TEAM - OF - 4




Most of us are familiar with Bridge being played by "teams of 2"; that is, two people on one team versus two people on another team. But there is a way of playing Bridge with four people on one team. Obviously they will not be playing against each other. Then how is this done? 
       One Team-of-4 will have to play against another team of 4. That is done by having half of one team (2 people) play against half of another team (2 people). Let's say TEAM X (4 people) is playing against TEAM Y (4 people). At TABLE 1, half of TEAM X will sit N/S, playing against half of TEAM Y sitting E/W. And at TABLE 2, the other half of TEAM X will sit E/W, playing against the other half of TEAM Y sitting N/S. See figure 12. Each team plays the same hand from both directions; one half sitting N/S and the other half sitting E/W. 
       The tables are set, half of one team playing against half of the other team. But how is the scoring done? Simple; after the hand (or hands) the SCORES from each table are compared. 
EXAMPLES: See figure 13. 
       Hand 1.TEAM X at TABLE 1 bids 3 $ and makes 4 for a SCORE of 170. TEAM Y plays this hand at a later date (hopefully within the hour) at TABLE 2, and also bids 3 $, but makes only 3 for a SCORE of 140. The SCORES of the hands are compared: TEAM X won this board by a SCORE of 30 points (170 -140). 
       Hand 2.TEAM Y at TABLE 1 bids 3 ! making 3 (for a SCORE of 140); and TEAM X at TABLE 2 also bids 3 ! and makes 3 (for a SCORE of 140). The  SCORES of the hands are compared: both teams made the same amount and there is a tie or a push. 
        Hand 3. TEAM X at TABLE 1 bids 2 No Trump and makes 4 for a SCORE of 180 points, and TEAM X at TABLE 2  set TEAM Y one trick at 3 # for a SCORE of 100 points. The SCORES of the hands are compared:  TEAM X made 180 + 100 or 280 points. 
        To compare SCORES E/W players on both teams must return with a copy of the SCORES to their home table (where their N/S partners are sitting).
Team-of-4 is becoming ever more popular. For one thing only 8 bodies are needed to play. Once the realm of International or prestigious National competition, Team-of-4 is becoming a major happening in every tournaments. And there is something for everybody; events are offered at different levels from novice to stratum A. Even some local clubs run Team-of-4 games as a break from pair events. As we will see later, Team-of-4 is not playing against a field of players, but against a specific team. It is truly the mano e mano of Bridge competition.

SWISS TEAMS: These are Team-of-4 events that usually consist of eight matches of seven boards per match for a total of 56 boards. 
      You and your playing partner are N/S at a table playing against TEAM A who are sitting E/W. The other half of your team are at another table sitting E/W playing against the other half of TEAM A who are sitting N/S. You will play a total of seven hands. Let's say you are playing boards 1 - 3 and your other half and their opponents are playing boards 
4 - 7. 
       When you are finished playing your three boards, raise your hand and yell "caddie please!" You will soon be visited by a young person (often a teenager or younger) who will take the boards (1 - 3) that you just played and transport them to the other table with your partners and their opponents. And the caddie then will bring you the boards they just finished playing. 
      After you have played the seven boards (and results of each agreed upon), the E/W players return to their partner's table. Now the Team of 4 is together at one table. The scoring between the two halves of the team are compared and a final score is arrived at. If TEAM A agrees on the result, the score is turned into the Directors and posted. Also soon to be posted are your new assignments: new opponents and table number. So go there, take the cards out of the boards, shuffle, deal and proceed with the next match. Good luck. 
       Each of the eight matches with play, scoring and posting, takes about one hour. That is a long day: eight hours. But not to worry; there is a  two hour break for R & F (rest and food).  The break could occur after the  fifth (5/3 - 5 rounds, break, then 3 rounds) or after the fourth (4/4 - 4 rounds, break, then 4 rounds) round. That depends on the starting time and tournament organizers. Some players like to take a little R & F after each match. That is also good. Just play Bridge, have fun . . . and win.

