From the in-depth rules of bridge article, you learned what a contract is: a number between 1 to 7 and a “suit” (Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades, and No-trump). The goal of bidding is to reach the best contract for your partnership. We will learn how to do so in this article.
Major vs. Minors
In bridge, the 4 suits can be split into two groups: majors and minors. Majors are spades (♠) and hearts (♥). Minors are diamonds (♦) and clubs (♣). This distinction is useful later on when discussing bidding. Majors are abbreviated as M, and minors are m.
Types of contracts
Not all contracts are equal. There are mainly 3 types: slams, games, and partscores.
Slams: All contracts at the 7 level (7NT, 7♠, 7♥, 7♦, 7♣) are Grand Slams. All contracts at the 6 level are Small Slams. Slam contracts are desirable because they yield slam bonuses if you make them, but they are difficult to make.
Games: 3NT, 4NT, 5NT, 4♠/♥, 5♠/5♥, 5♦/♣ are games. Games are desirable because they yield game bonuses if you make them, but are relatively difficult to make (not as much as slams, however.)
Partscore: All contracts below games are partscores. Partscores do not give any particular bonuses.
Usually, the goal of bidding is to explore the possibility of making a game. Among the games, 4 of a major are the most desirable, followed by 3NT, and 5 of a minor is the last in consideration. This is because 4 of a major has the safety due to the trump suit, and 5 of a minor is not worth it because it is two levels higher than 3NT.
Disambiguation: “game” in bridge can refer to the entire activity (as in card game) or a specific type of contract. Look for the context to tell which meaning it takes.
High Card Points
High card point (hcp) is a way to roughly measure the overall strength of a hand. In this system, an A is 4 points, a K is 3 points, a Q is 2 points, and a J 1 point. All the other cards are not accounted for. You add all the points up in your hand to find the total hcp. There are a total of 40 hcp in a deck (10 in each suit).
Hcp does not perfectly reflect the strength of a hand, as we will see later. However, it is a good enough estimate to get us started.
♠K84 ♥QJ3 ♦AQ2 ♣KT65: 3+2+1+4+2+3=15 HCP
♠A52 ♥K92 ♦K53 ♣A942: 4+3+3+4=14 HCP
From empirical evidence, here are some guidelines when deciding a contract:
A contract that has a trump suit usually requires you to have 8 cards in that suit between the partnership. This is called a golden fit, or fit for short. Reasoning: a 7 to 6 trump advantage will be erased if you are forced to trump just once, whereas an 8 to 5 advantage gives you more room to maneuver.
A grand slam (at the 7 level) usually requires 37 hcp between the partnership. You can remember this by noting that 37 hcp prevents the opponents from holding an A.
A small slam (at the 6 level) usually requires 33 hcp between the partnership. You can remember this by noting that 33 hcp prevents the opponents from holding 2 A’s.
3NT or 4 major usually requires 25 hcp between the partnership. The fact that 3NT requires 1 less trick is offset by the presence of a trump suit in 4 major, thus the two contracts will require roughly the same strength.
5 minor usually requires 28 hcp between the partnership.
The purpose of bidding is to reach the optimal contract.
The 4 suits can be split into majors (♠ & ♥) and minors (♦ & ♣).
There are three kinds of contracts: slams (6 or 7 level), games (3NT or above, 4♥/♠ or above, 5♣/♦), and partscores (the rest of the contracts). These contracts correspond to different bonuses.
The goal of bidding in most cases is to look for a game.
When counting hcp, A=4, K=3, Q=2, J=1
A golden fit means having 8 or more cards in a suit between a partnership. This is required to have that suit be the final trump suit.
General hcp guidelines for contracts:
Grand slam: 37
Small slam: 33