Have you ever played real bridge?

February 23, 2009 at 3:28 am 18 comments

Sorry, but before we get to the suicide point, first I have to share something interesting which happened on Saturday.

So, what’s real bridge? Real bridge is when you know what the score is all the time and can play accordingly. Is there another sport in the world which considers it inappropriate for the players NOT to know what the score is? Do tell if there is one. I’m supposing there isn’t.

The great thing about bridge online is that you can play teams bridge like it used to be played in the 1930s – you know what the score is all the time. Brilliant! Of course, it means there are all sorts of situations you face which are unfamiliar territory and I want to share this one with you.

You are playing Singapore, it’s the last board and you know you are exactly 1 IMP down.

You pick up:


and think to yourself, as the auction begins 1C P 1H to you, ‘Hmmm. A part-score hand, perfect for the purposes of trying to get that IMP back.’ You double, promising at least 4-4 in the other suits, but not 5-5 shapes, LHO redoubles and partner bids 1S. You raise to 2S over 2H at your next turn, sit back, and to your surprise the opponents bid to 6H, LHO jumping to 4D over 2S.

So, the question is, 1 IMP down, this is the last board, do you double 6H?

And while you are considering that particular dilemma, what do you lead on this lot:


Again you are playing Singapore online. In first seat all vul partner opens 3D. RHO bids 3S and over your 4D LHO ends the auction with 4S.

What do you lead?

Back to the first hand. I said ‘pass’ over 6H. I wasn’t just worried about 6H making via the double. What if LHO ran to 6NT and partner led the suit we’d bid and raised? That might be disaster.

Except that THIS was the layout:

s Q764
s AK52
h1 Q95
s 10
d1 A982
c 643
s J983

One way or another it drifted 3 down for +300 to us. ‘Easy game’ I thought ‘Yep, those Singapore kddies get just what they deserve’….until we discovered that in the other room bridgeboy, holding my cards, had doubled 6H after a similar auction and gotten +500 for his troubles.

That’s what real bridge is like…maybe you are glad you don’t play it!

Okay, now the opening lead problem.


You are defending 4S on the auction:

3D 3S 4D 4S

All Pass

Let’s say you began with a top club, queen from partner. This is dummy:


Welcome to suicide point. What are you thinking of next? Come back tomorrow for more.


Entry filed under: bidding. Tags: , , , , , .

The critical point. Or not. Suicide? Indeed, Holmes.

18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jonathan  |  March 5, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Would it really make so much difference?

    We know the score in IMPs every 8boards say, and we adjust our play a little as a result. Four boards into the set we have some idea whether we’ve blown 20 or not. If we knew the score every board would it make that much difference? I don’t think so. It’s only really the last few boards of a match where it could matter. I would have no objection to scoring up every board for the last set if that’s what we wanted to do. It would introduce something different into the game as in should Cathy double 6H. It would remove the spice of playing every board in the last set carefully and neurotically, not knowing that oppo just went for 1400 in the other room.

    In the UK we have the Pachabo event, a multiple-teams where scoring is a mixture of point-a-board and VPs based on the TOTAL score. If the first board is a completely flat 1430, you know that the IMP-aspect is irrelevant on the other two boards
    of the match. This adds something and subtracts something.
    It’s a nice event partly because of these novel aspects.


    • 2. Jonathan  |  March 12, 2009 at 5:06 pm

      I really should have known better than to tempt fate.

      A few days after my above post, we lost to a team too weak to contemplate. This was the very last board:

      Oh the formatting seems to have broken let me try again:


      3D P P 3S
      4D X PPP

      Yes I know you’d all have led HQ and taken it 3 off at once,
      but I led SA, on which partner for some reason played the 2.
      So I switched to CQ. Declarer ruffed the next club, laid down
      DAK, on which partner gave me spade count. He then led a
      low heart.

      (a) Should I split?
      (b) If I insert an honour to the king and ace and partner’s 3rd club is ruffed, should I duck the next low heart?
      (c) Oh to be playing Cathy’s instant scoring and to know that
      +500 wins the match, +300 loses it…


  • 3. phil markey  |  February 24, 2009 at 3:16 am

    “As for the idea that bridge is about keeping your nerve and knowing what the score is would mean that is missing – now that has got to be completely wrong thinking. Are you telling me that if Nadal is serving to stay in the match and he DOESN”T know that is the situation that will be a greater test of character than if he does!?”

    well yes

    of-course for that one point nadal is having an acute test of his character – if he didnt know the score throughout then for every point he should play like its for the match

    i think its apples and oranges to some extent – all i really know is i enjoy the long grinding pressure of knowing everything i do is potentially critical

    • 4. cathychua  |  February 24, 2009 at 10:16 am

      I think that is way off base. The last point is only the dramatic example. Throughout the match of any type of sport knowing the score will be a test of character. Sometimes that will be because you are up and that isn’t necessarily easy to handle. The easy way out is not to know and to be able to take comfort in that – ignorance is bliss….that’s what it sounds like to me!

