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What is the best bidding system which can be used for teaching beginners (who never played bridge before)?

I suspect that showing any complicated system, or asking to learn some long manual would burn all "initial interest". I think it is better to start with real game, and after playing some time (if interest would not be extinguished), having real game experience, beginners would feel natural need by themselfs to improve bidding system.

I can develop some very simple system, but I am curious if there is any standard simple system for learning?

EDIT: After several answers I have to put additional emphasize on what I am trying to achieve. This question is not about mastering Bridge skill from very novice to beginner, but it is about introduction for players who never played bridge (though played some simpler trick-taking games).

I cannot imagine how I supposed to teach beginners rules, game mechanics + material of "first 10 chapters in Commonsense Bidding" or Stayman and Blackwood within 20 minutes just to have first time game. That would take hours without any gaming, and it would become boring and would kill any "initial interest".

Just imagine: "- Guys, let's play Bridge, it is fun and interesting game. But before playing you have to sit down and listen two hours lecture."

What I need is very simple (extremly simple) bidding system, where everything is natural, without any artifical bids. Again, I can develop some very simple system, but I am curious if there is any such standard simple system for learning game play first time?

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7 Answers 7

2 sections to my answer:

  1. How to get up and running in 20 minutes
  2. Next steps to progress from the 20 minute version to solid Bridge beginner

How to get up and running in 20 minutes

It's simply not possible to play the full game of bridge itself after 20 minutes in a way that satisfies or even makes any sense. However, one can make use of a Gateway game which is similar to bridge to get such a quick start.

Spades is a terrific gateway to bridge. Apart from lack of dummy, trick taking play is identical to bridge. No Trump is not an option There is only one possible trump suit: spades. Eliminating choice in suits vastly simplifies bidding - you simply call out the number of tricks you think you can take. To make it feel closer to bridge, you could eliminate the "nil" bid and sandbags. Or you could keep them in as they keep the game more interesting.

Regardless of which spades rules you use, the play of the hand feels similar to bridge (though not identical due to no dummy, different scoring incentives, and much less information exchanged during bidding).

I taught my son to play Spades when he was 5, and a few months later taught him beginner level bridge, as follows:

Next steps to progress from the 20 minute version to solid Bridge beginner

Now that you've played a number of spades hands, you now have a good introductory feel for the play of Bridge hands. It's time to move on to the more time-consuming part for beginners: bidding.

I believe it's simplest to learn the most popular system in your area, for the following reasons:

  • There will be ample learning materials.
  • Learning materials will have different levels and you can start at the beginner level.
  • Most bridge players will know it even if they don't play it - so you can play other players in your area and they will usually by happy to help you learn.
  • You will be able to understand a substantial portion of the bidding of bridge players in your area.
  • Bridge learning software tends to do a good job of giving you practice hands for the most popular systems.

In USA, the most popular system is currently Standard American (5-card majors). It is so popular and well known in USA that at tournaments there is something called "Standard American Yellow Card" which is often used when two strangers are paired with each other.

I quite liked the pair of books I used to learn Standard American, 5-card majors, and the other most common techniques and conventions associated with it:

  • Commonsense Bidding by William S. Root
  • Modern Bridge Conventions by William S. Root & Richard Pavlicek

A real strength of this pair of books is how well structured it is for beginners. You can start by trying to master the first 10 chapters in Commonsense Bidding (and chapter 17) and that would be a very reasonable place to stop to enjoy a beginner level of bridge. This is exactly what I taught to my son when he was 5 (he did not read the books - I explained everything to him over the course of a few weeks while we played at least a few minutes every day). If you want to gradually learn more you can continue progressing through that book and then start on the 2nd book.

A real key to learning bidding that I wish I had known when I started is to start with just a very small number of the most common bidding techniques and conventions that will cover perhaps 60% or 70% of hands and concentrate on learning those well before going on to techniques and conventions that cover less common hands.

