Bridge: Beginner Strategy
Bridge is a wonderfully complex game that will provide you with years of entertainment. However, as a result of its depth and complexity, it can be really difficult for beginners to get into the deeper parts of the game... but worry not! Here are some basic tips and tricks to get you paddling in the big boy's end of the swimming pool!
When we talk about points, we usually refer to high-card points (HCP), where:
- Aces are worth 4
- Kings are worth 3
- Queens are worth 2
- Jacks are worth 1
When you open with a bid, you're telling your partner two things:
- that you have at least 12+ points in your hand; and
- that you have a length of five or more in the suit you're opening in.
If you don't fulfil those two criteria, the smart thing to do is to usually pass... unless, of course, you have some sort of obscene length or some other weird hand.
Which suit should you bid? If you have five cards or more in a major suit (Heart or Spade), bid that suit; otherwise, bid your longest minor suit.
If you have 15+ points and at least two cards in each suit, you may also wish to consider opening 1NT. The reason why a 1NT opening requires 15+ points instead of the usual 12+ is because no trump contracts are usually more difficult to make, so you'll want a larger point lead before you consider opening NT.
Supporting a Bid
When you have at least 6+ points and a length of three cards in the suit that your partner has bid, you may wish to consider supporting the bid by bidding one higher in whatever suit it was that your partner opened in. In this situation, you're telling your partner that between the two of you, you have at least 18 points and a length of eight, which should be enough for you to make the contract.
Alternatively, if you cannot support your partner's bid but have at least 6+ points in your hand, you may signal that by switching to a new suit.
If you manage to make any of these contracts:
- 4H or 4S (major suits)
- 5C or 5D (minor suits)
Your point score goes waaaaay up because of something known as the game bonus. This is the main reason why people always try to play major suits if they can, because you can make game at a bid of 4 instead of having to go up to 5. It is a good idea to try to make game whenever possible!