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The Declaration








It is well to realize from the start that the declaration is the most
important department of the game, and yet the most simple to master. A
foolish bid may cost hundreds of points. The failure to make a sound
one may lose a rubber, whereas mistakes in the play, while often
expensive and irritating, are rarely attended with such disastrous
results.

Also known as "the Bid" and "the Call."

Any good player who has to choose between a partner who bids well and
plays poorly, and one who is a wild or unreliable bidder, but handles
his cards with perfection, without hesitation selects the former.

To be an expert player requires natural skill, long experience, keen
intuition, deep concentration, and is an art that cannot be accurately
taught either by the instructor or by a textbook. Bidding has been
reduced to a more or less definite system, which may be learned in a
comparatively brief space of time. Consequently, any one possessed of
ordinary intelligence, regardless of sex, age, temperament, or
experience, may become an expert declarer, but of all who attempt to
play, not more than forty per cent. possess that almost indefinable
characteristic known as a "card head," without which it is impossible
to become a player of the highest class.

The average club or social game, however, produces numerous expert
players, while the sound bidder is indeed a rara avis.

The explanation of this peculiar condition is not hard to find. Most
Auction devotees began their card experience with Whist, a game in
which, beyond doubt, "The play's the thing"; then they transferred
their allegiance to Bridge, where the play was the predominant factor;
and now they fail to realize that in their new pastime the most
important part of the game is concluded before the first card leaves
the leader's hand.

It must encourage the student to know that he may surely and quickly
become a sound bidder, and that he will then be a more valued partner
than a Whist or Bridge celebrity who does not accord to the Declaration
the care it deserves and rewards.

Many methods of bidding have been suggested; some have been so absurd
that they have not warranted or received serious consideration; others
have been accorded a thorough trial, and found wanting.

The system which is herein advocated is believed to be the most sound
and informatory yet devised.

Before taking up the declaration by each hand, it is important for the
player to realize that with the introduction of the count of to-day,
much of the bidding previously in vogue has, of necessity, passed into
disuse. For example, under the old count, a player, knowing that the
Club suit would never be played and that there was no danger of that
declaration being continued by his partner, very properly called a Club
to show the Ace and King, even when these two cards were the only Clubs
in his hand.

In Auction of to-day, it being possible to score game with any
declaration, a suit cannot be safely called unless it be of such length
and strength that the partner may continue it as far as his hand
warrants. In discussing the subject of Bidding, under the subheads of
DEALER, SECOND HAND, etc., this will be considered more thoroughly, and
it is referred to at this time only for the purpose of pointing out
that informatory bids from short suits containing high cards are no
longer included in the vocabulary of the Declarer.

Another difference between the old and the present game is worthy of
notice. In the old game a marked distinction was drawn between the
color of the suits in the make-up of a No-trumper, it being more
important that the black suits should be guarded than the red. Using
the Bridge count, the adversaries, if strong in the red suits, were apt
to bid, but the black suits, by reason of their low valuation,
frequently could not be called. Black was, consequently, the natural
lead against a No-trump, and therefore, required more protection.

Now, as every suit can be named with practically equal effectiveness,
the color distinction has ceased to exist. The original leader, when
No-trump has been declared, no longer attempts to guess his partner's
strength by starting with a black suit, in preference to a red; and in
bidding one No-trump, strength in one color is just as valuable as in
the other.

When Auction was first played in England, it was believed that the deal
was a disadvantage, that the Declarer should disguise his hand as long
as possible and use every expedient to force his adversary to be the
first to show real strength. This doctrine has been found to be
ridiculous. The premium of 250 for winning the rubber is a bonus well
worth having, and the player who, when his cards justify a bid, unduly
postpones his declaration, belongs to an antiquated and almost extinct
school.

It is now conceded that the best results are obtained by that character
of bidding which gives the partner the most immediate and accurate
information regarding the strength of the Declarer.

There are still the "old fogies" who preach that, as there are two
opponents and only one partner, all information is doubly advantageous
to the adversary. This "moss-covered" idea was advanced concerning the
play in Whist and Bridge, but experience proved it fallacious. In
Auction, its folly is apparent, not only in the matter of the play, but
even more surely when applied to the bidding.

A moment's consideration causes the realization that the declaration
would become an easy task if the exact composition of the partner's
hand were known; it should, therefore, be the aim of the bidder to
simplify the next call of his partner by describing his own cards as
accurately as possible.

True it is that the deceptive bidder at times succeeds in duping some
confiding or inexperienced adversary and thereby achieves a temporary
triumph of which he loves to boast. For every such coup, however, he
loses many conventional opportunities, frequently gets into trouble,
and keeps his partner in a continual state of nervous unrest, entirely
inimical to the exercise of sound judgment. Nevertheless, the erratic
one rarely realizes this. He gives his deceptive play the credit for
his winning whenever he holds cards with which it is impossible for
him to lose, but characterizes as "hard luck" the hundreds that his
adversaries tally in their honor columns by reason of his antics, and
is oblivious of the opportunities to win games which he allows to slip
from his grasp.

The difference between informative and deceptive bidding is shown in
the harmony of a partnership. When the former is practised, the pair
pull together; the latter results in misunderstandings and disputes.

It must not be understood, however, that the ability to give accurate
information comprises the entire skill of the bidder. It is most
important that he possess the judgment which enables him to force the
adversary into dangerous waters without getting beyond his own depth.

