Teacher's Manual

Learning the rules

Session 1.2: The notion of contract

Session Program

  • Declaring a contract, the rules of minibridge
    - Evaluating HC points
    - The Decision Table
    - The dealer, the opener, contract determination
    - The declarer, the leader, the dummy.
  • Winning your contract and counting won tricks
    - The declarer’s contract
    - The defense’s contract
    - Scoring

A few reminders

You are meeting again with your pupils and they are impatient to start playing, but before starting, you need to take a few minutes (five maximum) to see with them what they have learnt and memorized by asking them the following question:

"What did we learn last time?"

Be careful! You will need to discipline the answers, kindly but firmly, asking them not to answer all at the same time and to raise their hands to be allowed to speak.

You will have to try and let as many pupils as possible express themselves accepting only one proposition per pupil.
You will want them to tell you (even in any order):

  • Bridge is played two against two (N.S. against E.W.)
  • Each player receives thirteen cards
  • You must follow suit (ask for an example, have them say they that you are not obliged to play a card higher than the one played by the previous player)
  • The player who has played the highest card wins the trick – i.e. the four played cards – and it is this same player who will play the first card of the next trick, choosing any suit he wants.
  • A player with no more cards in the requested suit plays a card from another suit which will not win the trick: this is called discarding.
  • The side (or partnership) winning the greatest number of tricks wins the hand.

Don’t forget to congratulate
all the pupils by telling them: "so today, you’ll be able to learn something else".

Contract and Decision Table

Before starting to play, you need to take another five to six minutes to give them some explanations, but be careful that you are not “teaching”.
Ask the question you used as a conclusion for the first session:

Why does one partnership win more tricks than the other?

Some of them will probably remember that it is thanks to the high cards: 

Ask them to name them, (have one of them write the names on the blackboard), and tell them that at bridge these cards are called honors.
Explain that when one side owns more honors than the other, they can make the bet to win a greater number of tricks (they are going to bid a contract)
To help determining what contract to play, honors (Ace, King, Queen and Jack) have been given values or points called high cards points (HCP) (write them on the blackboard).

Experience has shown that depending on the number of points owned by one side, this side should be able to win a certain number of tricks, and that allowed setting up a correspondence table, called: The Decision Table.

You will then write the Decision Table on the board, comment it, and afterwards, and only then, give the pupils a copy of it. You can also then explain why seven tricks is the lowest contract.
You can also then explain why seven tricks is the lowest contract.
There is a maximum of thirteen tricks for any given hand, so if one side wants to win more tricks than the other, it has to win at least seven tricks, their opponents winning then only six of them.

Value of Honors

Ace : 4 points
King : 3 points
Queen : 2 points
Jack : 1 point

Table de décision
Points owned
by one side
Number of tricks
this side can win

Application Hands

For this second session, as for the next ones as well, we have drawn up for you several prepared hands; they are on purpose not difficult at all, as you will notice, but however not so easy for your pupils!
Start getting used to have the same hands played simultaneously at all the tables, so that presenting the hand and supervising the smooth progress of the game will be much easier.
This is also why we chose South as the declarer for all the proposed hands, even if you have to turn the mat or the pupils for all of them to be declarers. You will notice that the dealer is not systematically South.
Warning:  For each of these hands, don’t comment on the card-playing and don’t ask them to plan the hand as it is not the objective of the session. Let them play, only checking that the right contract has been declared and controlling that the pupils stick to the rules.

Session first Hand (1.2.1)

  • Evaluating the hands’ high card points (HCP)
  • Using the Decision Table

Playing the hand:
Each player counts his points and then adds them to those of the partner (you make them notice that there is a total of 40 points for one single hand). 
The side with the highest count declares its contract. .

Donne 1.2.1     Dealer North

  9 8 6
  K 8 7 2
  Q 10 7
  9 3 2
  J 5
  10 4 3
  A K J 9 8
  8 6 5
  K Q 10 7
  Q J 9 5
  6 5 3
  7 4
  A 4 3 2
  A 6
  4 2
  A K Q J 10

I have 5 pts
I have 8 pts
I have 18 pts
I have 9 pts

North is the first one to announce his number of points aloud, then East, South, and West do the same.
The partnerships add their points (23 points for N.S, 17 for E.W).
N.S. has the greatest number of points and the Decision Table tells them that they could win 8 tricks.

For the time being, don’t speak of declarer.
Ask West to play a card: he should spontaneously start with the Ace of Diamonds, but he could choose any other card.
Let him do it. If he asks for your advice, simply remind him that the defending side also has to win tricks and that he should carefully look at his cards.

Session second Hand (1.2.2)

  • The dealer, the opener
  • Declaring a contract
  • The defense’s contract
  • The declarer, the leader

To avoid having everybody announce their number of points and speak too quickly, you are going to introduce the notion of opener.
If the dealer has at least 12 points, he says "I open" and only his partner indicates his number of points (not the others, they will have to count for themselves).
If the dealer has less than 12 points, he says "I pass" and it is the next player’s turn, until an opener is found. If no opener is found, the hand is re-dealt.

