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History

Contract Bridge can be traced back to the early 16th century when a game called Whist was played in England. Through the centuries, Whist evolved and grew steadily in popularity. Early in the 1890's, bridge appeared on the scene.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Bridge is the English pronunciation of a game called Biritch, which was also known as Russian Whist. The word means announcer or herald, bridge players announce their contract bids.

Bridge has its early roots in two card games from the early seventeenth century - the English game of "Ruff and Honors", and the French game of "Triomphe". Several card historians have documented a direct connection between Whist, and some now obsolete card games such as "Hombre", "Vint" and "Ruff". Englishman, Edmund Hoyle (1672-1769) whose name is associated with various card and board games, wrote a pamphlet entitled: "A Short Treatise on Whist" in the 1740s. In time, the expression "According to Hoyle" became part of the vernacular.

The game underwent many changes until Harold S. Vanderbilt perfected a new form of bridge in 1925. It incorporated many of the most popular principles and also produced a scoring table. He succeeded so well that his game of "Contract Bridge" became the staple diet of card players everywhere.


1742 - The first book devoted to Whist appeared, Edmond Hoyle's Short Treatise, which became a best seller.

1857 - The first game of duplicate Whist was played in London; this eliminated much of he luck involved in which card each player was dealt. It was the forerunner of modern duplicate bridge.

1903 - British civil servants in remote India developed the practice of bidding for the privilege of calling the trump suit, thus introducing "auction bridge."

1925 - Harold S. Vanderbilt, American multi-millionaire and three-time America's Cup winner, changed the course of bridge while on a cruise. He suggested that only tricks bid and made count toward game, with extra tricks counted as bonuses. These revised rules turned auction bridge into contract bridge.

1930's - The bidding system named Acol after a road in Hampstead, London, where there was a bridge club in which the system started to evolve. According to Terence Reese, its main devisers were Maurice Harrison-Gray, Jack Marx and S. J. Simon. Marx himself, writing in the Contract Bridge Journal in December, 1952, said: "...the Acol system was pieced together by Skid Simon and myself the best part of 20 years ago."The first book on the system was written by Ben Cohen and Terence Reese. Skid Simon explained the principles that lay behind the system, and the system was further popularised in Britain by Iain Macleod. The Acol system is continually evolving but the underlying principle is to keep the bidding as natural as possible. It is common in the British Commonwealth but rarely played in America.

1931 - The Culbertson Summary and Culbertson's Blue Book topped all book sales for the year, outselling such popular titles as Believe It or Not and Crossword Puzzles! "The Battle of the Century" was held in New York City. The team captained by Ely Culbertson won by 8980 points.

1958 - Charles Goren appeared on the cover of Time magazine and was dubbed "The King of Aces." The inside story explained the basic rules of bridge and proclaimed it the "United States' No. 1 card game."

1997 - The EBU's Official Acol System defined as a bidding system. It is only a "standard" in the sense that it gives you a well-defined system as a basis from which you can outline the differences of the system you actually play.

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Learn to play bridge