It is no excuse for a player who has led his partner on to their mutual
destruction to murmur, "I could have made my bid." An early bid being
allowed to become the final declaration is exceptional. Whether or not
it could be made is, therefore, immaterial, but the result it may
produce is vital.

In club circles the story is told of the player of experience, who,
after he had been deceived by his partner's declaration, said:
"Partner, if you were reading the paper to a stranger, you would not
vary a word of even an unimportant item. Why, then, should you, in
describing your thirteen cards, deliberately misinform a trusting
partner?"

Another exploded idea is that an advantage can be obtained by so-called
"misleading" or "trap" bidding. There are some players who imagine
that, by calling one Spade with an excellent hand, they can induce the
adversaries to believe that the bidder possesses a trickless
combination, and as a result, some ridiculous declaration will follow,
which will give an opportunity for a profitable double. Experience has
shown that in practice this idea does not produce satisfactory results.
Adversaries will not bid to a point where they are apt to be doubled,
except in the face of competition. When the Dealer has called one
Spade, his partner, unless he hold very strong cards, will not
materially elevate the declaration. If both partners have strength, it
is not probable that the adversaries can do much bidding, so that it is
only in the unusual case, and against the inexperienced and unskilled,
that such a scheme is apt to prove successful. On the other hand, it
transfers the advantage of being the first to show strength and abuses
the confidence of the partner. It is a tool which should be employed
only by the Declarer of ripe experience, and he will limit its use to
the unusual hand.

The bidder should remember that part of the finesse of the game, when
partners vary considerably in their respective skill, is to so arrange
the declaration that the stronger player is at the helm most of the
time. A weak player with a strong partner should not jump with undue
haste into a No-trump, Royal, or Heart declaration; but rather, wait
for the partner, and then back up his call. The weak player should also
hesitate before taking away his partner's bid, although of course,
there are many situations which thoroughly justify it, regardless of
the greatest difference in the skill of the players.

The objection to the game of Auction which makes it the subject of the
most severe criticism is the possibility that improper information may
be conveyed to the partner by the manner of making the bid.

After starting to bid, by using the word "one" or "two" there should
never be any hesitation, as that tells the partner that there is more
than one call under consideration. The same comment applies to
hesitation when it is evident to the partner that it must be caused by
a doubt whether or not to double, and the opportunity so to do still
remains with him. An extended delay in passing or bidding one Spade
also conveys an obvious suggestion. It goes without saying that no
honorable partner would avail himself of such information. Being the
unwilling recipient of it, however, places him in an awkward position,
as he must cross-examine himself as to whether any questionable bid or
double he contemplates is in any way encouraged by it. If he have even
a scintilla of doubt, he must pass.

A few principles of bidding applicable to all conditions may be stated
at the beginning of the consideration of the subject.

Adopt informatory and conservative methods.

A good player may bid higher than a poor one.

When your partner fails to assist your bid, do not count on him for
more strength than a Dealer who has bid one Spade.

Any overbid of an adversary shows strength; an overbid of a partner who
has declared No-trump may show weakness.

Overbidding a partner who has declared Royals or Hearts shows weakness
in his suit.

Being without a suit, or holding a singleton, is an element of strength
for a Trump declaration; of weakness for a No-trumper.

When, if you do not bid, the adversary will be left in with a
declaration with which he cannot make game, do not take him out unless
you expect to score game with your declaration.

Do not, by reckless bidding, make the loss of one rubber equal the
usual value of two.

With a love score, it requires three tricks in No-trumps, four in
Royals or Hearts, and five in Diamonds or Clubs, to make game. It is an
exceptional hand in which the Declarer does not lose more than two
tricks. Diamonds and Clubs are, therefore, rarely played in preference
to one of the three declarations of higher value, which are spoken of
as "game-going" declarations.

There is very little declaring to the score in Auction, as the majority
of deals in which the contract is fulfilled score game, so that most of
the time the score is love. In a certain percentage of cases, however,
there is a score, and it affects the bidding to the following extent:--

If it be 2 or more, Diamonds should be treated as Royals or Hearts
would be at love; if it be 6 or more, Clubs should be similarly
treated.

If it be 3 or more, Royals, with a holding of five or more, should be
bid in preference to No-trump, even with all the suits stopped, and if
it be 6 or more, Hearts should be similarly treated.

When the score reaches a higher figure, such as 16, for example,
holding five Diamonds, Hearts, or Spades, suit bids should be given the
preference over No-trumpers.

The reason is plain. The winning of the game is the object of the
bidder; when that is in sight with a suit declaration, No-trump should
not be risked unless in the higher declaration the fulfilment of the
contract be equally sure.

The establishment of an adverse suit is the rock which sinks many a
No-trumper. There is little chance of this with a suit declaration.
Therefore, especially when it does not require any more tricks to go
game, the suit should be selected, if the No-trump present any element
of danger.

The state of the score never justifies an original bid which would not
be conventional at love. In other words, while being the possessor of a
score may make it wise for a bidder to select a suit instead of a
No-trump, it never justifies his calling a suit in which he has not
both the length and strength requisite for a declaration with a love
score.

Bidding by the different hands is so varied in its character that each
must be considered as practically a separate subject, and they will,
therefore, be taken up seriatim. In all cases where the score is not
especially mentioned, it should be understood that neither side is
supposed to have scored.





Next: Original Declarations By The Dealer

Previous: Introduction



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