Monday, 1 September 2014

Online Bridge Lessons


Welcome to Bridge Lessons - A Publication of Blueberry Bridge.

On this site you will find 12 beginning bridge lessons for complete beginners wanting to learn Acol bridge.

The first five lessons are the same whether you are learning Acol or American Standard bridge. They are the basics of the game.  Lessons 6 - 12 relate to Acol bridge.

Acol bridge is the system used in the UK, New Zealand and in a few other countries.  Standard American is widely used in the rest of the world and online.

If you are attending bridge classes and aren't sure which system you are being taught there is a simple way to decide.

Strong No Trumps opening
If your classes, online software or friends open the bidding with a bid of 1NT if they hold 15 - 17 points, then you want the Standard American lessons.

Weak No Trumps opening
If you are being taught to open the bidding with a bid of 1NT if you hold 12 - 14 points, then you want the Acol lessons.

Work your way through the lessons by choosing from the menu on the right. The list is "upside down" with lesson 1 at the bottom.  Sorry about that.

When you have completed the lessons you will be ready for either:

a) The best place to learn Standard American bridge for beginners and improvers - No Fear Bridge US.

b)  The best place to learn to play Acol bridge for  beginners and improvers - No Fear Bridge.  Here you will find lessons graded from beginner through to improver with some advanced lessons too, to help you become a better and more confident Acol bridge player.

What are you waiting for - learn how to play bridge today, or improve your bidding and play.  There's a two week trial, with no credit card details required and nothing to pay unless you decide to join.  The sites are run by an experienced bridge teacher and player who understands the needs of beginners and improvers and knows how to help you learn in a fun, interactive way with tutorials, quizzes, progress chart and hundreds (probably thousands) of interactive hands to play.  New content is added regularly to help keep you interested and help keep you learning.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Lesson 1 - The Basics

This site is for beginning Acol bridge players.

To play bridge offline you need 4 players, who play in two pairs.  The players sit round a table, with partners sitting opposite each other.  Generally the playing positions are known as North, South, East and West with N/S forming one partnership and E/W forming the other partnership.

The aim is to win the game for your partnership.

The game is played using a standard pack of 52 playing cards.  At the start of the game the person designated as the dealer deals all the cards, so that each player holds 13 cards in their hands.

Each player sorts their cards into their suits.  The suits rank in this order - spades is the highest ranking, next comes hearts, then diamonds and then clubs is the lowest ranking of the suits.

Before the game starts, each player adds up the number of High Card Points (HCPs) in their hand.  Counting 4 points for each ace held, 3 points for each king held, 2 points for each queen held and 1 point for each jack held.

The best place to learn Acol Bridge online is at No Fear Bridge.  It's the number one website for learners.  It's fun, interactive and addictive.  Join now - take your two, no obligation, trial membership.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Lesson 2 - Basic Jargon. Bridge Terms

Before we go any further, let's look at some of the basic bridge terms..  In many of the following lesson you will read terms such as "dummy" and "declarer".  Who are they are and what role are they playing in the game you are playing?

The Dealer. As we saw in lesson one, there are 4 players who play as two partnership, N/S and E/W.  It is usual to decide who are playing together as partners before the game starts.  Players can then draw cards from a deck to decide who will be the "dealer".  If you are playing at home the dealer will then deal the cards, dealing clockwise around the table and starting with the player to their left.  If you are playing in a lesson or club it is likely that the cards will have been pre-dealt and you will be handed them in a wallet.  In this case the dealer is just a nominal position.

The Opener - This is the player who makes the first bid that isn't a "pass".  (More about this later)

The Responder - is the "opener's" partner.

The Declarer - The first player to bid the suit that the game is played in (more later)

The Dummy - Declarer's partner.  After the first card is played, Dummy turns their cards face up and takes no further part in the game.

Major Suit - Spades and Hearts are the major suits and are worth more when scoring a game of bridge.

Minor Suit - Diamonds and Clubs are the minor suits.

Contract - see lesson 4

As you learn more you will also come across bridge terms such as:

Bidding Convention. Some bids that are used when playing bridge can have a special meaning.  It's a bit complicated to explain right now, when you are just beginning.  Partners agree before playing which bidding conventions they are using so that they know and understand when a special bid is made.

