Rubber bridge is a form of
contract bridgeplayed among four players, often in friendly play but sometimes for stakes. As in other card games, the outcome of rubber bridge depends partly on luck and partly on skill. Over a long period of play, luck becomes less and skill more of a factor.
Aim of the game
A rubber set (usually referred to simply as rubber) is the best two out of three games. When the rubber ends, the pair with the higher point total wins. Usually but not always the pair that won two of the rubber's games has more points. A game consists of one or more deals and ends when a pair successfully fulfills 100 points worth of contracts. After a game, both pairs start with zero points towards the next game. Bonuses are earned that don't affect the game score. There are bonuses for each trick a pair takes in excess of their contract, for each trick below the opponents' contract that the opponents failed to take, for successfully contracting to take all 13 tricks, for successfully contracting to take 12 tricks, etc. The pair that wins two games of the rubber gets a bonus (a higher bonus if the opposing pair failed to win a game). A pair's final score is the sum of all the contracts made (including those contracts made in a game the opposing pair won) and all bonuses earned. Penalties for failure to fulfill the contract are written "above the line" for the opponents and ultimately summed up, but don't affect conditions for ending of the rubber.
In theory, a rubber can last indefinitely if neither pair can manage to complete a contract or if the pair with lesser cards perpetually takes a sacrifice so that their opponents score bonuses for defeating contracts but can't complete 100 points of their own contracts to win two games and end the rubber.
Like in most other card games, the scoresheet is divided vertically into "our" and "their" column. However, it is also divided horizontally by "the" line, to distinguish points scored for fulfilling the contract and points achieved by other means. If the declarer makes his contract, the number bid, multiplied by a suit-dependent multiplier, is scored below the line. Any overtricks, again multiplied by the suit-dependent multiplier, are scored above the line.
:bid: 2 Clubs, made 9 tricks: 40 (2×20) points below, 20 (1×20) above the line.:bid: 4 Hearts, made 10 tricks: 120 (4×30) points below, 0 (0×30) above the line.:bid: 4 NT, made 11 tricks: 130 (4×30+10) points below, 30 (1×30) above the line.
Game and rubber
If the score of a partnership below the line equals or exceeds 100 points (either at once or taken together with what already was below the line), the partnership is said to have scored a game, and all scores below the line are turned into scores above the line (by drawing another line below). Thus, as in
duplicate bridge, making a game requires five tricks in a minor suit, four in a major suit, or three in No Trump (or some combination of partial scores).
The first partnership that wins two games wins the rubber. They score a 700 point bonus if they won in two games, or 500 points if their opponents also made a game. If the rubber ends prematurely for whatever reason, the pair (if any) who scored one game while the opponents did not are awarded 300 points.
Vulnerability and slam bonus
A partnership that has already made a game is called "vulnerable", which is of importance for the slam bonus and for the downtricks.
If a pair bids and makes a contract of 6 in something (i.e. wins all but one trick), they are said to have made a "small slam". This gives a bonus (above the line) of 500 points when not vulnerable, and 750 points when vulnerable. If a player bids and makes a contract of 7 in something (thus scoring all the tricks), he is said to have made a "grand slam". This gives a bonus of 1000 points when not vulnerable, and 1500 points when vulnerable.
If a pair goes down, their opponents score points above the line. If the pair is not vulnerable, their opponents get 50 points per undertrick, if it is vulnerable 100 points per undertrick.
If a pair is doubled, and makes their contract, they get double points for all tricks bid, while overtricks score extra—100 points per overtrick if not vulnerable, 200 points if vulnerable. Furthermore, the pair gets 50 points bonus 'for the insult'. All these values are doubled again if the contract was redoubled. The slam bonuses are not influenced by a double, nor are the rubber bonuses—although the latter are of course influenced by the fact that there are more scores below the line, and thus games are reached faster.
If a pair is doubled and goes down, the penalty (points to the other pair) are as follows:
* If the pair is not vulnerable, 100 for the first downtrick, 200 for the second and third, and 300 for each subsequent downtrick.