BOARD-A-MATCH: This is a Team-of-4 tournament run like a pair event with a Mitchell or a Howell movement. Boards move down, E/W move up in the Mitchell movement. In the Howell follow the guide cards. One half of the team sits N/S and the other half E/W. Both halves of course never play each other. Each team will play both sides of the board at some time during the tournament. 
        At the end the E/W half of the team returns to the home table (where the N/S half are sitting) and the scores compared. If there is a net positive SCORE then the team gets a +1. If there is a net negative SCORE then the team gets a -1. If there is a net of 0 points, there is a tie or a push. Then the team gets a 0. Looking at figure 14 TEAM A will get +1 point for Hand  1; and TEAM B will get +1 point for Hand 2 and +1 point for Hand 3. Hand 4 is a push. TEAM B has a total of 2  points and TEAM A has 1 point. The net score is 2 - 1 or + 1 point for TEAM B.
         This type of game creates a test of skill probably superior to any other type in Duplicate Bridge. Fixes and gifts are limited or non existent. No excuses, no alibis, just win, lose or tie.

KNOCKOUT TEAM-OF-4: Like any other Team-of-4 event, Knockout involves one team going head-to-head against another team. With Knockout however, the losing team is "knocked out" or eliminated from the tournament. * Something like a tennis tournament: the loser loses. 
       In the Knockout Team-of-4 a specified number of boards are played. In the "regular" Knockouts it is usually 24 boards with scoring and change of opponents (optional) at the half way point (after 12 boards). Since there are at least three matches per tournament, these events will take more than one days to complete. 
       A shorter version of the Knockout Team of 4 is the "compact". In the "compact" Knockouts only 12 boards are played per match. Unlike the regular Knockout Team-of-4, the compact Team-of-4 can be finished in one day. More time to play more Bridge.
       Knockouts are often "bracketed", that is teams with a similar number of total Master Points will play against each other (be in the same bracket). 
       Within the bracket teams are often seeded. Again like tennis. This means that the team with the most Master Points will play against the team with the least. This prevents the top teams from knocking each other out early in the tournament. But then again, just because a team is top seeded with a lot of Master Points, it does not meant that they will necessarily win. Strange things can happen on the road to victory. And that's Bridge.

* If there are an odd number of teams there is a "round robin" between 3 teams. Then it is possible for a team to lose a match and "not" be knocked out. Also in some tournaments losers will play against losers for a runner up position.

IMPs - a mischievous child; little creatures who run around and destroy peoples picnics; young demons; a devil's offspring; a method of scoring at Team-of-4 events that reduce large swings.
      It is the last definition that we are concerned with. Up until 30 years ago Team-of-4 matches were scored using net total points. (In some events, this method is still used.) The team with the highest SCORE won. Why not? However, a team could be doing great then blow one hand and give the opponents a large SCORE. This large negative SCORE will more than wipe out all the good little positive SCORES. How to prevent large swing hands from determining the outcome of the match? Answer: IMPs - International Match Points. IMPs round out or smooth the scoring curve. * Let's see how these little demons operate. 
       First let's look at the old way: net total points. In figure 14 if we consider total points, then TEAM A on Hand 1 has +460 points at TABLE 1 and +100 points at TABLE 2. The net total SCORE for TEAM A on Hand 1 is 460 + 100 or 560 points. 
      On Hand 2, TEAM B made 300 points at TABLE 1 and lost 120 points at TABLE 2. The net total  SCORE for TEAM B on Hand 2 is 300 - 120 or 180 points. 
      On Hand 3 TEAM B  made 140 points at TABLE 1 and made 100 points at TABLE 2. The net total SCORE for TEAM B on Hand 3 is 140 + 100 or 240 points.  Hand 4 was a tie or a push.
      The total net SCORE for TEAM B on both Hand 2 and Hand 3 is 180 + 240 or 420 points. TEAM A however, on Hand 1 made 560 points. This puts TEAM A ahead  by 560 - 420 or 120 points.  Even though TEAM B did very well on Hands 2 and 3, they still lost because of the big swing on Hand 1.
        * Some Board-a-Match games use IMPs.