For example - a bid of 2 Clubs usually tells your partner that you are holding a certain number of clubs and a certain number of points.  However, in some circumstances it tells your partner nothing about your hand but is actually a question - asking  your partner if they hold 4 or more cards in one of the major suits - hearts or spades.

You will find much more about bridge terms if you take  your trial membership at No Fear Bridge.  Click Here to join now.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Lesson 3 - Opening The Bidding

Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player in turn must decide whether to open the bidding or to pass.

Can you open the bidding?

Each player has added up the number of High Card Points (HCPs) in their hand (see lesson 1).  As a general rule a player needs at least 12 HCPs to open the bidding.  (There are exceptions, but we'll learn those later).

If the player to the left of the dealer holds 12 or more points, they can open the bidding.  If they have fewer than 12 points then they pass.

If you are playing bridge in your home or somewhere where there are just a few tables of players you can speak your bids.  If you are in a club or larger gathering you will almost certainly be using bridge bidding boxes.  This means you don't have to speak your bid - imagine the noise in a large bridge club if everyone was trying to shout their bids so their table could hear them!

Once a player has opened the bidding they become the "Opener" and have started a dialog with their partner which is aimed at finding out the best final bid for them to make as a partnership.

The player on the Opener's left must decide whether to overcall or pass and leave the opener and their partner to bid and make the final contract that the game will be played in.

Now that you know how to decide if your hand is suitable for opening, head over to No Fear Bridge where you will find a tutorial on opening the bidding.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Lesson 4 - The Contract

The "contract" is the final bid that the game will be played in.

The contract can either be a "suit" contract or a "no trumps" contract.

In a suit contract one suit is designated as the "trump" suit. A no trumps contract is what it says - there is no trump suit.  When the game is being played (see lesson 5) a trump card wins the round if no other trump card is played.

Once the contract has been decided the person who first bid the suit (or no trumps) that the game will be played in becomes the declarer.  Declarer's partner becomes the dummy.  The person on the declarer's left plays the opening lead.

What does the contract mean?

Once the contract has been decided the declarer and their partner are aiming to make the number of tricks that they bid for.  The first 6 tricks don't form part of the bidding.

There are 13 tricks in each round of bridge.  A bid of, for example, 1 spade means that the partnership think they will win 7 tricks - the six non counted tricks plus the one trick that they bid for.  A bid of 7 hearts means that the partnership think they can win all 13 tricks - the six non bid tricks plus the 7 they bid for.  A bid of 3 NT (no trumps) means the partnership think they can win 9 tricks (6 + 3).

Friday, 8 August 2014

Lesson 5 - Playing The Game

Once the bidding has finished and the contract has been decided, the cards are played.

The player to the left of the declarer makes the opening lead.  As soon as the opening lead has been played, the dummy lays their cards face upwards on the table and takes no further part in the game.  The declarer plays both their own hand and the dummy's hand.

The game is played clockwise around the table.  Each player in turns lays a card on the table.  If the player has a card in the suit led by the first player then they MUST play the same suit.  If they don't have a card in the suit that has been led then they can play a card from another suit.  If the game is being played in a trump contract they have the option to play a card from the trump suit or to throw away a card from another suit.

Each round is known as a trick.  A trick is won by the team that plays the highest card in the suit that was led OR by the team that played the highest trump card.  A card from the trump suit ALWAYS beats cards from any other suit.  If the game is being played in a No Trumps contract then the trick is won by the team that plays the highest card in the suit that was led.

After the opening round, each subsequent round is started by the player  (or dummy) than won the previous round.

The game is played until all 13 rounds or tricks have been played.

The declaring partnership count the number of tricks they have won.  If they have made the number of tricks they bid for, or more, they score the relevant number of points.  If they have made fewer tricks than they bid for then the opposing partnership win the relevant number of points.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Lesson 6 - Opening with a 1NT bid

If you are the first person to have a hand suitable for opening the bidding you have to decide what bid to make.  Each bid you and your partner make aims to tell each other something about your hand.

The simplest opening bid to learn in a game of bridge is 1NT.

