Contract bridge is a member of trick-taking card game, originally developed from Whist.
The earliest record of this card game was in the 17th century, and went popular in the 18th century, probably developed from ruff-and-honours. The rule was extremely simple:
- The dealer distribute the cards starting from his left, one at a turn, and turn the last card belongs to himself face up, which determines the trump suit.
- The dealer's LHO makes the opening lead, which can be any card, after that, players must follow suit, though a player may play any card (either discarding or ruffing) when the suit runs out of his hand.
- The winner of the trick, either the highest trump card or the highest card in the suit led when there are no trumps, leads to the next trick.
- When all cards are played, the side which gets more than 6 tricks wins a point for each odd trick (tricks beyond the initial 6).
- A game is won when a side reaches 5 points in short whist, and 9 points in long whist.
 This is probably the earliest form of the game known as bridge, developed in the late 19th century. It was known as simply "bridge" at that time. The developments from the original whist, which becomes part of the current contract bridge, includes:
- The trump suit was chosen, instead of drawn.
- The contract may be doubled and redoubled.
- The partner of the dealer becomes the dummy.
- Points are entered above and below the line.
- It is played in rubbers.
In each deal, the dealer declares a trump suit, or "biritch" (notrump). The dealer may also pass, in this case, the partner must declare a denomination. Afterwards, an opponent may say "contre" (double), and the dealer or his partner may say "sur contre" (redouble), and the contract may be redoubled ad infinitum.
Afterwards, the dealer's LHO makes an opening lead, and the dummy is lie down. The dealer than plays dummy's cards.
Each odd trick worth 2 in ♠s, 4 in ♣s, 6 in ♦s, 8 in ♥s, and 10 in NT, and may be doubled or redoubled. As a consequence, nearly all hands were played in NT, and nearly no hands were played in the black suits.
A grand slam is worth 40 points and a small slam is worth 20 points. A game is won when a side accumulates 30 points. Only trick points are counted for game purposes. It's worth note that ♠ was the lowest suit at that time.
There are also honour points: when there are 3 aces in a side in NT, 3 tricks are added above the line; 4 aces in NT, 4 tricks are added; 4 aces in one hand, 8 tricks are added.
In a suit contract, 3 out of top 5 honours in a side are added 2 tricks; 4 honours are added 4 tricks, or if they are held in one hand, 8 tricks. The 5th honour is added 1 trick more.
Moreover, if one hand has no trumps, the value of 3 honours are added if it is their side scoring honours, or deducted if it is the other side scoring honours.
Also called "auction whist", or simply "auction". It's main difference from bridge-whist is that the trumps are decided in an auction by bidding contracts, and penalty is given for not fulfilling the contract.
At the early stage, the scoring system was inherited from bridge, i.e.
|Points per odd trick||2||4||6||8||10|
The rule for sufficient bid was based on the trick points, only when it was the same the level was considered. For example, if 3♦ was to be outbidded by ♣s, 5♣ was needed. The scoring system was defective in the sense that, it was very difficult to make games in the black suits. Therefore, partnerships holding black suits could only just bid notrump, hoping that it would make or be outbidded by the red suits, and the aim of the auction was to find makeable notrump contracts.
The scoring were refined such that all suits had similar importance, including adding a denomination called "Royal" (previously "Lily"), i.e. the ♠ suit which is developed into today's boss suit, valued 9 per odd trick, and changed the values as follows:
|Points per odd trick||2||6||7||8||9||10|
The game with the new scoring was called "royal auction bridge", or simply "royals". The bidding became much more competitive since all suits had nearly the same values.
The ♠ suit then became redundant, at first, many conventional uses were added for the redundant suit, later, the original ♠ suit was dropped and the "royal spade" simply became the boss suit known today.
At that time, as all tricks taken were counted towards odd tricks, the aim of the auction was to simply choose the correct denomination as the lowest level.
In some time, there was a denomination called "nullo", which had the same value as notrump but the aim was to lose tricks. It ranked between spades and notrump. It gained popularity at some point since it allowed weaker hands to stop stronger hands from finishing the rubber by competing in some number of nullos, pushing them a level higher. However, bidding with nullo was difficult and abandoned.
Auction bridge went popular in the 1910s and 1920s, and finally developed into the modern form contract bridge.
In 1925, Harold Stirling Vanderbilt and others made some adjustments to the scoring of auction bridge, the most important one was that, only tricks actually bid count towards games and slams, which made accurate bidding more important. Moreover, the concept of vulnerability was introduced and some other values changed to produce a more balanced game for both sides. The result is the modern form contract bridge. It quickly superseded the older auction bridge and other forms. The name rubber bridge is to differentiate the form from duplicate bridge, because duplicate bridge is no longer played in rubbers.
Although rubber bridge certainly depends on one's skills, luck is still an important factor in an individual rubber. Duplicate bridge is designed to eliminate luck from the game altogether, by playing exactly the same deal at different tables.
The carry-over from deal to deal in rubber bridge, and all previous forms, is impractical when exactly the same deal has to be played in exactly the same condition at more than one table. Therefore, all games have to be bid at once (such as 3NT, 4 of a major and 5 of a minor) and games and partscores are assigned a fixed value. Also, the vulnerability is fixed at each deal.
Now bridge (duplicate contract bridge) is recognised as a form of mind sports, along with chess, and there are the highest level of tournaments in various multi-sports games, such as the World Mind Sports Games.
- ↑ Biritch, or Russian Whist
- ↑ 12 as mentioned in Auction of Today (1913)
- ↑ p. 3, Royal Auction Bridge, R. F. Foster (1913)
- ↑ p. 2, Royal Auction Bridge, R. F. Foster (1913)
- ↑ At that time, each ♣ trick scores 4 points and each ♦ trick scores 6 points, therefore, 3♦ was worth 18 points. The least number of ♣s which scored higher than 18 points was 5♣, which was 20 points.
- ↑ 8 ♣ tricks or 15 ♠ tricks were needed, in contrast, only 3NT, 4♥ or 5♦ for notrump or red suits