    The big swing on Hand 1 did it. But now let's IMP it, that is convert the net points on each hand to IMPs. For Hand 1 take the net total points for TEAM A of 560 and look that number up on the IMP scale in figure 15. The IMP scale can be found inside the convention card where the private score is kept. Going down the column marked  Diff. In Pts. (for 560 is the difference in points between TABLE 1 and TABLE 2), we see that 560 falls between the numbers 500 - 590. That range equals 11 IMPs. So TEAM A is plus 11 IMPs. 
        Now IMP TEAM B (or IMP TEAM A but consider it negative IMPs). In Hand 2 there was a net SCORE for TEAM B of +180 points which translates on the IMP scale to +5 IMPs. (180 is between 170 and 210.) Do the same for Hand 3. The total net SCORE of + 240 for TEAM B is between 220 - 260 which translates on the IMP scale to +6 IMPs. Total IMPs for TEAM A is 11 IMPs; total IMPs for TEAM B is 5 + 6 or 11 IMPs. So even though TEAM A got a high SCORE on Board 1 (high enough to win when considering net total points), when converting all the SCORES to IMPs, there is a tie: 11 IMPs each. The IMPs smoothed out the big swings and reduced their influence. 

HANDICAPPING & VICTORY POINTS: Suppose during a Swiss Team-of-4 event one team scores and unusually high amount of IMPs. They are playing against very weak opponents and let's say score over 50 IMPs. This is certainly not fair to the rest of the contesting teams. 
       One way to maintain equity is to have teams with similar scores play each other. That is to handicap the pairing of the matches. This of course has to happen after the first round. (The first round is pot luck.) So after the first round the team that is first will play the team that is second; the team that is third will play the team that is fourth; and so on until the team that is last will play the team that is next to last. No team will play any other team more than once. In most events this pairing is done by computer.
       Still the inequity of a large IMP score may occur. The way to solve this problem is to smooth out the IMP score and put an upper limit on the number of IMPs won. This is done with Victory Points. A Victory Point scale along with the IMP scale will be found on the inside of the convention card where the private score is kept. Look at the 20 Victory Point scale. See figure 16 below. If the teams are tied, that is the team won by 0 IMPs, then each team gets 10 Victory Points. If a team won by, let's say 5 IMPs, then the winning team gets 13 Victory Points and the losing team gets 7. And if a team won by 21 IMPs, the winning team gets 18 Victory Points and the losing team 2 Victory Points. For each match the total number of Victory Points between the two teams is 20. 
       Note that a win of 28 * IMPs or more will only get the winning team 20 Victory Points (and the losing team 0). So if a team won the match by 50 IMPs they will still only get 20 Victory Points. This is the maximum number of Victory Points won per match.
       Thus with the handicapping and Victory Points, the Swiss Team-of-4 tournaments are exciting, closely fought battles. Ah, but how to fight these battles. That is the strategy of Team-of-4.

* A win of 28 IMPs or more is known as a Blitz.