This bid is made IF and ONLY IF:

1.1)  Your hand contains 12 - 14 HCPs (High Card Points) if you are playing Acol bridge (weak No Trumps)

1.2)  Your hand contains 15 - 17 HCPs if you are playing Standard American bridge. (Strong No Trumps)

2)  You hold a balanced hand.

What is a balanced hand?

A balanced hand contains
  • no voids (ie, you must hold cards in all 4 suits),

  • no singletons (you mustn't hold just one card in a suit)

  • no more than one doubleton (a suit with 2 cards)
Note:  If you hold a 5 card major suit (spades or hearts) then you should open with a bid of 1 of  the major suit.  However, if you hold a 5 card minor suit, you should open with 1NT.

For Standard American players
Examples of a balanced hand with 15 - 17 points

Example 1


Spades K J 8 3, Hearts A 6 5,  Diamonds K J 9, Clubs A 7 4

This hand has 16 HCPs, cards in all four suits and no voids or singletons

Example 2

Spades A Q, Hearts J 7 6 2, Diamonds K Q 10 3, Clubs Q J 4

This hand has 15 HCPs and only one doubleton (spades)

Example 3

Spades A J 9 4 , Hearts A K 8 2, Diamonds K 7, Clubs Q 10 6

This hand has 17 HCPs and only one doublton.

For Acol players
Examples of a balanced hand (with 12 - 14 points)

Example 1

Spades K 10 9 3, Hearts A 7 2,  Diamonds Q J 6, Clubs K 7 4

This hand has 13 HCPs, cards in all four suits and no voids or singletons

Example 2

Spades A J, Hearts 10 9 4 2, Diamonds K Q 7 6, Clubs Q 8 5

This hand has 12 HCPs and only one doubleton (spades)

Example 3

Spades Q J 8 9 , Hearts A K 7 6, Diamonds Q J, Clubs J 6 3

This hand has 14 HCPs and only one doublton.

What This Bid Tells Your Partner?

For Standard American players
An OPENING bid of 1NT tells your partner that you have 15 - 17 HCPs and a balanced hand.

For Acol players
An OPENING bid of 1NT tells your partner that you have 12 - 14 HCPs and a balanced hand.




Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Lesson 7 - Other Opening Bids

As we saw in lesson 3, a player usually requires 12 or more points to open the bidding in a game of bridge.  In lesson 6 we saw that a player holding 12-14 points AND a balanced hand should open the bidding with a bid of 1NT (1 No Trumps).

What should your opening bid be if you hold more than 14 points and/or your hand is not a balanced one?

Here is a simple to follow chart to help you decide on your opening bid.

12-14 points15-19 points20-22 points
Balanced hand1 NT1 of a suit2 NT
Unbalanced hand1 of a suit1 of a suit

Which suit should you bid?
  1. Open with your longest suit, if you have one suit that is longer than the rest.

  2. Open the higher ranking of two equal length suits. (Remember the ranking order is spades then hearts then diamonds, with clubs being the lowest ranking suit.)

    • UNLESS you have EXACTLY four hearts and four spades, in which case open with a bid of 1 heart.

  3. If you have 4441 shape (four cards in three of the suits and just one card in the fourth suit) :

    • If the singleton is in a red suit, open with the suit below the singleton,

      • open 1 diamond if you have 4441 shape with a heart singleton

      • open 1 club if the singleton is a diamond

    • If the singleton is in a black suit open with the middle of the two touching suits

      • open 1 diamond if you have a spade singleton

      • open 1 heart if you have a club singleton
If your hand has a more distinctive shape, you might want to use the rule of 20 to help you decide on your opening bid.  See lesson 8.

If you are enjoying these lessons, take a look at No Fear Bridge, run by an experienced bridge teacher, it's a great place to practice and learn Acol bridge.  Click here.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Lesson 8 - The Rule of 20

As we have seen in previous lessons a player should usually hold at least 12 points if they are going to open the bidding.  As with all good rules there are, of course, exceptions.  There are two Rules that can be used if you have fewer than 12 points.  The Rule of 20 and the Rule of 15.  The Rule of 15 is used in one situation only and we will look at that in the next lesson - lesson 9.

The Rule of 20 is used if your hand is "shapely" - ie very unbalanced.