* If the pair is vulnerable, 200 for the first downtrick, and 300 for each following one.
These scores are also doubled again if the contract was redoubled.
Unlike the duplicate, special (
rummy-like) bonuses (referred to as "honors") are awarded in rubber bridge for particular holdings in one hand, regardless of the outcome of the deal. These bonuses are written above the line:
*Four out of five top trump honors (A,K,Q,J,10) in one hand are awarded 100 points;
*All five top trump honors (A,K,Q,J,10) in one hand are awarded 150 points;
*All four aces in one hand in notrump contracts are awarded 150 points.However, a player must claim the honors bonus, at the latest before the next deal starts. If he forgets to do it, the bonus is not awarded.
Since the most important points are collected below the line, players focus on fulfilling the game as soon as possible. Thus, in bidding, if a pair has no points previously scored below the line, they seek to find the highest makeable contract, as it earns the maximum points below the line. This is in contrast to duplicate bridge, where making a partial contract has the same value whether played at level 1, making 9 tricks, or at level 3, making the same 9 tricks; thus, duplicate players seek to buy a contract as low as possible if the prospects for a game are bleak.
On the other hand, when a pair has already scored below the line, they generally bid only the contract sufficient for making the game by accumulation. For example, if a pair already has 70 below, they will usually stop at level one or two (30-60 points below) even if their cards warrant more. Only if the cards offer a possibility of a slam (providing bonus of 500-1500) can drive a pair higher.
Of course, opponents may interfere with those attempts, seeking for a sacrifice contract if they estimate that the potential penalty is worth depriving opponents of the game or full rubber. While sacrifice in duplicate bridge is clearly a one-deal affair (the penalty is either smaller than the value of opponents' contract, or not), in rubber bridge its worth also depends on the luck in future deals. For example, a -500 sacrifice against opponents' rubber can turn profitable if the next deal provides a slam for the sacrificing side, but worthless if the cards would stay with the opponents.
In rubber bridge, speculative doubles are rare, as they also double potential opponents' score below the line if the contract is made.
Once the bidding is complete, in card play, the declarer seeks to fulfill the contract as safely as possible, dismissing the opportunity of overtricks if it can endanger the contract (
safety play). This is similar to IMP duplicate game, but in contrast with matchpoints, where overtricks are important.
Slams (contracts at level 6 or 7) are attractive because of large bonuses, but also dangerous, as a failed slam also means a failure to achieve a game. A good pair will try to investigate the slam on as low level as possible, so as to remain in the "safe" zone if it turns out that the slam was not worth the risk.
The following example illustrates flow of a rubber game (the order of entering results is typically upwards above the line and downwards below the line):
#North-South bid 1NT (40 below) and made an overtrick (30 above)
#East-West bid and made 3Hearts (90 below)
#East-West bid 3Diams, got doubled, and ended up down two (300 above for the opponents)
#North-South bid and made 2NT (70 below), which makes a game with previous 40. A new line is drawn below, and E-W's previous 90 is nullified (moved above the line). N-S are now vulnerable.
#East-West bid and made 6Spades (180 below), making their game. The slam bonus is (500 above). Also, declarer claimed honor points (100 above). E-W are now also vulnerable. A new line is drawn below.
#North-South bid and made 4Spades. This is their second game, ending the rubber. They are awarded 500 points for 1-game lead, and the total sums are 1060 for N-S and 870 for E-W.
A celebrated match, referred to as "Bridge battle of the century", was held December 1931 – January 1932 between teams led by
Ely Culbertsonand Sydney Lenz. The match drew huge media and public attention, and significantly influenced the popularity of contract bridge. A total of 150 rubbers were played, and was ultimately won by the Culbertson team by a margin of 8,980 points. The match was a total success both for the game itself and the concepts of bidding as promoted by Culbertson.
* [http://www.bridgeguys.com/CGlossary/CulbertsonLenzMatch.html Culbertson-Lenz match]
* [http://notrump7.googlepages.com/RS.html Online rubber bridge scorer]
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