Hand   1.2.2     Dealer East

  6 5 3
  Q J 10 2
  J 7 6
  8 4 3
  A K Q 2
  8 5 3
  9 5 4
  9 6 2
  J 10 9 8
  A K 9
  10 8 3
  J 10 7
  7 4
  7 6 4
  A K Q 2
  A K Q 5

I pass
I open
I have 4 pts
I will win 7 tricks


East doesn’t have 12 points and says "I pass"
South with his18 points simply declares "I open"
His partner in North announces aloud "I have 4 points"
South calculates that his side has 22 points and declares "I’m going to try and win 7 tricks". He is said to have declared a contract, thus becoming the declarer.
You then ask the E.W partnership how many tricks they must win to make N.S. fail (we call it to set the contract or to go down). The Defense’s contract is to win at least 7 tricks too.

Ask the player on the left of the declarer to lead.
Be careful not to comment the hand at the end of the game, and of course never have it played again!

Session third hand (1.2.3)

  • The dummy
  • Observing the cards
  • Bidding a contract, the score

You are going to be able to tell the pupils that they now know the rules of the game (or so you hope) and that they will therefore be able to truly start playing bridge.
Indeed, the game of bridge offers one special feature: all the players will see the cards of the declarer’s partner!
After the opening lead, the declarer’s partner spreads his hand on the table; he is said to be the "dummy" and his role will be to play the cards requested by his partner who himself will play with both hands, his own and that of the dummy.
Bridge players don’t say "I will win 7 tricks” but "I will play 1NT ". 8 tricks therefore correspond to a contract of 2NT, 9 tricks to 3NT, and 10 tricks to 4NT....

Hand   1.2.3   Dealer South

  A 3 2
  9 7 5
  10 5 3
  K Q 10 8
  8 5 4
  A K Q 10
  8 6 4
  9 3 2
  J 10 9 6
  J 4 2
  Q J 9
  7 6 4
  K Q 7
  8 6 3
  A K 7 2
  A J 5

I open
I have 9 pts
I will win 9 tricks,
i.e. 3 NT


Your pupils now know the process used for declaring a contract and they still need to have a name for it.
Check that they all declared 3NT
West, seated on the left of the declarer, leads the Ace of Hearts and North spreads his hand on the table.

South discovers the hand of his partner and can then start thinking of his strategy to make his contract combining the two hands.
You should only suggest things, without offering to plan the hand for him.
Ask the opponents to observe the dummy’s cards (remind them that they too need to win tricks to set the declarer’s contract and ask them how many!). Of course, there again let them play without intervening.

At the end of the hand, they will have to attribute points to one side or the other depending on whether the contract has been made or not (the name is to go down).

If the contract is made, the declaring side gets:

Declarer contract
I will win at least
Score depends on the number of won tricks
1 NT
7 tricks
2 NT
8 tricks
3 NT
9 tricks
4 NT
10 tricks
5 NT
11 tricks
6 NT
12 tricks
7 NT
13 tricks

If the contract goes down, the defending side (that’s what we call the opponents) will score 50 points for each under-trick (you don’t introduce the notion of vulnerability yet).
Say nothing about premiums, and if your pupils are surprised about an increase in the scoring at specific levels, just congratulate them. Explanations will come later.
Ask each table to write down the points of each side and ask one of the pupils to write all the results on the blackboard:

For example :

  • Table 1 : South made 9 tricks : N.S scores 400 points
  • Table 2 : South made 8 tricks : E.W scores 50 points
  • Table 3 : South made 10 tricks : N.S scores 430 points

You can thus rank the North-South and East-West pairs for this hand:
First N.S 3, then N.S 1 and finally N.S 2
In East-West, it’s E.W 2 first…

Session fourth hand (1.2.4)

  • The advantage of leading
  • You don’t always make the contract

    Respecting the Decision Table doesn’t always mean that you’ll make your contract.
    You are going to proceed just as previously, but of course don’t forget to change the declarer.

Hand 1.2.4   Dealer West

  9 7 3 2
  A K 4
  K 9 2
  9 7 6
  J 8
  6 5 2
  8 6 3
  A K Q 10 2
  6 5 4
  J 10 9 7
  Q J 10 7
  5 4
  A K Q 10
  Q 8 3
  A 5 4
  J 8 3

I pass
I pass
I pass
I open
I have 10 pts
I play 3NT


If West plays all his Clubs, the defense will make five tricks.
Despite the points and what the Decision Table says, South will not make his contract, with no mistake on his part
3NT -1: 50 EW

You will need to remove the declarer’s guilt feeling as he could do nothing to avoid it.

Conclusion: even with the theoretically required points, it is possible to go down, depending on the distribution of the cards and the alertness of the defense.
At the end of the hand, they count the tricks and refer to the scoring table. You congratulate the players who correctly defended the hand and tell the declarers that are very proud to have made the contract that they have been helped by the absentmindedness of their opponents.
Make sure that you always give the children their score.