Teacher's Manual

Learning the rules

Session 1.1 : Discovering the game without dummy

The first contact with the pupils is crucial. This first discovery session is not – as you might think – the easiest one of the year; moreover, you might be slightly puzzled by the content we suggest. Therefore, to help you be prepared, we suggest you to carefully read the following paragraphs.
It would be a good thing that all the members of the teaching team be present, as it is on that day that pupils will need to be the most looked after.
Warning: no more than 16 pupils in a room. If you have more, ask for a second room even for the first session.

  • To avoid any useless bustle, try and prepare the room before pupils’ arrival: each two tables are placed side by side and covered with a mat with four chairs around. Some of you may be lucky enough to work in the school’s foyer, but in most cases, you will only have a mere classroom. It is therefore important that the pupils feel, as soon as they arrive that they are not here to listen to just another class!

  • Don’t prepare a nice speech! Children haven’t come to listen to you talk; they’ve come to play, and to play now!

  • Keep in mind that you don’t need to explain what they are going to do, but to make them do it all the while explaining what they’re doing.

Session Program

  • Forming the teams: they’ll play with a partner
  • Cards ranking, the notion of trick
  • The basic rule: follow suit
  • Discard
  • How is a hand played out: who leads, who wins, who leads again?

Once the pupils are seated at the prepared tables, four by four, you welcome them and all the instructors introduce themselves briefly.
One of you tells them that bridge is a card game and may ask them what card games they already know.
They will of course speak of tarot, belote, Old Maid, beggar-my-neighbor, President, but also of solitaire, Queen of Spades or Free Cell (games they play on the computer) or even… the 7 families!! Be careful not to comment on their choice, the questioning should be very short (five minutes max).
Go on by giving three indications:

  • Bridge is played by four players, two against two.
  • To make it easier, each player is called by a cardinal point.  North is associated with South and the two players constitute the North-South pair. Their opponents at the table form the East-West pair.
  • A standard 52-card pack is used.

Don’t place them in an awkward position and don’t lose any time asking them to calculate how many cards each player will have! They will understand soon enough that at bridge you need to know how to count, so don’t discourage them from the very start

And then they must start playing.

How will the first hand be played out?

Place a pack of card on each table – and not a board containing the pack
A board would inevitably raise questions not interesting for the time being.
You will have prepared the cards, sorting them by suit without ordering them; thus, each player will get a balanced hand.

Ask each North player to deal the cards one by one clockwise.

Invite the pupils to count their cards (there we are, 52 divided by 4 is 13!!), to sort them by "family"        , what we call at bridge the suits, and to order them alternating reds and blacks. Club and Diamonds are the minor suits, Hearts and Spades the major suits. Most of them will start with making four packs in front of them; at the beginning, holding thirteen cards as a fan in one single hand when you are eleven is a rather difficult exercise!

Then explain the cards hierarchy,
"It is same as with beggar-my-neighbor, the highest is the Ace, then the King, the Queen, the Jack, 10, .............down to 2 ".
If you want, you can write it on the board.

High cards: Ace – King – Queen – Jack - 10 (the highest being the Ace).
Low cards: 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 - 2 (the lowest being the 2).

Then ask each player to sort their cards, from the highest to the lowest, in each suit.

Don’t give them the honors value.
It is perfectly useless as we don’t ask them yet to find what contract they want to play.
You will thus avoid a confusion in the objectives so that they won’t want to « charge » (give points to the partner), to win points as in Tarot when the partner has taken the trick with an Ace, for example.

Ask the pupils to play the hand using very simplified rules: in No Trump but without a dummy, like some kind of two against two beggar-my-neighbor game.
This may be new for you! But you are going to understand that this way of doing things allows you to very quickly teach the rules of the game to pupils who may sometimes never have played any card game.
One of your pupils may already know bridge and ask why they are playing without a dummy, but it will be very easy for you to explain to him that it is only temporary.
And as there has been no bidding, there is no declarer.

Arbitrarily ask South to lead.
Explain that it is the first card placed on the table for this hand … but let him choose the opening lead.
The other players must, one after the other, play a card from the same suit (they have to follow to the suit) either a higher one, or a lower one, but it is the highest that will win the trick (once the four cards have been played).
For once, you will need to forget your tournament habits and let the winner of the trick pick up the four cards and place them in front of him.
Don’t forget to tell them that the aim at bridge is to win as many tricks as possible.
It is the player who has taken the trick who leads for the next trick. The player is allowed change the suit, if he so wishes.
There again, let the pupil decide.
Don’t comment on what they do, just let them play, only controlling that they stick to the proposed game rules.
Remind them often that they play as a team and that it is therefore useless to take their partner’s King with their Ace; ask them why.

As soon as one of the players has no cards left in the lead suit, he has to play a card from another suit (to discard); in no case, will he be allowed to win the trick.
…… He might want to play the Ace of Club to take the winning 9 of Hearts!! Suggest him to play a card that will not be needed for the rest of the game, but let him decide.
One of the pupils will probably ask you why they can’t ruff. Explain to him that they could play with a trump, but that at this stage, they will be playing in No Trump.

At the end of the play:
The partners (North-South on the one hand, East-West on the other hand) have to put their tricks in common and count them
The winning team is the one that made the greatest number of tricks.
At bridge, the only thing that counts is the number of tricks you have won. The content of each individual trick is of no avail.
It should be very easy for you to find two examples in the played hand and to present them on the table.
Each player has thirteen cards; therefore only a maximum of thirteen tricks can be won.

They have discovered many things with this first hand! But they have not yet acquired them; you will need to do it again for the whole length of the session.

Some teachers could think that it is not necessary and that they should go on. But be careful not to be blinded by those who talk and be therefore tempted to cut corners.

Particularly clumsy pupils, pupils that never played cards before or pupils that didn’t fully understand what they had to do will not come forward.
It is the role of the instructor to spot and help them, all the while damping the impatience of the “smart” ones by giving them food for thought:
“Do you know how many Spades have been played?”, “is your 10 of Hearts now a winner? why?”
This will make the second hand even more interesting for them, while their buddy with the bare Queen of Clubs will be torturing himself wondering what card to play on the opponents’ King of Clubs; he has at least memorized the cards hierarchy, but might have no problem revoking to save his Queen!

The two, three or four following hands

Proceed exactly in the same way as with the first hand, with different pupils shuffling, cutting and dealing the cards than with the first hand, and still only interrupting to remind them of the rules of the game and enforce them.
It is absolutely not the right moment to try and explain to them how they should have done to win more tricks; you need to let them play, even if it is sometimes very difficult not to react.
Your pupils have probably not yet integrated the specific vocabulary of bridge: to lead, to follow suit, to win the trick, to discard …; you should therefore take advantage of these new hands to repeat the words, thus helping them memorizing them.
End by giving a short quiz that you will correct at the next session.

"Who has won the greatest number of tricks and why?"