How and When to Use The Rule of 20

If you have a relatively good hand that has fewer than 12 points you might feel it is suitable for opening the bidding.  How do you decide?  This is when you use the Rule of 20.  Take the total of your high card points and add that to the length of your longest two suits.  If the total comes to 20+ then your hand satisfies the Rule of 20.  You can open the bidding if you want to (note - you can pass if you would prefer to).

Take a look at some Sample Hands

Sample 1

(spades) A  J 9 3
(hearts)  9 6 2
(diamonds) A Q 10 9 7
(clubs) 6

This hand has 11 HCPs and the two longest suits have 5 and 4 cards.  If you add these together you get a total of 20, so this hand would be suitable for opening the bidding.

Sample 2

(s) 10 6
(h) K Q 8 3 2
(d) A J 9 5 4
(c) 8

This hand has only 10 points and the two longest suits both have 5 cards.  Adding these together again gives us a total of 20, so this hand would also be suitable for opening the bidding if you wanted to.

Sample 3

(s) Q J 8
(h) 6 5
(d) A 8 2
(c) K J 9 6 3

This hand has 11 points.  If you add that to the length of the longest two suits (5 and 3) the total comes to just 19.  This hand doesn't satisfy the Rule of 20 and so isn't suitable for opening.

Notice that hand 3 is a balanced hand.  The Rule of 20 works for unbalanced hands.

The rule of 20 is one of the many lessons, tutorials and activities that you can practice if you join No Fear Bridge for your 2 weeks' trial membership.  Click Here to join right now.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Lesson 9 - The Rule of 15

Imagine you are the fourth player in the opening round of a game of bridge and your hand contains 11 High Card Points.  The other three players have all passed.

What does this tell us?

A suit of cards contains 40 HCPs.  If the previous three players have passed then we know that none of them holds 12 or more points.  We have 11 points so we know that the other players between hold a total of 29 points.  The points are fairly evenly distributed as we know that no-one has 12+ points.

Should we open the bidding with our 11 card hand?

Imagine that this is our hand

Spades: J 8, Hearts: K J 7 3, Diamonds: A Q 9 4 2,   Clubs: 7 6

If we decide to bid, the chances are that the game would be played in the contract chosen by us and partner.  But there is the possibility that the opposing partnership could overcall us.  If there is the possibility of that, it would be better for us to pass and for a new hand to be dealt.

How can we decide if the opposing partnership might overcall us?  The key to making the decision is working out who holds the spades. This is the specific situation for using the Rule of 15 - use it if you are the fourth player in the opening round of bidding and no-one else has bid.

Using The Rule of 15

Do we have enough spades to open the bidding with a bid of 1 spade?  To find out we add the number of HCPs in our hand to the number of spades in our hand.  If the total comes to 15+ then our hand satisfies the Rule of 15 and we can open the bidding without fear of being overcalled at the one level.

Here are some sample hands to illustrate the rule:

Sample 1

The hand above - could we have used it to open the bidding?

Spades: J 8, Hearts: K J 7 3, Diamonds: A Q 9 4 2,   Clubs: 7 6

This hand contains 11 HCPs , but only has 2 spades.  The total is just 13 points.  If we open with this hand we would open in diamonds and there is the possibility that the opponents could overcall us at the one level in hearts or spades.  We should pass and let a new hand be dealt.

Sample 2

Spades: A Q 9 4 2, Hearts: 7 6, Diamonds: K J 7 3, Clubs: J 8

This hand is similar to the hand in sample 1, except that the cards are held in different suits.  As with sample 1, the hand contains 11 HCPs.  The big difference here is that we hold 5 spades.  Adding this to the number of HCPs gives us a total of 16.  The hands satisfies the rule of 15 and we can open with a bid of 1 spade.  There is no opportunity for the opponents to overcall us at the 1 level.

The rule of 15 is one of the many topics and activities you can enjoy if you sign up for your trial membership at No Fear Bridge.  Join Now.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Lesson 10 - Responding To A Bid Of 1NT

Your partner has opened the bidding with a bid of 1NT.

Each bid in a game of bridge aims to tell your partner something about your hand.

What does your partner's opening bid tell you about their hand?

