."

Don't spend too long on each learning session. If you find yourself spending too many hours at one time trying to learn a topic you will stress yourself and start to get muddled. For beginners one hour at a time, if you are learning at home, is quite long enough. Take a break. If you try to learn too much at once you will simply forget it all.

Revision. If you enrol on a local bridge course, try to go through the topics you have learnt before the next lesson. This, along with some home practice play, will help you remember the topics that you learnt. Don't try to get ahead of your teacher. Take it slowly - that way you will learn more in the long run.

Finally. Enjoy yourself. Bridge is fun and sociable. You will meet new friends and keep your brain active.

The best place I know for learning bridge online, practicing, having fun and revising between offline classes is No Fear Bridge, which you can join by going to Blueberry Bridge

Differences Between American Standard and Acol Bridge

If you’re reading this, it's probably because you are thinking of learning to play bridge.  Millions of people play it, it's relatively easy to learn but complicated to master, it's fun and sociable.

Confusingly, there is more than one system of bridge bidding and before you start learning it is helpful to decide which system you want to learn.  Consider whether you will be playing exclusively online or whether you will want to play offline with friends or with a local club. 

There are two main systems that are played. Acol bridge and American Standard bridge. American Standard bridge is widely played online and also offline in much of the world.  In the UK, Ireland and New Zealand the main system is Acol bridge.

You may already have joined a local class and then decide that you want to get some practice by joining an online site.  You will need to be certain which system you are learning in your class so that you don't get confused by joining a site that plays using a different system.

So what are the main differences?
Over on the Blueberry Bridge website I've added a new post explaining the main differences between the two most common bridge bidding systems.  Head over and take a look to help you decide which system to learn.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Difference Between Acol Bridge And American Standard Bridge

You've decided that you want to learn to play bridge. Every year thousands of people take up playing bridge - it's fun, it's sociable, it's a challenge. But there are several different bridge systems. How do you decide which system to learn and what are the obvious differences?

There are two main systems that are played. Acol bridge and American Standard bridge. As a general rule, Acol is the system that is played in the UK, Ireland and Australia, whilst American Standard bridge is widely played around the world.

A wee aside - when I started learning I was convinced that Acol was an acronym and that each letter must mean something. It isn't and they don't! It's named after the road in London where it's originators used to meet and where they developed the system.

Many people learn to play bridge by attending classes. If you are going to join a class, then you probably won't have a choice of which system to learn. If you then progress to joining a local bridge club, again you probably won't have a choice and your club will play whichever system is widely used in your country.

It gets a little more complicated if you want to learn to play bridge online - and if you intend to join an online bridge playing community. Some sites offer a choice of systems. Some don't. So it might be worth doing a little research and identifying the site where you want to play before signing up for your online lessons.

So what are the main differences?
The most obvious difference, lies in one part of the initial bidding. This makes it easy to decide which system is being played. It's the point range required for an opening bid of 1NT (one No Trumps). In Acol bridge an opening bid of 1NT means you hold a balanced hand with 12 - 14 points. In American Standard bridge the same opening bid would mean your hands is balanced but contains 15 - 17 points.

The points are worked out in the same way. Before the bidding commences each player adds up the points in their hand. They count 4 points for each ace they hold, 3 points for each king, 2 points for each queen and 1 point for each jack.

The next difference comes if a player wants to make an opening bid of 1 of a major suit. There are four suits in a pack of cards, spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs. They are ranked in that order, with spades and hearts being the major suits and diamonds and clubs being the minor suits.
In Acol bridge a player will make an opening bid of 1 of a major suit if they hold 4 (or more) cards in that suit. So an opening bid of, say, 1 Heart, tells your partner than you hold at least 4 cards in that suit.

In American Standard bridge it is most common to play 5 card majors. In other words, an opening bid of 1 of a major suit tells your partner than you hold at least 5 cards in that suit. If a player only holds 4 cards in either major suit they will commonly make a minor suit opening bid - which just tells their partner that they don't hold a 5 card major.

In AS bridge it is common to include length points when valuing your hand. This means adding one extra point for each card held above four in a suit. Acol bridge players rarely include length points. Both systems offer the opportunity to add shortage points (additional points for short or void suits) for some bids. AS players would then count shortage points instead of length points.

Once you have decided which system to learn it isn't too hard to learn the differences and play a different system if you want or need to. Whichever system you choose to learn you will find all the lessons, tutorials, activities and handouts that you need if you sign up to No Fear Bridge through Blueberry Bridge where you can learn American Standard bridge or Acol bridge online.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Bridge Cruises 2015

Cruising is popular and so are bridge holidays.  Why not combine the two?  Sail to a new location each day, enjoy the sights whilst improving your bridge game with a program of lectures and bridge sessions?  Sounds like the perfect combination to me.

At Blueberry Bridge we have compiled a list of bridge cruises on offer for 2015.  Head over and take a look.  You might find your dream holiday.

Don't worry if you are a solo traveller.  All bridge cruises will find you a partner, and what better way to meet like minded travellers and make new friends.

http://blueberrybridge.com/bridge-cruises/

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Which Suit To Open?

There's a new post on Blueberry Bridge discussing which suit to open if you hold two equal length suits with 5 or 6 cards and also have fewer than 16 points.

http://blueberrybridge.com/which-suit-to-open/

Monday, 16 February 2015

Welcome To The Blueberry Bridge Blog

I decided that Blueberry Bridge should have a blogspot site, so here it is.  The brand new Blueberry Bridge blog.  I will add hints, tips and miscellany aimed at beginning and improving players.  If you want to know what's going on at Blueberry Bridge, check out our main site Blueberry Bridge