Learn to play
Bridge - what is it all about?
Bridge is a fun and challenging game which combines skill with fortune. Played in "tables" of four people, the rules of the game are relatively straightforward, allowing even debutantes with a few lessons under their belt to play with confidence - although becoming an expert can take a lifetime!
Bridge has changed from the early days when it was the game of choice in exclusive clubs and high society. It remains a popular social game in homes but is now also played competitively in clubs (duplicate bridge) and on the internet. Recent years have seen the development of the professional game with sponsors creating teams to vie for the world's top prizes.
Bridge is widely played throughout the world, giving an increasing number of people the opportunity to combine the pleasure of travel with the satisfaction and challenge of a game of brains and wits.
Cambs & Hunts Contract Bridge Association exists to promote the playing of bridge throughout the county of Cambridgeshire and the nearby area. We are affiliated to the English Bridge Union (EBU), itself part of the World Bridge Federation.
Learning to play bridge undoubtedly requires a certain effort in the initial stages. The rules of play are not hugely complex, but it takes a little time to commit these to memory, to become familiar with the terminology and thus to become confident at the table. On an ongoing basis, bridge is stimulating in the same way as other mind games such as chess, sudoku, crosswords - but it is a lot more social (since it requires four to play) and has far more of a psychological or human side.
There are many opportunities for learning to play bridge. Children can learn at home in the family or at school (where there may be a club). Universities too have thriving societies.
If you are a teacher and are not included in the list, please let us know - contact the Secretary!
You can also learn at your computer where numerous software packages will take you through the steps in an easy fashion. Once you have learned the basics (even from a book of games), you can watch and play on the Internet. Bridge Base Online and BridgeClubLive offer the opportunity to watch and participate as the mood takes you. Undoubtedly you can gain huge insight just by observing the mistakes of others. There is no limit to the number of armchair critics!
Better still, come to one of our clubs where you will enter the universe of duplicate bridge. Clubs welcome new players, and games are offered at different times to suit the varying levels of player. Club secretaries will often offer help in finding a partner. Some clubs offer hosting, whereby an unaccompanied player is assured of a game if they attend on a hosted evening.
Improve your bridge
Measuring your progress
Computers are adept at analysing hands and potential outcomes. These programs are called 'double-dummy analysers'. For the advanced player, these can prove useful; free examples of such programs are Bridgify and Deep Finesse.
Reading about bridge
Reading and studying books on bridge is an excellent route for improving your game. Books are available right across the spectrum from entertaining to informative and with a target audience from beginner to expert. Many of the most entertaining books feature strong characters, either real bridge personalities or imaginary eccentrics (with very human foibles). There are also a vast number of books which aim to instruct the player on all aspects of the game.
The EBU's English Bridge Web Library offers a wide range of titles. Also highly recommended is Chess & Bridge, who have a shop on Baker Street (great for browsing), but also offer a mail order service. As you might expect, Amazon lists over 1700 bridge books - and you may well find several out of print titles at your local library too.
With so many possibilities, we will be asking leading players in the County for their 3 favourite titles (past or present). To start this ball rolling, our resident EBU Education & Development Manager, Simon Barb, gives his nominations:
"The very best books are the relatively few which are both entertaining and introduce players to aspects of the game which they wouldn't just 'pick up' by playing regularly. Here are three which are as absorbing as a Robert Ludlum novel":
1. Killing Defence at Bridge by H.W. Kelsey
Killing Defence at Bridge is one of the great classics of bridge. The first in a series of major books written by Hugh Kelsey, who became internationally recognised as a leading authority on the analysis of bridge, the book sets the reader real-life defensive problems to consider (and get wrong) before putting him/her back on the right analytical road. Kelsey coupled incisive thinking with a brilliant skill with words, and deconstructed the most complex problems in bridge into reproducible easy-to-grasp steps.
2. Bridge with the Blue Team by Pietro Forquet
If you wonder how and why the Italians have such an enviable track record in international bridge, this book will reveal part of their secret: the astonishing heritage of the Squadra Azzurra who achieved a record number of victories in world-class championships through virtuoso defence and card play. The 140 chosen hands are first set out in single dummy form so that the reader can make his own decisions about playing the hand before reading the analysis provided. You will gasp at how these magicians made impossible contracts and defeated "unbreakable" ones. Sections at the end of the book give a summary of the bidding systems. Pietro Forquet is recognised as one of the most celebrated bridge players of all time, and in this book he demonstrates he would rank similarly as a bridge writer.
3. Adventures in Card Play by Geza Ottlik & Hugh Kelsey
If you think that you really understand the play of the cards and can analyse complex situations - this book will have you shaking your head at what you have been missing. Geza Ottlik had a remarkable talent for discovering and analysing strange and fascinating aspects of card play in bridge. This brilliant book is the result of his collaboration with Hugh Kelsey whose skill at high-level analysis of bridge problems was equalled only by his ability as a writer able to express complex ideas in simple prose.
Richard Pavlicek's official website
Claire Martel's website, Clairebridge
Andrew Robson - extensive articles for all abilities
A year at the table - an entertaining blog by one of our top players, Simon Barb
Bridge in Cambridgeshire
Bridge has a particularly strong tradition of success in Cambridge. Partly as a result of the university, the county has over the past forty years produced many of the country's finest players. Today, Cambridge continues to be home for several players in contention for international selection at junior, open and senior levels.
The County selects teams for various competitions against other counties (Tollemache, Garden Cities and ECL league) and runs numerous intra-county competitions as well as offering opportunities to compete in the local heats of national events (National Pairs, Corwen, Pachabo, NICKO). You can read more about them on this site.
There are currently about 800 EBU members in the county, spread across 14 affiliated clubs.
To find out more about what has been happening bridge-wise in the County, do look at our newsletter!
Cambs & Hunts bridge teams
Team selection for the Tollemache is based upon partnerships' recent performance and previous track record in National and County events, as well as their rating under the National Grading Scheme (detail).
The county is fortunate to have among its membership some of the country's strongest active players, including: Paul Barden, Jon Cooke, Catherine Curtis, Paul Fegarty, Catherine Jagger, Chris Jagger, David Kendrick and Jonathan Mestel. The EBU has a list of many players' biographies here.