It tells you that they have 12-14 points and a balanced hand and that they don't have a 5 card major.

Now you have to decide on your responding bid, which aims to tell partner something about your hand

Responding to Partner's Opening Bid of 1NT

The first thing to decide is whether or not you have enough points between you to make game in No Trumps.  Game in No Trumps means a bid of 3NT. If you bid for and make  your game, you receive a bonus of 300 points.  (See lesson 12 on scoring)

To bid for game you need to know that you hold at least 25 points between you.  If you don't have enough points, then you need to keep the bidding low.

Responding to a bid of 1NT with a balanced hand.

If you also hold a balanced hand, then bid according to the number of points in your hand, as follows:
With 0 - 10 points Pass.  The maximum number of points your partner holds is 14, so you don't have the required 25 points between you.

With 11-12Bid 2NT.  This is an invitational bid, telling your partner to rebid if they hold 14 points.  Between you, you hold the necessary 25 points to bid for game.

With 13-18
Bid 3NT.  This is known as a "Sign Off" bid and tells your partner not to bid again.  Between you hold at least 25 points and so can bid straight for game.
You don't have enough points to bid for a slam - you can read more about slam bidding here.

Responding to a bid 1NT with an unbalanced hand (Or  a balanced hand with a five
card suit)
When your longest suit is a major suit:

With 0 - 10 points AND a 5+ major suit
Bid 2 of the major suit. (2 hearts or 2 spades)

You know that you don't have enough points for game, but with a 5 card major it is better to play the game in a suit contract.  This is a sign off bid and your partner shouldn't bid again.

With 11 - 18 points AND a 5 card major

Bid 3 of the major suit.  This is a "forcing" bid asking your partner to bid for game.  If they hold 3 or 4 cards in your suit they should bid 4 of the suit.  If they hold only 2 cards in the suit they should bid 3 NT

With 11 - 18 points AND a 6+ card major

You can bid directly for game.  You know you have an 8 card fit (partner cannot have fewer than 2 cards in any suit if they have made a bid of 1NT).  Bid 4 hearts of 4 spades.  This is also a sign off bid.  There is no need for your partner to bid again.

When your longest suit is a minor suit:

With 0 - 10 points AND a 5+ minor suit
    • If the suit is diamonds - bid 2 diamonds

    • If the suit is clubs - PASS (2clubs is a special bid [Stayman] and has a different meaning) This tells your partner you have a weak hand and they should pass
With 11 - 12 points AND a 5+ card minor

Bid 2NT.  This is an invitational bid.  It tells your partner to bid for game (3NT) if they hold 14 points.  Otherwise they should pass.

With 13 - 18 points AND a 5+ card minor

Bid 3NT.  You know you have enough points for game and it is better to play in No Trumps if your longest suit is a minor.

You can learn more and practice responding to an opening bid of 1NT if you join No Fear Bridge.  Take your two weeks' trial membership right now - just click here.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Lesson 11 - Responding To An Opening Bid Of One Of A Suit

This is just a summary of the responses to a 1 of a suit bid.  This is a large topic and one which you should study by taking your trial membership at No Fear Bridge.  Just Click Here Now to join for two weeks at no cost.

There are four basic types of bid you can make if your partner opened with a bid of 1 of a suit.  You can:
  • Support partner's suit

  • Bid a new suit

  • Make a No Trumps bid

  • Pass
You need to decide which of these bids you should make.

0 - 5 Points

You have a weak hand and partner has fewer than 20 points.  Between you do not have enough points for "game" - 25 points.

You PASS.

6+ Points

  • Partner opened with a major suit bid:

    • Support if you have 4+ cards in the suit (even if you have more or better cards in another suit)

      • 6 - 9 points, bid at the 2 level

      • 10 - 12 points, bid at the 3 level, 1

      • 3 - 15 points bid for game at the 4 level (partner has at least 12 points, so you have at lest 25 points between you)

    • Fewer than 4 cards in partner's suit

      • Bid a new suit at the 1 level, if you can

      • If you can't support or bid at the 1 level:

        •  6 - 9 points, bid 1NT.  This doesn't mean that you have a balanced hand, just that you don't have enough points to bid at the 2 level.