      If you want every board to matter and REALLY matter, ie actually count, then you have to play, as Simon points out in a comment above, rubber bridge. Everybody knows the score all the time, all the score counts, the deals are not unevenly weighted and because you are actually playing for something there is pressure all the time. Actually, Phil, surely you’d be a good rubber player, wouldn’t you?

      • 5. phil markey  |  February 24, 2009 at 12:03 pm

        george smolanko and zoly nagy think so little of my rubber game that when i played regularly i would guess that about half the time i got a phone call the next day apologising for the abuse i recieved

        naturally i think i’m great at rubber but all i can really say is that i love rubber

        “The easy way out is not to know and to be able to take comfort in that – ignorance is bliss”

        now thats “way off base” – and you know it

        there is nothing “blissful” about the pressure during a knockout bridge teams match

        in practice – i remember winning an ANC final by 1 imp – horton and i played the last board sometime after the other table finished alhtough we didnt know that – all we knew is that given the margin before the set was only a handful it was likely to be close

        just before that last board hit the table i remember thinking to myself that i would make sure i did my best that board because it could be the one – i was going to be conscious of nearly being finished a high pressure match and make sure i didnt suffer any let down

        it was a boring part score hand that my opponent didnt play well such that he failed to make his overtrick that my teammate in the other room in the same contract did – horton and i defended huge to allow him to make that mistake that cost an overtrick

        and then there was a time in a NOT quarter final when again it was close going into the last set – simon and i had an excellent set but before that last board i allowed some stupid director to distract me and made a terrible bid that cost a game swing to lose by an imp

        these were challenging tests of character – there was no lack of challenge because i didnt know the score – i’m sure it would of been different if i knew the score but i like it like it is

        • 6. cathychua  |  February 24, 2009 at 9:28 pm

          But Phil, nobody is saying if you don’t know what the score is you aren’t going to try or that it isn’t important. But knowing what the score is, aside from the fact that it adds to the test of character is actually important to the running of the game as a contest. That’s the real point. It is ludicrous to be playing at any point in the game and not know how you are travelling. And, in practice you have said that when you ‘KNOW’ what the score is, that influences you!!

          I’m saying you actually feel comfortable because the pressure is just a given. You don’t have to be conscious of it, it is an even constant. You just go in and try your best on each hand. Now, you would find that FAR harder if you knew what the score was. And, indeed in normal sports where you do know what the score is, one of the really important things you have to try to do is get over that! As you know players at the highest levels of sports like tennis can find that incredibly hard even when they are comfortably up.

          On one level, by the way, bridge players in general spend their time in part working out how they are doing. Whether that be by estimating their scores at Duplicate, or doing something like that at IMPs. Is that a relevant observation?

  • 7. cathychua  |  February 24, 2009 at 2:35 am

    Bill, regarding your comment that Well, what other sports are conducted in two locations that must be isolated from each other? That’s what’s unique about teams bridge, with respect to this discussion.

    I’m not sure if I’m following the whole sense of your comments on this. Re the above, does that mean that you DO think that we should know what the score is as we play but logistics make that difficult? Because then we are merely having a discussion about when the technology will let us play face to fact bridge as we play bridge online where do do have the capacity to know what the score is….

    Or are you arguing that it is ‘bad’ to know what the score is? If so, I would like to know why your thoughts run that way. Presumably in that case, by the way, it would be your opinion in long matches that team members should not be allowed to score up at any point during the match?

    Or do we come back to my suggestion that teams is a fundamentally flawed way of playing bridge? At least we can and do run pairs events in a barometer style where everything is known as you go along. Again, if you think this is a wrong way to present pairs, with instant scoring, it would be interesting to know why….

