Magazine article The Spectator

Birth of Bridge

Magazine article The Spectator

Birth of Bridge

Article excerpt

The ancestry of bridge can be traced at least as far back as early 16th-century England, when prototypes of Whist were being played. By the middle of the 17th century Whist was being played under its modern name.

The next major step towards bridge as we know it came in the 18th century with Bridge Whist, in which the dealer or his partner could select the trump suit; also the concept of the dummy was invented.

Reflecting the fact that this was a gambling game were the new calls of double and redouble, which could go on indefinitely.

Step three came early in the 1900s with the introduction of Auction Bridge. The major innovation was the introduction of competitive bidding. The aim was always to keep the bidding low because declarer gained full credit, including slam bonuses, for the tricks made, whether contracted for or not. Honours, which play a minor part in rubber bridge scoring today and none at all in duplicate, had a disproportionate importance which could seriously distort the bidding.

Then came the final step to Contract Bridge, the game we play today. The man credited with the invention of the new game was Harold Stirling Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt had been born into the then richest family in America, and, on his father's death in 1920, inherited an estate worth well over $50 million. …

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