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


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


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


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


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


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.

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