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Swiss Teams Instruction Notes

Below is a lesson plan I wrote as part of my college bridge series of full semester instruction.  (The whole thing is available free online for download at  Feel free to use this lesson plan any way you like, including printing and handing it out.

Lesson 9 – Introduction to Duplicate

Collegiate Bridge Teams Championship: The Bridge Bowl

Scholarship MoneyWelcome back. Today we begin our quest to make you some MONEY! No, we won’t be playing for cash, but those of you who are interested may form collegiate teams to compete for scholarships, some of which are substantial, $4,000 each! For others, you may learn enough to get folks to sponsor you, paying for your travel, meals, entry fees, expenses, and even an honorarium (fee) for playing with them as a teaching professional in tournaments around the country and even overseas! It’s hard work, but it can beat crunching numbers in a cubicle. I do recommend you finish whatever degree pursuits brought you here before you get too into professional bridge. But, you might find part-time professional play to help pay for education expenses is more fun than digging ditches or making burgers and fries.

Team Game MechanicsSince the Collegiate Bridge Bowl is played as a team game, that’s where we’ll concentrate. In team games one team of four starts at one table, its home table, often with a letter section identifier like “A”. The other table, often in a section labeled, oh, I don’t know, shall we say “B”, is home to the enemy team of four for this match. To kick off the game, the North-South pairs at each table stay put, and they send their East-West pairs to each other’s table. At each table North is in charge. North is often the captain of that team, but doesn’t have to be. Extra pairs for each team, if any, are not allowed to kibitz, and usually are barred from the playing area until it’s their turn to play a segment of hands. If there are multiple combinations of two tables, then A1 plays B1, A2 plays B2, A3 plays B3, etc. It’s easy once you’ve seen it a time or two.

If there’s an odd team (an extra, not odd players; that would be all of us), then three teams play a “Round Robin” match.

Play a Team Game in Class Getting Started – East West Swap TablesNow either state that you’ll have a round robin or that you don’t need one since you have an even table count. Be prepared to conduct either version. If you have 4+ tables (YEA!) designate A and B 1, 2, 3 etc. Give each table 1 empty board and 1 deck of cards.

Ok, send your East West players away and say hi to your opponents. Shuffle, cut, deal and play one trick, but don’t throw the cards in the middle. Instead, each player keep his card played, including dummy’s, face up on the table in front of him, then STOP and raise your hand when you reach that point. While you are doing that, here’s a bridge etiquette tip. If you East-Wests go to take your seats at what you believe to be the enemy North-South table and there’s no one there, check to make sure you are in the correct corresponding table. If your home table is A2, and you go to C2 or B1 you’ll be wrong. Assuming you know you are where you are supposed to be, and have no North-South opponents, DON’T fool with the cards. If your opponents were there you’d all be shuffling and dealing decks and creating boards, but it’s considered bad form to do that unless your opponents are present. Same for them if you are late. Still no opponents? Send one player back to the home table to see if they have opponents. Try to figure out what’s going on. Can’t? “Director, Please!” OK, enough soapbox, play one trick as soon as you can.

Everyone’s played the first trick? Good. Now you are going to learn how we make sure the cards are the same when played at both tables so they can be compared. In rubber bridge you threw cards in the middle and picked up tricks. Who cared, hands were only played once. But from now on hands will be played at least twice. To keep everything straight, we “Quit” a completed trick by turning the cards face down on the table in front of us. When the deal is over, each player will have in front of him the 13 cards he started with. If your side won the trick, place the cards vertically –STAND TALL! If you lost the trick, turn them horizontally, so they are short to you and tall to your opponents. Start on your left and place the card of each successive trick atop the previous trick without completely covering it. Do that with trick one, and play another, place the 2nd trick on the table, stop and raise your hand. I’ll come ‘round and check. If you mess it up don’t worry, you are not the first and you won’t be the last.

Continue and stop when you’ve played about ½ of the tricks, raise your hand and let me come look. Good. Continue, and when you’ve completed play STOP, don’t do anything to the cards, just raise your hand. I’ll tell you what happens next.

Before pushing your cards together, make sure all four players are in agreement about what just happened, like “Made four spades” or Making 3, or the like. If there is disagreement check the way your cards are placed (tall or short) for each trick, and re-count. Still disagree? Go trick by trick, slowly. Still don’t agree? Call the director to help you sort it out. The good news is that you’ll be playing online soon and all this stuff is done for you by the computer program. But if you make nationals you’ll be playing live, face-to-face bridge like we are doing here. My job is to make sure you are comfortable either way.

So you know what your score was, where do you record it? On these team score sheets.

Hand them out, show them how they work, record score for board.

OK, now we are going to ready the cards for repeated play at the other table. Make SURE that the North arrow on the board is pointing toward the North player. It’s everyone’s job to check, even though it’s North’s ultimate responsibility. All good? Each of you place your just played hand of 13 cards face down in the little slot facing you in the board. They are now ready for transport to a new table, which will play them again. Then we compare. By the way, it’s a good habit to shuffle your little stack of 13 cards before you put ‘em in the board, just so new players won’t see patterns. Good players can spot them, so don’t give them that temptation.

