Game Strategy

Playing Bridge Game Strategy

Learn Bridge strategyAnybody can learn the rules of the game of Bridge in five minutes, but it can take a lifetime to master the game. In order to shorten this process there are certain Bridge game strategies that you can utilize to become a better player of the game. Here you will find some important information on game strategy when it comes to playing Bridge.

Overview

Bridge is played by four people using a standard deck of 52 cards minus the Jokers. Each deal is made up of three parts, known as;

·         The Auction, where all four players have to make bids clockwise to describe their hands.

·         The Play is when the side that wins tries to take the tricks that are necessary to complete their contract and scoring.

·         Bidding is basically the language used by players to relay information about the weaknesses and strengths of each player’s hand to their partner. In this phase of the game, the dealer makes the first call, either via a pass or a bid and the auction then proceeds clockwise until the three other players have said “Pass.” The final bid that is cast is called the “Contract.” What this means is that one pair has been contracted to fulfill a specific amount of tricks either in a particular suit or a no-trump.

·         The first player who names the suit of the final contract (or the first player to bid no-trump is called the “declarer.”

·         The person who is seated towards the left of the Declarer is called the “Dummy” and makes the opening lead by placing his hand face up in the center of the table. While the Declarer plays the cards from his own and the Dummy’s hand, the Dummy watches and observes the bids being played.

·         A pair is able to fulfill a contract by wining tricks either the equivalent or more than the number that has been bid. A trick consists of four cards, one from each player. Whenever a player is unable to make a contract or is unable to take the tricks that are required by the level of the bid they are faced with a penalty.

Total Points and IMPs

A single hand such as a major penalty of a slam at International Match Points can end up determining the final result of the game.

·         The key strategy at IMPs or total points is to make sure you complete your contract. That’s because the value of an overtrick can never be more than a contract.

·         Players should always be conservative when it comes to overcalling at the second and third level, and especially when you’re vulnerable.

·         Players can double a part score, but only if they expect to go down a couple of tricks.

·         Always consider cheap sacrifice as an insurance. In other words, even if you think that you may have to set a game or slam at total points.

·         Bid a vulnerable game only if it is at least 40% better simply because the reward will be greater.

Players should always bid more assertively at total points.

·         On the other hand, in a non-vulnerable game at IMPs you can bid whenever you suspect that you are more likely to make it.

·         When it comes to IMPs, always strain to invite a vulnerable game. If both partners stretch you will end up with some not so attractive contracts. As a result, always try to bid the game yourself rather than be inviting with a solid invitation.

·         Whenever you agree to concede part scores it is always better to contest the part score as high as possible.

Matchpoint Strategy

At matchpoint, the amount of the total points by which players win has no value. In other words, having a 10-point lead over the opponent is just as having a 1000 point lead. The main focus when playing Bridge is on the actions which leads to a higher score, regardless of how many points were risked. At IMPs, the slam and game hands are both crucial elements mainly because of the large bonuses that are involved. For instance, according to research, nearly 20% of all IMPs swing on slam hands even if they only occur lesser than 10% while playing Bridge. Accurate slams and choice of game bidding also come with high premiums. When it comes to matchpoints, a similar number of matchpoints swing on each hand no matter what the level. The high level of frequency in the game and part-score bidding is what makes them the central focus of the game.

When it comes to IMPs, the plus score is considered to be king. Both the declarer and the defense play is usually about guaranteeing a plus score. During matchpoints, the player’s main goal is to optimize their score. Since the player’s goals will vary according to their hand, they may sometimes also have to minimize the loss by holding down overtricks. Also, players may have to rick their contracts in order to make an overtrick as well. Players also need to sometimes score a penalty that is larger in order to outscore the field. Apart from that, players also need to guarantee their plus score to succeed. One of the trickiest parts of playing Bridge is that players may sometimes need to hold their contract to down one rather than risking a large negative score.

Overtricks and Undertricks

The following is going to be some tips you can use when it comes to overtricks or undertricks in the game of Bridge.

·         Both overtricks as well as undertricks matter in all contracts. Players will usually take the maximum amount of tricks if they are certain that their contract is worth it.

·         Whenever an opponent declares and they are more likely to have full values (all pass) it is better to not lead (KJx or AJx) because the only chance that you will have to beat them is if your partner has five cards in that suit. In other words, you are more likely to blow over 10 overtricks for every miracle defeat (3NT) you are able to achieve.

