Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Auction Bridge

This variety of the game for four players, which adds an element characteristic of poker, appears to have been suggested about 1904, but was really introduced at the Bath Club, London, in 1907, and then was gradually taken up by a wider circle. The laws were settled in August 1908 by a joint committee of the Bath and Portland clubs.

The scoring (except as below), value of suits, and play are as at ordinary bridge, but the variety consists in the method of declaration, the declaration not being confined in auction bridge to the dealer or his partner, and the deal being a disadvantage rather than otherwise. The dealer, having examined his hand, must declare to win at least one "odd" trick, and then each player in turn, beginning with the one on the dealer's left, has the right to pass the previous declaration, or double, or redouble, or overcall by making a declaration of higher value any number of times till all are satisfied, the actual play of the combined hands (or what in ordinary bridge would be dealer and dummy) resting eventually with the partners making the final declaration; the partner who made the first call (however small) in the suit finally constituting the trump (or no-trump) plays the hands, the other being dummy. A declaration of a greater number of tricks in a suit of lower value, which equals a previous call in value of points (e.g. two in spades as against one in clubs) is "of higher value"; but doubling and redoubling only affect the score and not the declaration, so that a call of two diamonds overcalls one no-trump even though this has been doubled.

The scoring in auction bridge has the additional element that when the eventual player of the two hands wins what was ultimately declared or more, his side score the full value below the line (as tricks), but if he fails the opponents score 50 points above the line (as honours) for each under-trick (i.e. trick short of the declaration), or 100 or 200 if doubled or redoubled, nothing being scored by either side below the line; the loss on a declaration of one spade is limited, however, to a maximum of 100 points. A player whose declaration has been doubled and who fulfils his contract, scores a bonus of 50 points above the line and a further 50 points for each additional trick beyond his declaration; if there was a redouble and he wins, he scores double the bonus. The penalty for a revoke (unaffected by a double) is (1) in the case of the declarer, that his adversaries add 150 above the line; (2) in the case of one of his adversaries, that the declarer may either add 150 points above the line or may take three tricks from his opponents and add them to his own; in the latter case such tricks may assist him to fulfil his contract, but shall not entitle him to any bonus for a double or redouble. A revoking side may score nothing either above or below the line except for honours or chicane. As regards the essential feature of auction bridge, the competitive declaration, it is impossible here to discuss the intricacies involved. It entails, clearly, much reliance on a good partner, since the various rounds of bidding enable good players to draw inferences as to where the cards lie.

The game opens the door to much larger scores than ordinary bridge, and since the end only comes from scores made below the line, there are obvious ways of prolonging it at the cost of scores above the line which involve much more of the gambling element. It by no means follows that the winner of the rubber is the winner by points, and many players prefer to go for points (i.e. above the line) extorted from their opponents rather than for fulfilling a declaration made by themselves.