        • 10 + points, bid a new suit at the 2 level
Bidding a NEW Suit is a forcing bid, your partner must bid again.

Pass is a sign off bid - your partner must not bid again

Raising partner's suit or bidding in NT are limit bids and partner can bid again if they want to.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Lesson 12 - Bridge Scoring

Scoring is the heart of the game of bridge and learning how it works will make understanding the bidding much easier.  I know it did when I first started learning to play.

Knowing how the scoring works helps you to understand why it is better to play in No Trumps or a major trump and it helps you understand why sometimes it can be advantageous to bid to the 5, 6 or maybe even 7 level when you could stop bidding at a lower level and be certain of achieving your contract.

Bidding Basics.

  • The first 6 tricks don't count towards your score.  So a contract for 1 of a suit (or 1NT) actually means that you believe you can make 7 tricks (6 uncounted tricks plus 1 bid).  Likewise a contract at the 3 level means you believe you can make 9 tricks.
  • We've talked about achieving "game" in some of the lessons.  A “game” contract is one that scores a minimum of 100 points if it isachieved.  If you achieve (or exceed) a game contract you score a 300 point bonus - which is why it is advantageous to bid for a game contract IF you have enough points.  (If you fail to achieve the contract points are given to your opponents - so you shouldn't bid for a game contract unless you believe you can make the contract.)
  • If you don't have enough points for a game contract you can bid for a lower contract - this is a "part score contract".  You receive a 50 point bonus if you achieve the contract.
    • If you bid a part score but actually make enough tricks for game you will ONLY get the part score bonus as that is what you bid for.
  • If you fail to make the contract you bid for, your opponents score 50 points for each trick you failed by.  So, if you bid 3 of a suit (bid to make 9 tricks) and only make 7 tricks your opponents score 50 points for each of the two tricks you failed to make (100 points in total)

Basic Scoring Table

Points scored per trickNo. of tricks needed to make “game”(6 + no. of tricks bid)Minimum contract needed for gameHigh Card Points needed for “game
clubs and diamonds20115 clubs or diamonds27
hearts and spaces30104 hearts of spades25
No Trumps40 for FIRST trick 30 for subsequent tricks93 NT25

From this table you can see why it is advantageous to bid for game in NT or a major suit, if you can, as fewer tricks are needed to achieve the "game" bonus.

Doubling 

If you are part of the opposing partnership and you don't think the opener or their partner can make the contract they are bidding for you can “double”.  The advantage of doubling is that, if you are right and the opponents fail to achieve the contract your partnership will score double the points for each trick the opponents go down by.  However, if the opponents do achieve the contract they will  score double for each trick they make.  They will also score an extra bonus of 50 points for achieving the contract.

Once you've doubled, the opponents have the option of "redoubling" if they believe they are certain to make the contract.  This means that your opponents will score 4 times the points for each trick they make if they achieve the contract, plus a 100 point extra bonus.

Vulnerability

Vulnerability adds extra interest to the game.  One or both sides become vulnerable.  The vulnerability rotates around the table and changes from neither side vulnerable t0 E-W vulnerable to N-S vulnerable to both side vulnerable.
  • If your side is vulnerable and you fail to make a contract then your opponents score DOUBLE the number of points for each trick you fail by.

  • If your side is vulnerable and bid for and achieve game, then your game bonus is increased to 500 points.
There is no increase  in the part score bonus which remains at 50 points.

Slam Bidding

There are two types of slams.
  • A small slam, which means you bid for and win 12 tricks

  • A grand slam which means you bid for an win all 13 tricks).
You only score an additional bonus for these if you bid to make them.

If you bid for fewer tricks, but actually achieve 12 or 13, you will only score the normal game bonus, not the additional slam bonus.

If you bid for and achieve a small slam you will score an additional 500 point bonus (or 750 if vulnerable)

If you bid for and achieve a grand slam you will score an additional 1000 point bonus (or 1500 if vulnerable)

Both of these are in addition to the regular game bonus.

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Now that you have finished the twelve lessons on this site, you are more than ready to take your trial membership at No Fear Bridge.  Just Click Here to join for your two week trial.  I know you'll love it and become a better bridge player in no time.