Nancy Evins: Learning the short language of bridge

Nancy Evins • Updated Nov 19, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Bridge bidding has only 15 words, numbers two through ace; clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades; double, redouble and alert.

Of course, when the play begins, the declarer must call for the cards from dummy to be played by naming the honors or the smaller cards.

At their turn to bid, opponents may ask what certain bids mean and receive answers.

It is mystifying to beginners to learn that an overcall of two clubs is not the same as opening two clubs. Or that one no-trump can mean several things when bid in different positions. Since there are so few words, they must have several meanings…somewhat like English, which has words that are often the same used as nouns or verbs.

The first thing a newcomer learns is how to count the hand and how to bid.

However, as the play goes on, there are other ways to communicate if you are defending a hand, and that is with your discards.

There can be some problems there is you do not have a number that you need to play.

You could cheat – no, not really – like the man who was holding 10 9 8 of the suit, spades, his partner was leading. He didn’t want the suit to be continued but playing the eight could be misunderstood as a come-on card.

As it was his turn to follow suit, he dropped it on the floor, and as he picked it up, said to the next player, “Go on and play. It’s only a small spade.”

I don’t know if his opponents used some choice words to chastise him or simply called, “director, please.”

Another problem is when you are holding something like A K 3 2 in the suit your partner has led. Playing the three looks like a way to stop that suit. If the partner has sharp eyes and looks for the two, he may figure out this is going to be a high-low come on. If the declarer holds the deuce and wants the suit to be led again would not play the two but another smaller, but higher, card.

Opponent has the right to ask what system they play which could be upside down or even-odd, an answer I hate to hear. I have enough on my mind to try to remember that.

I must have had a lot on my mind when I wrote the column a couple of weeks ago and quoted Larry Cohen, author and bridge expert.

I told of opening one no-trump when I held five spades. Mr. Cohen emailed me and told me I had listed six. I went back to the hand and still counted six before realizing my mistake.

I guess I was at sixes and sevens…an expression seldom heard today, and if this column bored you, look up the meaning of the six and seven.

I found its origins – or the guesses – ranging from the Old Testament to Chaucer and beyond.

I was a little bored, too.

Nancy Evins, of Lebanon, is a certified bridge instructor. Email her at [email protected]

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