The first steps to learn contract bridge is to familiarize oneself with the diverse features of the game – suits/cards, bidding, game-play, scoring, etc. – coupled with the various terms typically associated with these features. While acquiring knowledge through the length and breadth of contract bridge could be a long drawn affair, a beginner must have a rudimentary knowledge covering all aspects of the game.
Card Deck Used for Contract Bridge
Contract bridge is played with the traditional western playing cards, the 52-cards type of deck. In fact, two such decks are normally used for handiness and speed.
The deck has four suits with their own individual symbols. The colored suits, in order of ranking, are Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs.
Each of the four suits consists of 13 cards each, starting with the Ace (abbreviated as A, the highest card in any suit), and followed by King (K), Queen (Q), Jack (J), 10, 9…through 2 (known as deuce, the lowest card in a suit). It can be seen here that unlike some of the other card games, the highest ranking card in a contract bridge suit is the Ace.
Specific holding and distribution of cards contribute differently toward evaluation of individual hands during bidding. Possession of specific sets of top cards (known has honors) also help a partnership in adding to their score above the line.
Characteristics of Trump Suits vis-a-vis Contract Bridge
As regards symbols and colors of the four suits, there is no change from the traditional deck of cards. Spades and Clubs are black colored whereas the Hearts and Diamonds are red.
in the light of their higher rankings, Spades and Hearts are classified as major suits In contract bridge. The lower ranked Diamonds and Clubs are known as minor suits.
Any of the above suits can be assigned the status of trump in contract bridge during game-play – the trump suit being ranked higher than the other three non-trump suits. Except for this, the ranking has no other role during game-play with all the non-trump suits considered as equals.
The ranking of suits, however, does matter during the bidding process – in that, a bid following another can only be made in a higher ranked suit, or else, one has to raise the level (thereby committing to make correspondingly more tricks than the previous bidder).
No Trump – The Fifth and the Highest Ranked Suit in Contract Bridge
As the name suggests, No Trump (abbreviated as NT) relates to playing a round without assigning a trump status to any of the four colored suits. No Trumps supersedes Spades as regards to ranking. All other suits are considered as equals during a No Trump play.
A contract in No Trumps can be reached during the bidding by a partnership under the following conditions:
- When a suit-bid made by one partner does not seem to agree with the holding of the other partner.
- The distributions of cards/suits are evenly balanced with one or other of the partners appearing to have some kind of control over all the suits.
- The partnership seemingly finds the hands more suitable to play and make the contract – as also to score extra points (No Trump is valued higher than the other suits for scoring purposes) .
A novice must, however, keep in mind that a No Trump contract could prove to be a doubled-edged weapon if not played correctly. While it is always very tempting to reach a No Trump contract in haste, due caution must be exercised by both the partners during the auction. An assured contract in a trump suit should always be preferred to a tentatively bid No Trumps.