4 players - 1 pack (52)
Standard 52-card pack, ranking AKQJT98765432.
Thirteen each, one at a time and face down. The last (52nd) card is turned face up to determine a trump suit before being taken up into dealer’s hand.
Players sitting opposite each other are partners. A rubber is won by the first side to win two games. A game is won by the first side to win 5 points, which may take one or several deals. The object of play is to win a majority of the 13 tricks, i.e., seven or more. A partnership scores 1 point for every trick it takes in excess of six (6 tricks constitute a book; those in excess are called odd tricks). Points are also scored for honours, these being the AKQ and J of trumps. A side scores 4 points for holding four honours or 2 for holding any three, but these are not credited until the hands have been played out, and must therefore be remembered.
The player at dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Others in turn must follow suit if possible, otherwise may trump or renounce ad lib. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, or by the highest trump if any are played. The winner of one trick leads to the next.
Whichever side took more tricks scores 1 point per odd trick. Whichever side held three or four honours, whether in one hand or between the two, scores 2 or 4 respectively – unless, however, they already have a score of 4 points towards game, in which case the honours are not counted. If both sides have two honours, no honours are scored.
The penalty for a revoke (a player failing to follow suit, though able to do so) is 3 points, which the opponents may either add to their own score or subtract from that of the revoking side. In counting towards game the score for a revoke takes priority over the score for tricks.
The side first to reach or exceed 5 points wins the game (and, if applicable, thereby prevents the other from scoring for honours). The winning side counts a single game point if the other made 3 or 4 points, a double if the other made only 1 or 2 points, a treble if the other made no score. The side that first wins two games adds two game points for the rubber. The margin of victory is the difference between the two sides’ total of game points (as distinct from trick and honour points). Thus the highest possible game score is 8-0, the winning side having won two trebles plus 2 for the rubber.
GAME VARIANT: AMERICAN WHIST
The first side to reach or exceed 7 points for tricks wins the game, its value being the difference between the two sides’ scores. Honours are not counted.
NOTES ON PLAY
Normal strategy is for each side to win tricks in their longest suit – the one in which they hold most cards between them. First, each partner seeks to indicate his best (usually longest) suit by leading it at the earliest opportunity or by discarding a low card from it when unable to follow suit to the card led. Next, they seek to establish their suit by forcing out any high cards the opponents hold in it so that they cannot win when that suit is constantly led. Having established it, however, they must first try to clear the trumps out of play so that the opponents cannot beat the established suit by ruffing and so get into the lead with their own best suit or suits.
It is usually right for the person lying second to the trick to play low unless he is certain of winning the trick or has only two of the suit led (as explained below). The third should normally play high in an attempt to win unless he is sure that his partner’s lead is unbeatable. The fourth, of course, is in the most favourable position and will play as he sees fit.
The player who leads to the first trick has the advantage, besides that of setting the pace, of being best able to communicate information to his partner about the state of his hand, as his choice of card is completely free. He must therefore lead from his longest suit to show his partner which one he thinks they have a good chance of establishing, and his partner, in turn, will normally be expected to lead the same suit back as soon as he gets the chance – unless he feels he has a better suit. It is possible, by carefully selecting the rank of the first card played, to convey to the partner what sort of holding the lead is made from, whether strong or weak. For this purpose some highly elaborate signals or “conventional leads” were worked out when the game was most in vogue, many of which have subsequently been carried over into the game of Bridge. They may be condensed and simplified as follows.
Lead from your longest plain (non-trump) suit, a suit of which you hold four or more cards. From two of equal lenght, play the one that has the highest cards.
If the top cards of the opening suit form one of the following patterns, lead to the first and second tricks as indicated below: AKQJ: lead K then J
AKQ-: lead K then Q
AK-J: lead K then A A-QJ: lead A then Q
-KQJ: lead J
With any other Ace holding, lead the King if you have it; if not, lead first the Ace and then the fourth best card of that suit (as it was before the Ace was led). Holding neither Ace nor King, lead your fourth best of the suit. Example: from Q9873, lead the Seven. Trumps may be led if you hold five or more, the appropriate signals being:
AKQJ: lead J then Q
AKQ: lead Q then K
AK: lead K then A if holding seven trumps at least. Otherwise, and lacking all these patterns, lead your fourth best trump.
The lead of the fourth best is not a meaningless convention but enables the partner to get a good idea of the lie of the cards against him by means of a calculation called the “rule of eleven”. If your partner leads his fourth best you subtract the value of that card from eleven and the result tells you how many higher cards are lacking from his hand. By subtracting from that total any you hold yourself, you learn how many lie with the other side. For example: your partner leads the Seven and you hold the King and Jack of the suit. Seven from eleven means four cards against him, of which you hold two. If he were leading from Ace and others he would have led the Ace, so that must be held by an opponent. So his original holding must have been any four cards out of QT987 (regardless of anything lower), and the opponents hold between them the Ace and any one of QT98.
If you are third hand and your right opponent plays higher than your partner’s lead in a suit of which you hold the Ace and Queen, it is proper to attempt to win the trick by playing the Queen, in the hope that your left opponent does not hold the King (the chances are equal that he or your partner holds it.) This attempt to win a trick with a card that is not the highest in its suit is called a finesse. If the Queen wins, the finesse succeeds against the King and your Ace/Queen combination wins two tricks instead of one. The same principle can be extended to other combinations of cards and other playing situations. By its nature the finesse is a risk and should therefore not be employed if its failure is likely to lose more than its success would gain. It is applicable to all trick-taking card games.
Except when trying to win a trick, always play the lowest you can of the suit led. But if you have only two left in the suit it is proper to play the higher first and the lower to a subsequent trick. This conventional device is a way of indicating to your partner – if he is awake – that you are thereafter void in the suit and so able to trump it if led. By extension, any play of an unnecessarily high card before a lower one in the same suit is a signal (known as the Blue Peter) that you wish him to lead trumps at his earliest opportunity.
Advantage may be gained from a suit in which you are void (have none left). If the suit is led you may either seek to win the trick by ruffing or renounce by playing a card of some other suit. A renounce may be used for one of two purposes. Early in the game, if you have a strong suit but have not yet taken a trick, you may discard low from that suit in order to draw your partner’s attention to your best suit. Or, since you nearly always have one or more cards that are certain losers, you take advantage of the opportunity to throw a losing card on it, possibly for the purpose of voiding yet another plain suit. When both partners are void in different suits they may be able to set up an annihilation of the opposition by a process of cross-ruffing: one player leads into his partner’s void suit, his partner wins the trick by ruffing, and then follows by leading into the first partner’s void suit...and so on.
In connection with voids, avoid the beginner’s habit of leading from a suit in which he holds only one card (a singleton) or exactly two (doubleton). The idea is to create an early void in order to start trumping. But the effort is pointless. For one thing it prevents one from making an informative opening lead, which is to waste a strong advantage. For another, the short suit will be led eventually with precisely the same effect, so nothing will be gained.