·         Against 1NT or 3NT, a safe lead such as K from KQJ is always a better option instead of taking risky lead from a broken 4 or 5 card suit simply because of the change of holding down the overtricks.

·         Holding down overtricks are just as valuable as bidding slams. They are definitely worth the risk and therefore, is advised whenever a player is able to stand a lead of just a single suit. In this situation, a player needs to either double an artificial call for a lead or rake the risk and overcall the suit.

Field Contracts

A field contract is considered to be extremely important when it comes to matchpoint. If a player plays a weak NT, they will often play contracts from a different side than the field. Whenever a player does that the one thing they will need to think about is whether or not the reversal has put them in a lower, equal or higher scoring position. Your approach may be adjusted depending on the player’s conclusion.

Whenever a player reaches a contract that rates poorly to a matchpoint they should not waste any chances in improving their score. For instance, if a player bids 3NT with an 8-card major suit in a bid for the top. But they made a bad decision and the 4M players ended up getting ten tricks while you are left with nine. In this situation, there is a 25% line with will either cause you to go -1 or make an overtrick. Playing safe will not be an option here since the 25% line will most likely cost you nothing when it fails, but will make you win at least 12 matchpoints if it succeeds.

In this case the reverse is also true. For example, if a player has a cold 4 spades in a 4-3 fit that can score more than a 5M and 3NT, then they should take no risk in playing. Besides, if you are getting 12 matchpoints why would you risk 100 matchpoints. The point here is to always be aware of the risks that’s involved. For instance, you should never go for +650 if you are at risk of collecting only +200.

Vulnerability

·         Vulnerability also sways may a close competitive decision.

·         Always try to double aggressively for a -1 set when the oppos are vulnerable. This is where +200 is a top.

·         Overbid for a -1/-2 result when you are NV.

·         NV on NV is the best time to compete for the part score. On the other hand, vul on vul is the worst time to keep for the partial. Keeping that in mind, vul against NV offers slightly better odds.

·         NV on vulnerable is also a good time to compete for the partial, especially via a takeout double (because partner may be able to pass it to earn +200).

·         You and your partner should discuss how the vulnerability affects how frequently you bid on various auctions.

·         Try to defend unless balancing or competing is very clear.

The Proprieties of Playing Bridge

The proprieties of Bridge are basically the rules that govern best behavior while playing the game and are just as important as game strategy, because not abiding by them will get a player penalized. Although beginner players often times act in certain ways that would be deemed unethical during the game without knowing it, but nonetheless, it can lead to penalties that could cost you the game. As compared to the rules for playing Bridge, the principles of behavior while playing Bridge is much easier to follow. In fact, even inexperienced players can learn the rules of playing the game at the outset and avoid developing those bad habits.

The laws of playing Bridge also has a specific section that is devoted to proprieties that can be summarized as the following;

·         Communication between partners should take place only through the calls and plays that are made.

·         You cannot convey information to your partner via verbal or non verbal communication of any kind.

·         Players should refuse to draw any information from any such actions by your partner.

While an inexperienced player can be excused if they violate any of the rules of playing the game, a breach of the proprieties done by a knowledgeable player who’s aware of the rules and consequences will render you an outcast. With that in mind, the following are some of the actions that Bridge players should refrain from at all circumstances.

·         Don’t vary the speed of your actions.

·         Don’t pretend to think just to fool the opponents.

·         Don’t make superfluous comments relevant to the game.

·         Don’t make emphatic gestures.

·         Don’t invent new wording during the bidding.

·         Don’t draw inferences from the speed of your partner’s bids and plays.

Ending Note

So, there you have it. These were just some tips that can get you off to a good start when playing the game of Bridge for the first time. It is important to keep in mind here that even with all these tips and possible strategies that can be applied to a game of Bridge there is still so much more that players can learn. With all the different strategies that can be used to win against an opponent, Bridge players are never bored. That’s the effect of this amazing game! For more information on the various strategies that you can use while playing Bridge you can go online or read books that are dedicated to the game. In the end, Bridge players should remember that practice makes perfect, so the more you are able to practice the game of Bridge, in time, the better you will come at playing the game. Also, when you find a good Bridge partner stick with them, because that person will be your friend whenever you are playing Bridge.

Other placed with Bridge Strategy

  1. thestrategybridge.com – Is a  international journal focused on Bridge Strategy
  2.  Pete Matthews – A great PDF file about Bridge scoring, strategies, and tactic