  • 8. phil markey  |  February 24, 2009 at 12:31 am

    bills doing a better job than i probably could re knowing the score – when i think of knowing the score as i play i realise in practise what i would be missing

    teams bridge in a knockout scenario is commonly about keeping your nerve – if you knew the score this just wouldnt be the same challenge and i would miss that

    re doubling 6 hearts – always hard when you know the result so i would be quick to say in practice i might do the same thing


    ” I wasn’t just worried about 6H making via the double. What if LHO ran to 6NT and partner led the suit we’d bid and raised? That might be disaster.”

    reeks of monsters under the bed to me – at the very least there are plenty of good arguments for double

    i also have to observe that knowing the score for this hand leaves open the allegation that your reacting to the score rather than the decision in front of you

    “‘Hmmm. A part-score hand, perfect for the purposes of trying to get that IMP back.”

    i dont think you should be thinking that

    how you should be thinking is in my view a big and interesting topic – it ends with you almost always shouldnt be thinking anything different than usual

    • 9. cathychua  |  February 24, 2009 at 2:27 am

      But Phil, the score is everything. The hand is nothing. Why do we have scoring at all if the score isn’t what we are responding to???

      Again, it is completely against the principles of how sporting contests are run not to know what the score is.

      As for the idea that bridge is about keeping your nerve and knowing what the score is would mean that is missing – now that has got to be completely wrong thinking. Are you telling me that if Nadal is serving to stay in the match and he DOESN”T know that is the situation that will be a greater test of character than if he does!?

      In fact if you never know what the score is, nerve simply doesn’t come into it. You play right ‘odds’ bridge, whatever that means to you personally. The only time nerve does come into it is when it counts and it only really counts if you know what the score is.

      • 10. Simon Hinge  |  February 24, 2009 at 8:59 am

        Rubber bridge!!

        • 11. cathychua  |  February 24, 2009 at 10:21 am

          Yes. See reply to Markey for a summation of why rubber is the way to go.

  • 12. sartaj  |  February 24, 2009 at 12:25 am

    Low club at trick 2. If partner has a doubleton club, declarer’s third club is not going anywhere since i have the hearts locked up.
    Declarer’s most likely shape is 6313 and if partner has the HQ, we have this hand beaten legit as long as partner unblocks in time.

    • 13. sartaj  |  February 24, 2009 at 12:27 am

      Hang on that doesnt add up. Declarer can play a club himself.
      So i guess i must switch to a heart at trick 2.
      But then declarer can win, strip and play three rounds of H.
      I give up !

  • 14. phil markey  |  February 23, 2009 at 10:05 am

    i’m with bill

    I think doubling 6H is easy.

    i lead king of clubs and give pard a club ruff – i’m assuming pard doesnt have QJ of clubs – this avoids endplays

    • 15. cathychua  |  February 23, 2009 at 9:52 pm

      And do you think that about all sports, that the players shouldn’t know what the score is? Or is there something special about bridge that way?

      • 16. Bill Jacobs  |  February 23, 2009 at 11:41 pm

        Well, what other sports are conducted in two locations that must be isolated from each other?

        That’s what’s unique about teams bridge, with respect to this discussion.

  • 17. Bill Jacobs  |  February 23, 2009 at 6:11 am

    So why do you have to know the score for it to be “real bridge”? It sounds akin to an Australian Rules football question: is it real football when you know exactly how long there is to go in the match?

    If you think it is IS real bridge, then suppose at your table in your 28 board match, the score for board 27 has not come up. (The opponents are still playing it.) 6H comes to you, and you decide to wait for 5 (10? 15?) minutes to see the comparison on board 27, so you know how many imps you need to win (or how many to avoid losing).

    For example, if you discover that you are 13 imps up after board 27, there is utterly no point in doubling, is there? If it goes down you have won the match without the double. And the double runs the risk of the 6NT escape, for -17 imps.

    Doesn’t feel like a viable sport to me.

    I think BBO team matches are much better for the players when there is no running score for them. And since that’s how face-to-face bridge has always been played, I would have had the reverse answer to that question.

    • 18. cathychua  |  February 23, 2009 at 7:33 am

      Well, we’ll have to beg to differ on this one, Bill. You think it is better to guess what to do on the last board than have all the relevant information in front of you. The real football equivalent would be if a person kicking for goal on the siren wasn’t allowed to know if he needed a point or a goal to win. Doesn’t that seem more like the relevant scenario?

      Though, if it comes to that, count me in with those that think it is reasonable for the players to know how much time is left in a football game!

      Maybe the bottom line in this case is that teams is the wrong form of bridge to play, is that the real issue? That it is a fundamentally flawed form of bridge?


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