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The Language of Bridge by Kit Woolsey

Kit Woolsey's first new bridge book in 35 years, The Language of Bridge, is now available in paperback and eBook formats from Bridge Winners Press. Aimed at an intermediate audience, but with plenty of insights for advanced and expert players, The Language of Bridge examines the communication between partners as they work together to reach the best contract or try to defeat declarer's contract on defense. Kit's unique way of thinking about the game, coupled with his clear and systematic way of explaining concepts, make this an invaluable learning tool for the advancing player and a must-have for any bridge enthusiast's library.

You can purchase the paperback or Ebook version from our store.

 

A brief excerpt from the first chapter, entitled "Bringlish."

Getting to the best contract would be easy if we were permitted an unlimited vocabulary in the bidding. If we picked up: 

AK854 KJ72 K65 3

when it is our turn to bid we would say, "I have ace-king-fifth of spades, king-jack-fourth of hearts, king-third of diamonds, and a singleton club." Partner would have little difficulty placing the contract. 

However, the rules of bridge severely limit our vocabulary. We are only permitted to communicate in the form of bids, which name a level and denomination and must outrank the previous bid. In addition, the words pass, double, and redouble are part of the bridge vocabulary, but are only sometimes permissible. Pass is always a legal call. Double is legal if the previous bid (other than pass, double, or redouble) was by the opponents. Redouble is legal only if the last call other than pass was a double by the opponents. That is all the vocabulary that is available.

Our goal is to use this limited vocabulary to convey as much useful information as possible, which will let at least one of the partners make a decent decision about the best contract. Every bid conveys information and narrows the hand types which might be held. For example, consider the previous hand:

AK854 KJ72 K65 3

As dealer you would open 1. Already partner knows you have at least 5 spades and values to open the bidding. If partner responds 2, you would bid 2. Now partner further knows that you have at least 4 hearts. If partner rebids 2NT, you would bid 3, and now partner knows you have 3-card diamond support. He can guess that your distribution is probably what it is. He won't know exactly where your high cards are, but he might not need to know. For example, suppose responder's hand is: 

97 A84 AQJ103 A75

Of the 4 most critical cards (A, K, K, K) opener almost certainly has at least 3 of them, as otherwise, where is he finding his opening bid? Thus, responder can be pretty sure that 6 is at worst a decent contract, maybe a very good contract, and 7 isn't out of the question. Responder can now proceed to either find out more information or bring opener into the picture to help make the decision according to partnership agreements.

The translation of bridge bids into English is what I call "Bridge English," or "Bringlish" for short. All pairs use it, although they might not recognize it as such. Established partnerships with many pages of notes have definitions for a lot of sequences. These definitions are in Bringlish. Even a new partnership with virtually no agreements is using Bringlish. Every bid they make has some interpretation, even if just a natural interpretation, and this interpretation translated to English is the Bringlish meaning of the bid. When members of a partnership disagree on the interpretation or meaning of a bid, misunderstandings occur.

Let's examine a very simple sequence to see how the translation of bridge bids into English works.

W
N
E
S
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P


This sequence couldn't be any simpler. A rank beginner understands this auction. Yet even here there is a considerable amount of Bringlish that has been spoken.

Let's see exactly what has been said.

1NT: I have a hand worth 15-17 points that is relatively balanced. I definitely don't have any voids and almost certainly don't have any singletons. I probably don't have a 6-card minor, and if I have a 5-card major my shape is almost certainly 5-3-3-2.

3NT: I am not telling you or anybody else anything about what my hand looks like. I might have a 4-3-3-3 11-count. I might have ace-queen-seventh of a minor and nothing else and be gambling that all suits are stopped and that the minor will run. I might have anything. It is my judgment with the knowledge of what your 1NT opening told me that 3NT is our best contract. Please pass.

Pass: The 3NT call instructed me to pass. I follow this instruction.

As you can see, our Bringlish vocabulary is quite extensive, and even simple auctions have considerable Bringlish meanings.

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