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'Death': Did you say humans play it for fun?

Twoflower: Some of them get very good at it, yes. I'm only an amateur, I'm afraid

'Death': But they only live eighty or ninety years!

Bridge (or more accurately, contract bridge, but nobody remembers regular bridge anymore) is a card game played by two pairs of players. It is a trick-taking game; on each round, each player plays one card, and the pair who plays the best card wins the trick. The game takes place in two phases - an auction, to determine which partnership will choose the trump (if any) and how many tricks they intend to take; and the actual play of the cards.

One interesting feature of bridge is that, after the first card is played, one player on the partnership who won the auction (the dummy, with all attendant joking) lays his or her cards on the table, and his partner (the declarer) plays both hands. (The dummy traditionally goes to the kitchen and gets snacks for everyone; it's also common in social settings to play staggered hands of bridge with seven people -- four bid at one table while three play at the other, with the dummy switching tables when the bidding finishes.)

Its most basic form, rubber bridge, is a best two games out of three match (called, unsurprisingly, a rubber) among four players. Whoever has the most points at the end wins (it is possible to win a rubber without winning even one game). Duplicate bridge - where each partnership plays the same hands, and pairs who score better on them get more points - is used at most competitions.

Bridge is generally an intellectual's game, as to be effective, a player must be able to communicate the contents of their hand (and determine the other three hands) with just fifteen words (numbers 1-7, the suits, no-trump, pass, double and redouble) and remember the cards which have been played. Most players use a number of artificial bids (conventions) to describe their hands during auctions, and some players use extremely complex systems where few bids describe a hand with strength in the suit named. However, at least one world champion (Charles Goren) became a top player despite actively resisting such complications.

Bridge reached the height of its popularity in the 1960s. As its players aged without new players replacing them, it came to be seen as a game for the elderly. The game is seeing a resurgence, mostly on college campuses. Many newspapers have a bridge hand (showing the cards and suggesting the optimal play) as a regular feature, usually near the crossword puzzle. Paul Allen, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett play bridge regularly.

For the Scandinavian cop show known in English as Bridge or The Bridge, see Bron Broen.


Tropes common to bridge include:

  • Metagame: A big part of the game.
  • Never My Fault: It's always your partner's fault
  • Obvious Rule Patch: It was once possible to promise to take 14 tricks, if you thought you would lose less points that way than if the opponents took 13.
  • Player Archetypes: Most players are Hearts or hybrid Diamonds/Clubs, according to the Bartle article)
  • Serious Business: Do not mess with anyone at an ACBL event. Just don't.)
    • Perhaps the epitome of this is the Bennett Murder, in which a woman killed her husband in the aftermath of him blowing a hand (although the fact that he repeatedly beat her was the real culprit, the bridge hand in question was catalyst for the murder itself.
  • Xanatos Gambit: And all its cousins, except perhaps Roulette
  • Tournament Play

Bridge has appeared in the following media:

Film

  • The House Of Mirth
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Pleasantville
  • In Carry On Regardless Sam is sent on a job which he thinks involves a spying mission to meet at a bridge, when in fact he was hired to play as a fourth in a game of Bridge. He never made it to the game because he jumped out the train for his "mission".

Literature

  • Cards on the Table features a murder committed during a game by one of the players (and expects the reader to understand the game to figure out the clues).
  • Moonraker (the novel, not the film)
  • As shown in the page quote, The Light Fantastic has Twoflower trying to teach it to the Four Horsemen. It's never actually named though, Twoflower just says "In your language it's a thing that goes across a river, I think", leading Rincewind to suggest "Dam", "Weir", "Aqueduct" and "Fishing rod".
  • A Roald Dahl story involving a young couple of Card Sharps.
  • Frequently mentioned and even somewhat plot-important in Farnham's Freehold, by Robert Heinlein.
    • Somewhat important? The working title was "Grand Slam". (That's also a Bridge term BTW).
  • Robert F. MacKinnon has written two books about bridge in quasi-historical settings, Samurai Bridge and Richelieu Plays Bridge (both of which take place prior to the invention of the game). Contract Bridge (the type played today) was invented in 1925, as a modified form of Auction Bridge (1904) -- which was in turn derived from Russian Whist (1880's) and ultimately from the 17th C. game of Whist.
  • A bridge game is used to show, if somewhat indirectly, several of the main characters being distracted by other things (like, say, the preludes to an ultimately non-nuclear World War Three), in the Tom Clancy novel Red Storm Rising.
  • Used repeatedly in scenes in the Harry Turtledove Nazi victory novel In the Presence of Mine Enemies.
  • Harriet the Spy. The novel, anyway. There is no movie.
  • The Cardturner by Louis Sachar (of Holes fame) is about a teenager who has to help his grandfather play his bridge games (doing exactly as he says) and grows a fondness for the game over time.
  • Bridge in The Menagerie, a series of humorous bridge books (originally magazine articles) by Victor Mollo.


Live-Action Television

Newspaper Comics

  • Peanuts occasionally showed Snoopy playing bridge, generally with Woodstock and friends.
    • Charles Schulz was a fan of the game; his other, short-lived comic It's Just A Game featured more bridge jokes than any other game.

Video Games

Web Comics

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