5

I am new to contract bridge, and wish to understand how it is a team game. I am playing at a low level, but it seems that it is more like two individuals that are playing for the same side, rather than an actual team game.

There are a few scenarios I have considered (and to which, is my understanding of the game)

  1. When you are the defenders, you need to work with your partner. Here I can understand the teamwork that exists, and your partner may need to rely on you to counter the declarer.

  2. The bidding. Despite the communication that goes on during the bidding rounds, it is generally the more aggressive player that takes the bids (at least at a low level). I apologize if this is less true at higher levels, but overall once the contract has been made, teamwork seems to cease completely.

  3. The declarer does not require their teammate anymore, so there is no teamwork here.

Besides these points, I do find it a fun game but I do not understand the need to have the same partner for years if you ever want to become professional. If you are paired with someone of equal skill, you should be able to accomplish the same amount as you and a long-term partner could for years.

Overall, I would like to have the team aspect of the game explained. I am aware this probably sounds like an opinion piece, but I've tried to make it as unbiased as possible. I am just very new to the game.

7

Interesting question.

First, a terminology issue. You refer to teams, but then only discuss the partnership of a player and his partner. Note that Duplicate Bridge is also played as a true team game, with teams of 4 players playing head-to-head, with each having a partnership sitting NS at one table and EW at the other. In this format the teams often are 6 players (rarely 5) with each partnership taking turns sitting out for a session at a time. The scoring for this format is usually IMPS rather than Match-Points although Board-a-Match scoring has increased in popularity since its nadir 30 years ago.

To take your points in reverse order, it is true that when a side is declaring there is very little for dummy to do. Many top bridge players have claimed that they use this time to deliberately zone-out, to refresh themselves mentally, but I have yet to meet one who didn't still know, after the hand if not the game, where all 52 cards were. This one aspect of the game is where the very rare expert, Zia Mahood, Pietro Forquet, and Belladonna Garozza come to mind, where one player's individual skill can sometimes impose their will on a long team game match. However these declarers are very rare.

Defense requires an increased degree of partnership understanding and communication, yet in truth this is very routine once one attains intermediate skill level. The style may vary between inverted or regular discards, frequent or infrequent signals, but in truth the communication channel between partners is so narrow that defence is primarily dependent on both partners being capable of strong independent analysis. Although important, this is not where the heart of a strong partnership lies.

But bidding; that's another ball game. Have you ever met a married couple who have lived together so long that they not only complete each other's sentences, but they each know when to pause to let the other do so. That's what a finely tuned bridge partnership is like when bidding. Lookup Eric Rodwell and Jeff Meckstroth, the infamous Meckwell who have been regular parnters for over 30 years now and frequently rated the best in the world for over half that time. Their system notes are claimed to run to several volumes of discussion that Eric Rodwell, the theorist for the pair, meticulously maintains.

Bidding is a language, and while a Londoner, a Bostonian, and an Aussie all speak mutually intelligible dialects of English, there will be occasional miscues from words being misheard, and from idioms not being recognized. Similar miscues will occur in bidding from time to time in irregular partnerships. While these will occur less frequently at higher levels, they are also more significant at those levels.

  • Actually, I find getting used to partner on defense quite complicated. It matters a lot less after a few tricks, but a good understanding of partner's opening lead tendencies when you have a decision at trick 2 or 3 is crucial. (Most recent annoyance with a partner: I make a trump opening lead, and when partner gets in, he leads A and another of his long suit hoping to find me with a singleton. If I had a singleton I would definitely not make an opening lead of a trump, and probably would have lead the singleton!) Also, returning partner's lead is a much better idea opposite some players. – Alexander Woo Dec 23 '15 at 2:33
  • @AlexanderWoo: Perhaps, stop playing with fools. If you can't find a better player to partner with, look to your own peccadillos. Forgive me or being rude, but a partner who either can't or won't understand the nuances of negative inference is doomed to failure at the game. Ask a better player for a game, and concentrate during that game on just not doing anything silly - if you can demonstrate an ability to avoid generating bottoms, then other good players will in turn agree to have an occasional game with you. We are all looking for our next best partner. – Forget I was ever here Dec 23 '15 at 2:41
  • I live in a rural area with maybe 30 bridge players within 70 miles. He's the best available player (i.e. not already in a regular partnership) around. I'm even putting up with playing a bidding system out of the early 1970s. – Alexander Woo Dec 23 '15 at 7:41
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In addition to bidding,teamwork was important in "signalling." For instance, a high card is an encouragement to continue the suit, "high low" signals and even number of cards in the suit, and is important for counting. In leading a suit, a so-called suit preference signal is important to signal the presence of an honor. Say hearts are trump and clubs are being led. A high club means, please return a spade; a low club means please return a diamond.

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Pieter has covered most of the answer, but there is one point he didn't emphasize; when you are bidding, it is important not only to find the right contract (suit and level), but to have the right person playing. Bidding aggressively is no bad thing (as I have often told my partners); but bidding aggressively just so that you, rather than your partner, are declarer is very bad for your score, and will make others unwilling to partner you.

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