|AN HISTORICAL NOTE|
1925 marks the quarter
point of the 20th century. It is a
year of hope and gloom; a year of
and order; of chaos
and sanity. 1925 is the year of the
of the Locarno Treaties
in Geneva, which was to prevent any
war. It was the year of
the writing of Mein Kampf in Munich, that
wished for something else. 1925 was the year of the death of a
(Some people say he was never alive.)
in that same year amidst the strains of Bye Bye Blackbird, America's cares
and woes are
washed away by illegal booze.
Capone, the master player in Chicago's civic affairs, was yet to be put
on trial. Instead in 1925 it is the
monkey who comes to the
room in Dayton, Tennessee
in the case against Mr. Scopes.
And it is this year, 1925, on a November night on board the SS Finland (a ship on its way from Los Angeles to Havana, Cuba), that Harold Sterling Vanderbilt is shuffling a pack of cards at a table in his state room. At the table awaiting for some dramatic moment are three of his soon-to-be apostles. Mr. Vanderbilt stops shuffling and raises his right hand. "Gentlemen, let me show you a new game. It might interest you." And thus came to pass the genesis of Contract Bridge.
Even a beginning has a beginning. In the late 17th century a French card game called Triumph (does the word Trump come from Triumph?) crossed the channel and was transformed by that card shark Edmond Hoyle into Whist. (The word Whist might come from the word Whisk.) According to Hoyle, Whist was native British and was to be given no French credits. It became an upper class past time which soon filtered down to the more plebeian parts of society.
Whist spread to the other side of the Atlantic where it gained in popularity among the English colonies. It enjoyed a long run, until at the end of the 19th century Bridge makes the scene. The mechanics of Bridge are similar to Whist, except that the Declarer's partner's hand becomes exposed after the first lead. This was called the Dummy hand. Introduced at a later date was the continuous auction. This caused people to call this new game Auction Bridge. Then the calls of Double and Redouble were added. At first there was no limit to the Redoubles which added excitement for money players. Even with all these inovations, Auction Bridge is obviously a derivative of Whist.
Whist did not disappear with the advent of Auction Bridge. Many aspects of the newer game were included in Whist. The auction was introduced; first for only one round, then later a continuing auction (like Bridge) that would end only after three passes. This newer form of the game was called Auction Whist. Caribbean people introduced an optional bid called down town which reverses the card order. The deuce and trey are high cards, while the Aces and the rest of the honors are low. Whist, though not nearly as popular as Bridge, is still played in some remote parts of the world. But today Bridge is King.
Now for a moment of controversy. When and where did Bridge start? Here myth and legend often substitute for the truth. And to further add to that shroud of mystery, Bridge origins were given an oriental venue. Did Lord Brougham play Bridge at England's Portland Whist Club in 1895? He said it was a game he played in India with some army officers. Possible. Or did Bridge come form the steppes of Russia? There was a variation of the Russian game Vint that was called Biritch. Did the word Biritch become the word Bridge? Or was it a slavonic mode of address to a female partner who had just made a bad play?
Some encyclopedias give the origin of Bridge to be in
Constantinople in the 1870's. They say the game either made its way to England via a Greek colony at Manchester; or was learned in the trenches at Plevna during the Russo-Turkish war of 1878? No matter what, whether Indian, Russian, Greek or Turkish, Bridge was being played by 1895 in England.
By the early 1900's, when Auction Bridge is the game among English speaking people, the French come out with their game of Plafond. (In Plafond only the number of tricks that the final bidder announced he would get, would count towards game.) They claim that they were the originators of Whist/Bridge with that 16th century game of Triumph; and that Plafond should be the game of choice for the nouveau card playing Europeans. The battle lines were drawn: sweet little old ladies from South Kensington and the retired army officers at the Portland (which allowed Bridge to enter its environs) held their ground. No foreign froggy riff-raff for them. Plafond never crossed the channel but stayed at home in France.
But even though the invasion from the continent failed, Plafond got to England another way. Mr. Harold S. Vanderbilt, a world traveler and Francofile, tasted the joys of Plafond at the Travelers Club in Paris. . . before 1925. So when the elements of Contract Bridge come together some where in the Pacific on board the SS Finland, it is an eclectic blend of Whist, Auction Bridge and Plafond. Contract Bridge makes its debut debarking at Havana, Cuba. Soon thereafter Mr. Vanderbilt's "new game" became the ne plus ultra of all card games.
|A card is picked to decide the trump suit. (The suit of the picked card is trump.) If a card lower than a 5 is picked, then the hand is played in No Trump.||Game (& Slam) bonuses are given to Declarer even if not bid. Thus a 2 bid making 5 gets the Game bonus. This leads to many low level auctions that are easily made. Vulnerability is not a factor.|
|AUCTION WHIST||CONTRACT BRIDGE|
|Same as Auction Bridge, but no Dummy.||Games (& Slams) must be bid to get the bonuses. Thus a 3 bid making 5 gets no Game bonus. In rubber bridge only what Declarer bids counts towards game. Vulnerability is a factor.|
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