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+1 just for that last sentence alone. I might add that the negative inferences available at the bridge table (from plays and calls not made) are far more numerous, and informative, then the positive inferences from plays and calls actually made. Learning to read those is the true essence of good bridge. –  Pieter Geerkens May 22 '13 at 5:02
    
Thanks, your answer is informative but on slightly different topic. Please, see my Q edit. –  qble May 22 '13 at 10:07
    
I extensively revised my answer to better answer your question now that you clarified - note that this revised answer is exactly how I taught my son to play when he was 5. –  Joe Golton May 22 '13 at 13:49
    
Thank you, but sorry, I still have to say that it is still not the answer to my Q. I already mentioned that my partners know some simpler trick-taking games - so that part is not in the question (though your hints still can be helpfull for others). In my Q I interested in very narrow aspect: bidding system. Definitely very simple bidding system can be taught in about 10-15mins, I am looking for some standard one (with name, ready pretty-looking convention diagrams, etc). Something close to this, but I expecting even simpler and more importantly widespread used. –  qble May 22 '13 at 14:08

A system is proper use of conventions. Genuine beginners don't need any conventions, so don't worry about what system to use. Just start with "If you have 13 points, bid your longest suit, or the stronger of 2 equal" and a few similar rules. (As Joe implied, use the weak or strong no-trump that is common in your area; neither is intrinsically more natural). After a while, the better pupils will start to ask questions like "Is it better to bid 1NT or 1 Spade with a four-card suit?" (cue explanation of the difference between Standard American and other systems) or perhaps a slam hand will come up so you can demonstrate why it is important to know how many aces your partner has. Most people learn better when they can see the reason for the lesson; this goes double for using a convention (or discarding it; half the people at my club think Jacoby transfers are a waste of bidding space, but still understand what is meant when opponents use them).

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"Just start with" - yes, that path I am thinking about - most likely I should go this way. I was just curious if there is ready widely used such oversimplified system (with name, ready pretty-looking convention diagrams, etc). "the better pupils will start to ask questions like" - yes, this is exactly my aim - people should feel natural need (after having game experience) for more complex conventions first, before study them. –  qble May 22 '13 at 11:32

MiniBridge

Perhaps I should start without any bidding at all, with gateway game like Joe Golton suggested. I have found game MiniBridge - it is literarly "Bridge without bidding".

There is a lot of READY material for MiniBridge - for example look at links on wiki, or at this booklet or interactive description.

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2  
First I've heard of MiniBridge but seems like a great Gateway Game to Bridge. Having had a number of negative and positive experiences trying to learn bridge, and then to teach people bridge, I'm of the mind that bidding is very hard for a beginner no matter how much you try to simplify - and quite a bit harder if the student doesn't yet understand much strategy for how to play hands. With Gateway games such as MiniBridge or Spades, you can at least learn hand play without the distraction of trying to learn a bidding system as well. –  Joe Golton May 24 '13 at 18:59

Standard English Acol (pdf) is the system commonly used to teach beginners in the UK. Most bids are natural, it's got 4-card majors and strong 2 bids. To start with, you could ignore any conventions like Stayman or Blackwood and treat 2 clubs as a natural strong 2. These elements can be introduced at a later date.

Getting up and running within 20 minutes is ambitious (you could easily spend that long explaining the rules and the scoring), but might be do-able if you're teaching people who are experienced with other whist-based games.

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Thanks for answer. Yes, some of my partners are familiar with another whist-based game - Preferans(it has bigger/realistic penalties for failed contract), but there is no partnership in Preferans - as the result no need for communication via bid system. So, bidding convention description is the most important in my situation. Anyway, I think playing rules of Bridge itself are not hard at all even for people who never played such kind of games - novicies do not need to know every detail of scoring system, I think basic understanding of aims are enough. –  qble May 24 '13 at 17:28
    
Regarding 20min - yes maybe it is ambitious. But I fear that if my description would be longer than 20min-30min I am risking to never find company for playing Bridge "live" - because Bridge is not popular in my area. –  qble May 24 '13 at 17:37

Play 4-card majors, with just Stayman and Blackwood as conventions, and jumps stronger than non-jumps. Any old books by Goren you can find at a used book store will serve as texts. When your players get a little better, show them Five Weeks to Winning Bridge by Sheinwold. Then let them loose.

Alternatively, Edgar Kaplan's Bridge for Dummies is a good modern introduction to the game by one of the best bridge writers of the 20th century.

