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The Game of Bridge ♠ A History
Playing cards may have originated in China, but it has spawned countless card games with various rules and variants, but the one thing all trick taking card games have in common is that they share their own vibrant and interesting back story, each one just as interesting as the next. Bridge is one such card game that has enjoyed much fame and following. Bridge is considered to be the most popular card game in the world, and has also received official sport game status, and can now even be played online. Here we are going to talk about the history of this incredible game that has fascinated people from all walks of life for centuries.
Bridge seems to have begun sometime during the 1860s by traders in Turkey who were from Armenian, Russian and Greek communities. The game was played by using a combination of rules that were borrowed from Eralash, a Russian trick-taking card game, and English Whist. There are many theories of where the game got its unique name. The most interesting one being that it was named somewhere in the 19th century after the famous Galata Bridge that ran over the Golden Horn in Galata, which linked the old and new parts of European Istanbul, Turkey. At the time, the Galata Bridge was very famous and was widely featured in Turkish poetry, literature and theater. The popular card game was named ‘Bridge’ by the players who would cross the Galata Bridge everyday to go to play the game.
The first known description of the game was printed in London in 1886, where it was called “Biritch, which was a Russian word for “announcer.” But, it is believed that during that same time, the players in Constantinople, where it was extremely popular was already being called “Brich”, which was then anglicized to “Bridge”.
From 1892, the game began to attract more interest amongst the elite and in gentlemen’s clubs across London, Paris and New York. And by 1898, the game of Bridge had become in vogue amongst the broader upper class society in England, and especially amongst women.
Types of Bridge
In the 1920s, Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt, a rich American, was the first to make the rules and methods of scoring in the game, much of which are still used today. Later on, Mr. Ely Culbertson published the first complete book on the rules of Contract Bridge, which was followed by Mr. Charles Goren in the 1950s who added further laws that helped popularize the game. In 1958, Bridge was dubbed the number one game in the United States and Goren appeared as the ‘King of Aces’ on the front cover of Time magazine. It was due to the efforts of these individuals that Bridge is today known as being the most comprehensively organized as compared to other card games. Today, various types of the game are played across the world.
Auction Bridge also known as Straight Bridge and Bridge Whist was developed in 1904 by British civil servants stationed in India who developed the practice of bidding for the privilege of calling the trump suit. Auction Bridge featured trick bonus and penalty scoring, but without the concept of “vulnerability” which was added later on to the game. There is also no bidding in Auction Bridge, and the dealer has to either name a trump suit or pass it to their partner who then chooses a trump.
Contract Bridge was invented by Harold Vanderbilt, an American who introduced new features and a more sophisticated scoring system along with varying modes of vulnerability. The name “Contract” was given to the game because it involved a contract by the players to do a specific number of tricks, which resulted in either a penalty or reward. Contract Bridge experienced its Golden Age in the 1930s and 1940s, which led to further evolution of the game.
Rubber Bridge is considered to be a more basic form of Contract Bridge. The game requires a minimum of four players, and is a popular game in clubs where players wage money.
Duplicate Bridge is the game that is usually played during tournaments. This game requires at least eight players, and reduces the element of luck in the game of Bridge since different players get to play the same deals. Duplicate Bridge has been further divided into two types, “Pairs” and “Teams of Four”. The duplicate format of Bridge has been used since the 19th century in games such as Auction and Contract Bridge, including other four-player card games that are played in competitions.
Chicago is another version of the game of Bridge and is played by four players who have to play over four deals.
Mini-Bridge is another form of the game of Bridge that is gaining popularity. As the name implies, this is a simplified version of Bridge, by allowing players to focus more on the dealer’s play and the player’s defensive techniques. This game is usually played by beginners in order to get a hang of the game, before advancing to more complex versions of Bridge. Due to its simplicity, it is great for teaching kids the basics of Bridge. Mini-Bridge has also been introduced into the primary school system in the UK, because it is thought to enhance a child’s logical thinking and problem solving skills.
As the game of Bridge has developed through the centuries, Contract Bridge is the one format which has remained at the top and has managed to maintain its popularity.
You can learn to play bridge here