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How to Play Bridge

Contract Bridge Scoring

The bidding and play of Contract Bridge were covered on the first two pages. Now you will learn the rules of keeping score, which can take some getting used to:

Scoring: After the tricks have been played, it is clear whether the declarer made the contract (i.e., took at least the number of tricks bid for) or, instead, went down. If the contract is made, the declaring side scores according to the table below. If you make a contract of 6, it's called a small slam; a grand slam is a made contract of 7 bids. Both slams receive bonuses. If you win six or seven tricks but did not bid that number; you are not credited with a slam.

In Contract Bridge, you are assigned points according to the contract suit and amount.

These are the scores allotted "below the line" for contracts that have been won.

If the contract goes down, the other side scores points for undertricks, that is, the number of tricks the declaring side falls short of the contract (see chart below).

If the contract goes down, the other side scores points for the undertricks according to the original contract.

If the contract goes down, the other side scores points
 for undertricks according to the chart above.

Rubber Bridge scoring: When one side has scored two games, it wins the rubber. A game means 100 points in tricks bid for (and won) according to the scoring table above. It's quite possible to bid and make game on a single deal: For example, 3 NT scores 100 points, and successful contracts of 4, 4, 5, and 5 also count at least 100 points. Alternatively, you can earn game in a series of deals whose final contracts end at a lower bidding level; these are called part-scores or partials. For example, you might bid and make 2 on one hand (40 points), and on the next hand you might bid and make 2 (60 points). The two added together equal 100 points, enough for game.

A side that has scored one game is vulnerable, so if both sides have a game both are vulnerable. A side that hasn't scored a game yet is not vulnerable. When defenders defeat, or set, a contract, they earn greater points whenever the other side is vulnerable. Score for the winning side is also increased when the final contract is doubled or redoubled. Note: Extra tricks (overtricks) made at any contract do not count toward game.

Scoring above and below the line: Both sides usually keep score, either on a preprinted Bridge score pad, or else just by drawing lines in a cross.

In Contract Bridge, you need to score 100 points below the line to make a game.

Contract scores are separated from
 undertrick,overtrick and bonus
points by a line.

Points toward game go below the line, while all other points, including bonuses and overtricks, score above the line. In the diagram to the right, E-W bid 1NT and made 2NT, scoring 40 below the line and 30 above for the overtrick. Then N-S bid 4 and made 120. To show that a game was won, an additional line was added under that score. E-W's 40 part-score, by the way, is wiped out, E-W earn the points but both sides start fresh earning 100 trick points toward the next game. N-S then bid 3 but went down one vulnerable, earning E-W 100 above the line. Finally, N-S bid and made 6 (in the hand shown), scoring 180 below the line in trick score, 750 above the line for vulnerable small slam bonus, and 700 more points above the line for winning a rubber two games to none. In this instance, the total rubber score is N-S 1,750, E-W 170.

Below is a list of scoring for bonuses and overtricks.

In Contract Bridge, bonus points are scored for honors and overtricks.

Overtricks, honors and other additional bonus points.

Tips and strategy: Remembering the cards played is one key to improving your play. This will occur over time. As a start, make sure to notice and remember the first time someone doesn't follow
to a trick. It also helps to develop an ease with the number 13. That's the number of cards in a suit, the number or cards each player is dealt, and the number of tricks in the play.

More books have been written on Bridge than on any other card game, so go to the library or bookstore and explore the bidding styles and tips for good card-play.

Contract Bridge is a complex game with many layers of strategy, but once you get the hang of it, you can play it for life. On the next page, we'll introduce you some variations -- Auction Bridge, Honeymoon Bridge, Reverse Bridge and Three-Handed Bridge.