Bridge Lessons

In June 1995, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) admitted the World Bridge Federation (WBF) as 'part of the Olympic Movement', awarding it the status of a 'Recognized Sport Organization'. This recognition was accorded under Rule 4 of the Olympic Charter.

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For the players with some bridge knowledge

Audrey Grant's Interactive Daily Bridge Column published avery day, is the most complete and comprehensive learning tool for iPad.

For the absolute beginner

Go through Audrey Grant's free Bridge Basics 1 - Lesson 1.

Rules of the game (Bridge Fundamentals)

Bridge is played with a full deck of 52 cards, making it virtually limitless with its 53,6 x 10 on power 27 possible deals. Each deal can be called and played in a number of different ways, all depending on the player's skills.

The deck consist of 4 suits of 13 cards. Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. Where the Ace is the highest ranked card.

Bridge is played by 4 players organized in two partnership pairs, where partners sit across the table. Each player is identified by one of the cardinal directions North, East, South, West. Naturally North-South and East-West are the two competitive partnerships.
Note: On computer bridge tables South is usually at the bottom of the screen, excluding online play, where 'You' have the bottom position .

Bridge is a partnership game. The result of a deal (hand) is assigned to each of the partners, regardless of win or loss.

Bridge is a trick taking game, more on how tricks reflect the Scoring section.

A bridge hand has 4 distinct phases.

  • Dealing the cards: Shark will take care of it, either by dealing random or preconfigured hands.
  • Auction
  • Play
  • Scoring

Dealing the cards

Each player gets 13 cards called a 'hand'. The cards are dealt (face down), one at time by one of the players (dealer) in a clockwise direction. The player to the left of the current dealer deals next.
Note: Shark will deal the cards for every practice or online game. You can also preconfigure deals manually, or play any of the preconfigured tournament deals, also called boards.

The Auction

After all the cards are dealt, the auction starts. The goal of the auction is to establish the contract.

A major consideration during the auction is partnership Vulnerability. Each partnership can be Vulnerable or Non-Vulnerable. When Vulnerable the gains or losses are much high, so a Vulnerable partnership can not be too aggressive during the Auction. Vulnerability is predetermined in duplicate games.

The Auction starts with the dealer and continues clockwise (with the player on the left) until 3 or 4 consecutive passes.

When it is a player's turn he can make one of the following calls:

  • A bid : any of 7 levels suit or NT bid. The bid must be greater that the last bid made. A bid has a level and a suit or NT, called strain. 1 Club is the lowest bid, 1 Diamond is next, 1 Heart , 1 Spade , 1NT, followed by 2 Clubs and so on up to 7NT. The last bid in the Auction sets the contract. The level of the contract determines the number of tricks needed to make it, the formula is level + 6 tricks, so 3 of Clubs requires 9 tricks to make. The strain of the contract determines the trump or no-trump, and it affects the strength of the cards in the deck. More on card strength in the play section.
  • Pass : player passes when it can not make any bid or double.
  • Double : double the last bid if it is made by the opponents, doubling partners bid is not allowed .
  • Re Double : redouble is only valid if the last call from the opponents is 'double'.

3 consecutive passes after a bid close the auction. If an auction consist of 4 passes, the deal is passed out, each partnership is assigned score of 0.

The declarer of the contract is the player from the auction winning partnership that first made a bid in the contract strain. Example : South opens 1NT, West passes, North 2NT, East passes, South passes, West passes, the contract is 2NT declarer is South.

The partner of the declarer is called 'Dummy'. The opposition partners are called 'Defenders'.

Bidding systems and conventions

Partnerships does not leave the bidding process during the auction at chance, but rather they will use bidding systems and conventions, where each bid has a very specific meaning, usually describing the strength and shape of the hand. In that sense the auction is a form of conversation between the partners to establish the contract they can make, based on the combined strength of their hands. The bids are the messages exchanged in that conversation.

Note: Shark can play Standard American 5 card majors and Danish Acol bidding systems, as well as popular bidding conventions. To better understand Sharks bidding always check the meaning of a bid.

The meaning of the messages can not be secretive

This idea is the most shocking and intriguing aspect of Bridge. Partners are not allowed to pass along any secrete meaning, they must explain the bidding system and convention they use to their opponents before the match, as well as alert them for any artificial bid they make. Artificial bid is a bid that has little to do with its any natural meaning. A good example of Artificial bid is the 2 Clubs strong opening, it does not mean the opener has good clubs suit, but rather means a very strong hand.

To make a proper bid/call, players needs to properly evaluate their hand. That hand is valued based on the honor card ( Ace, King, Queen and Jack), number of cards in each suit, as well as Losing Trick Count (LTC).

Note: Shark uses a combination of honor card points ( also called High Card Points) and Losing Trick Count method to value a hand. More details can be found here.

The Play

The level of the contract determines the number of tricks the declarer has to make. The formula is tricks=level + 6 , so 3 of Clubs requires 9 tricks to make. If the declarer fails to make the contract a negative result is assigned to the pair, more in the scoring section.

The play starts with a card played by the player to the left of the declarer, this first card is called Opening Lead. Once the opening lead is on the table, Declarer's partner (Dummy) puts it's cards face up on the table, ordered neatly in columns by suit, with the trump on the left (looking from the declarer). If there is no trump the order goes Spade, Hearts,Diamonds, Clubs. In a computer bridge it is widely accepted to order Black, Red, Black, Red for better screen visibility.

Now the Declarer is responsible for the choice of cards from both his and Dummy's hand. The Dummy is not part of the game and can not make suggestions or comments.

The play goes clockwise with each hand presenting a card to the current trick ( 4 cards from each side) until all 13 tricks are completed. The opener and leader to a trick are free to play any card they wish, there is no limits. Any following player must play a card of the same suit as the lead, if there is no such card, then the player is free to choose any of it's remaining cards. Winner of a trick leads to the next one.

Winning a trick

The highest card to a trick wins it, regardless of the position it was played from. The ranking of the cards is determined by the trump or lack of a trump (NT contracts).

  • A trick can be won only by a higher ranked card in the led suit, or by a trump card.
  • If one or more trumps are played to the trick, the higher ranking trump wins.


There are number of different ways to keep a running score and determine the final winner. Scoring a single hand is governed by a strict set of rules based on contract, tricks made and vulnerability. We will not go in details of how score is calculated (details at Wikipedia). Shark will score each and every hand you play for you. Shark will also keep appropriate running score depending on the type of game you are playing.

Running Score with Shark

  • Practice score : Shark keeps IMPs and MP based running score for your hands. IMP stands for International Match Point; it is a measurement of the difference between two scores of the same hand. Shark will take your score and measure it against an average score of hands with similar strength. Shark uses a database of more than 60,000 boards from team events competitions. The MP (match points) score is simple, if your score is better than the average - 1 point for you, if your score is less than the average 1 point against you. If you score exactly as the average then half point is assigned. MPs are calculated differently when more than one pair plays the same board, more on it when we explain the Daily Bridge Tournament scoring.
  • Extra Tournaments: Shark offers you to play boards from various bridge competitions. For those boards we have the scores of each pair and board, and your result is compared in IMPs against the actual result from the event. If you really care about the scoring and your progress as a bridge player, this is the best way to measure up. We have tested Shark robots with those boards: they do well against the masters in those events, so no excuses :). More here
  • Daily Bridge Tournament : This is an individual pairs event, where any VIP member can play 16 boards every day and compare the results against everyone else that completed the 16 boards within the 24 hours period. The scoring is given in MP %, the tie breaker is the IMPs result. More here