BIDDING: The bidding strategy in Team-of-4 is more or less similar to Match Point pairs. A difference: close vulnerable games should be bid. The numbers talk. Bidding 4 of a major vul and making it is 620 points. If the opponents (with your cards) bid 3 of the major they get 170 points. You have a net score of 620 - 170 or 450 which equals 10 IMPs. If the game is not there and you go down 1 for a loss of 100 and the opponents make 3 for 140 then they get 100 + 140 or 240 which equals 6 IMPs. 6 IMPs compared to 10 IMPs is a 3:5 ratio. So if out of 8 games you bid a close game, you will break even if you lose 5 times and make it 3 times. 5 out of 8 is 62 ½ %. Then close vul games should be bid 62 ½ % of the time. This is at a more frequent rate than in pair games.
        The numbers can also demonstrate that bidding close slams are to be done with the same frequency as in pair games. A 50 % chance is considered acceptable for a small slam and 60 % for a grand slam. 
       Some players believe that all close games and slams should be bid in Team-of-4 matches. That is, if you smell game, bid it. Maybe overall you could be slightly more daring in team games. . . but not that daring. It is usually the conservative, steady, down the middle bidder that will get the better results and walk away with the biggest piece of the pie. 
       This is especially true in part score bidding. Be aggressive, like Duplicate pairs, at the 1 and 2 level. Look at the numbers. Opponents bid 2 ! Making 2 for 140 points. At the other table the opponents (with your cards) bid 2 $ making 2 for 110 points. They got 140 + 110 or 250 points net for 6 IMPs. Not so small a number. In this case be aggressive; bid 2 $.
       At the 3 level, especially if vul, watch it! Getting doubled and going down 2 or 3 tricks could cause the match to be lost on this one board. And all over a part score.
       Sacrifice bidding, in pairs or team-of-4, depends on accurate diagnosis. Can the opponents make game? Can we go down only 2 or 3 tricks? What is the vulnerable situation? Good assessment will lead to good bidding. Be careful. In Team-of-4 if you sacrifice, go down doubled and there is not a game (or a slam) for the opponents, then the IMP carnage will be great. 
       Penalty doubles can also be costly. Especially doubling the opponents into a game. Make sure you got them before you get them.
       Unlike pair events where you can get a top by SCORING even 10 points higher than the rest of the field, in Team-of-4 IMP events you are playing against only one opponent. 10 or even 20 points will hardly matter. If it is safer to play the hand in a minor than in a major or No Trump, do so. Example: you play are playing in 2 of a major making 2 for 110, while your opponents (with your cards)  play in a safer 2 of a minor contract making 2 for 90. Then you are up 110 -  90 or 20 points. On the IMP scale this is 1 IMP.  Not much. But if you went down 1 in the unsafe major contract and lost 100 points then you would be down 110 + 100 or 210 which is 5 IMPs.  A considerably larger number. This leads us to the following Team-of-4 maxim: savings of 1 or 2 IMPs are comparatively insignificant. 
       To summarize: Play in the best contract, weather major, minor or No Trump. Team-of-4 game and slam bids are like duplicate pairs except be more aggressive when it comes to bidding close vul games. Do not compete too strongly for a part score at the 3 level. Be conservative with sacrificing and making penalty doubles. In Team-of-4 do not go for the big swings. Bid it safe, be chicken.
       Shakespeare: Conscience doth make cowards of us all.
       Bridge: Cowardice doth make winners of us all.

PLAY OF THE HAND: Even though every IMP is important and counted, do not lose sight of the big picture: get a positive score. Over tricks are good to have (especially in close matches) and if they are there certainly take them. But do not jeopardize the contract for an over trick. In pair games in certain situations it should be done, but NOT in Team-of-4. This means that the Declarer should take every precaution by taking every possible safety play.
       Losing an IMP or two (a good title for a song: "An IMP or Two") by not making that extra trick will usually not matter. Small swings are insignificant. Playing the hand is like money in the bank: making the contract is the principal; over tricks are the interest. The Team-of-4 motto: the paramount concern is to safeguard the principal, that is make the contract.

DEFENSE: In pair games Defense is complicate because you might have to let Declarer  make the contract in order to be sure you get the tricks that you are entitled to. That is. Sometimes you concede the contract to prevent the over trick. At Team-of-4 as mentioned earlier, relative small swings are insignificant. Thus the primary objective of Team-of-4 Defense is: to set the contract. What ever it takes and at all costs: set the contract. 
      Example: the opponents bid 3 u and make 4 for 130 points. If set 1 vul you would get 100 points. Instead of losing 130 you gain 100. That is a swing of 130 + 100 or 230 points  which translates into 6 IMPs. So be tough, concentrate and set the contract.