Update:
Given your time constraint, and the desire to introduce Bridge (which I applaud), why not try Auction Bridge instead of Contract? There is still a dummy to allow the increased precision of declarer and defending card play which that allows, and the selection of trump by the partnerships, but the points are simply for how many tricks are taken, not o whether that number of tricks was contracted for.

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I just want to say how frustrating it is that there aren't more resources online for how to teach bridge to new players who are already familiar with card taking games. My group of friends loves playing cards but are spending time playing simple games line Hearts, spades, and Euchre. My girlfriend has expressed interest in learning bridge but I don't know how to get started to try and teach 3 of our friends the game. For the advice to teach the most popular system in the area- I don't even know where to start. I'm in america but it would be suicide to try and teach standard american and several conventions to people who currently don't know what a dummy hand is.

I think that bridge can be played starting out with just natural bidding and no conventions at all- once people get more comfortable with that then express other options for bidding that have a bit more information. But seriously... In searching for resources online for how to best teach beginners to play when sitting down at the table I just can't find much out there.

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That is how the game became popular in the early 20th century. If you decide to start that way, try playing Auction Bridge instead of Contract. The increased precision of bidding really comes into its own when one must bid up to the game and slam bonuses. Without that requirement, players can learn dummy play and defense quite nicely with Auction Bridge. –  Pieter Geerkens Jun 7 '13 at 13:57
    
As I said in my answer, I taught my son to play bridge when he was 5, and it took about a month of playing about 20-30 minutes per day (he had already learned Spades so play of hand was not too hard). If one person knows bridge at a solid beginner level, the way to teach is by playing frequently and having a lot of open hands where the bidding is explained by the one person who knows how to play. Even when you close up the hands, be open to people saying "I have no idea how to bid this hand" and lay down their cards so you can help them through the thought process. –  Joe Golton Jun 7 '13 at 21:25

I once developed a "system" that is not official, but may meet your needs. It's based on what I call "levels," for opening and responding hands. The level of the opening hand dictates the opening bid, and the sum of the levels of the opening and responding hand dictates the contract.

A "level one" opening hand is one that can easily support a one level bid BY DEFINITION. That is your standard opening hand with a five card trump suit, and at least 12-13 high card points. Then bid one of the five card suit. If you have only four card suits, I would pass 12, 13, and even 14 point hands; I think they're too hard for beginners to handle. A 15-17 point hand with a four card suit would be a level one hand; I'd bid the best four card suit, or 1NT. I'd do the same with stronger hands (18+), but bid more aggressively with these stronger hands if partner responds.

Opposite the above opener, a level 1 RESPONSE hand is 6-9 high card points. With this kind of a hand, I would bid ONE a higher four card suit than the opener's or 1NT. If I have those 6-9 points, and three cards in the opener's suit, I'd raise to TWO of his suit. Opposite his five cards, we'd have an eight card fit, and about 19-23 high card points, enough for two of the partnership's best suit.

Back to opener. With a level one opening hand, I would rebid ONLY at the one level if there is no suit agreement (e.g. 1NT), raise to two of responder's suit if I have four opposite his four (eight in total), otherwise I would pass.

With a level TWO opening hand (at least 15-17 high card points) I would rebid one level higher than with a level one hand; that is, raise his suit to three with four cards, since there is a fit, or rebid my suit or a new suit at the two level.

With a level three opening hand (18+ high card points) opposite a response, I would rebid three no trump (game) or raise his response to the four level (game if in an a major suit) if I have four trumps. That's because the sum of level my 3 and his level 1 is four. Otherwise I would bid cautiously if there is an apparent misfit.

If responder has a level two response of 10-12 points, he should bid his best four card suit at the TWO level to alert the opener to the extra values. With 13-15 points for a level three response, the responder should bid THREE of his best suit. (After this, the opener should be able to determine the appropriate level, by adding his level to the responder's level.

If responder has 10-12 points and FOUR card of the opener's suit, he should skip the above, and bid THREE of the opener's suit. This is forcing to four of the opener's suit (game if a major).

This is a simplified model for beginners that spares you a lot of the complexity of "in between" hands. Hope it helps.

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