Exchanging Boards with the Other TableWhen you are finished, North grab the board and hold it up, high, and call “Caddy, please!” A helper who we call a “Caddy” will shortly come by and take your board to your corresponding table, bringing back the one they just played. If each table plays four boards then call for the caddy when finished. Let’s call the caddy now, North. I’ll play the role of caddy.

Great, play the new board, don’t mind me while I hover around watching.

Comparing Scores with Opponents at Your TableMake sure your scores agree and record them on your scorecard. We are only playing two boards today, but in some cases you may play as many as 16 boards before returning to your home table to see how you did, so before leaving you should make sure that your score records and those of your opponents agree. To do that, either East or West should call out the board number and plus or minus score. His partner silently checks to see if his scorecard agrees, and speaks only if it doesn’t. Meanwhile North looks to see that his scorecard matches, showing plus the same score if East says minus, etc., and says OK or “Wait.” South should be silently following. If North disagrees, everyone can help sort out the problem, and then the process continues until everyone is satisfied that the scores are accurately posted. It should sound like: “Alright, board 1, plus 650.” “OK.” “Minus 140.” “OK.” (You don’t need to keep calling out board numbers unless there’s disagreement.) If East calls out +650 North should see a score of -650 on his card. Then all is well and he says “OK.” This continues until all boards are checked. Then say something nice to the opponents and go directly to your home table. All this should take about two minutes or less.

Comparing Scores with Your Idiot TeammatesNow East-West pairs return to their home tables to compare. Wait for me to tell you how.

Comparing scores should be a businesslike process, quick and quiet. The other team expects someone to be congratulated, you or them, right away, and the captain of the winning squad needs to give the other captain a turn in slip with the results. The losing captain checks, initials, and the winning captain takes the chit to the director for overall score entry. You can’t do all that and still get a potty break if you are discussing “WHAT HAPPENED” on boards. So you don’t, ever, until after the game, and maybe not even then. If your teammates blew a board, they know it and don’t need to be poked. Guess who might blow the next one? (Guess who the actual idiot teammates might have been this round.)

So, here’s what goes on. Just like when you compared with the enemy, when comparing with your teammates one member of the East-West pair reads or “Pitches,” the other SILENTLY follows what’s happening unless called upon to answer a question. One member of the North-South team “Catches” while his counterpart follows silently. Just like in baseball, the catcher sets the pace and calls the signals. So let’s pretend compare our two boards with artificial scores, East pitching and North catching. Pretend your scoresheets match the scores I’m going to say.

North: “Ready? Board 1…”

East: Sees that he bid 4S not vulnerable and made 5… “Plus 450” is ALL he says. We don’t need the details.

North now compares to his score, which was minus 420, his opponent having failed to find the overtrick. North calculates the net score, which is plus 30. He checks the conversion table and finds out that plus 30 is good for one IMP.

North: “Win 1.” Everyone writes “1” into the score for our side on the line for the board.

East: Automatically looks to the next board, which is board 2, where the enemy made 6D vulnerable having only bid 5. “Minus 620” says he.

North checks and sees that South bid and made the diamond slam, resulting in a lovely score of 1370. Doing his arithmetic in his head like a good lad, he nets 1370-620=750 (note that the difference is the small slam bonus, which is why the pros do this so fast, they just know that). Converting 750 to IMPs , he cries…

“Win 13.” Write 13 in the “our” side for board 2.

Captains Compare – Report Result to Director TableLet’s say these are all the hands played. Now everyone counts, netting the scores for this match segment. Ours totaled 14, the enemy’s zero. Now we send East-West back to do this again for another segment, or send our Captain to the other table to meet their captain and get his initials on the turn in slip he just completed. Then he turns it in to the Director and gets ready for another match or lunch or cocktails or whatever. That’s how it’s done!

If there’s still class time left…

Now do it with the actual results from the play of your two boards. I shouldn’t hear a lot of extraneous talking!

Give each table one turn in slip.

Fill these out and get the losing captain’s approval and initials. Give them to me when it’s time to leave. Ask me now if you have questions. Quickly, we have about 3 more minutes stuff to do before I send you off.

Explain Homework Assignment on Bridge Base (BBO)OK, let’s wrap it up. We’ve got one more lesson on mechanics, and then we’ll start working on improving bidding and play techniques. To begin next session’s lesson, here’s another homework assignment. On your most used computer log onto Look around but DO NOT SIT TO PLAY at any table. You can join as a kibitzer and watch a few hands once you join as a member, which is FREE so go right ahead. You’ll need a username and passcode. My username is “yours_here”. Choose one for yourself that you’ll remember and other folks will tend to remember as well, because everyone will see it. You may have to try several, the common ones are taken. If you type any message anywhere BE NICE! There are a lot of trolls on bridge sites, don’t be one of them.

Next time we are going to meet in the computer room #xxx. See me if you don’t know where that is. Make sure you remember your BBO (Bridge Base Online) username and password. Keep them handy until you have them memorized. You’ll need them next class. See you then!

Be sure you have pre-arranged use of a room full of computers with a large central screen that you can access from your instructor cockpit. Get someone to check you out on all the equipment if you don’t know how to use it, and hopefully have someone from CIS there to back you up if there are problems. You are going to have a room full of students log into BBO at a teaching table you open, and have them take turns sitting and leaving, chatting, and playing at a speed you control. PRACTICE with some volunteers from your club before you endeavor to try this live.

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