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Standard American Yellow Card

There are many different ways of communicating in bridge, just like there are many different types of American slang. "Cool" to one person may mean "chilly" while another person may consider "cool" to mean "trendy." Thus, when you're talking to another person, you have to know the subtleties of the same words.

In bridge, players all use the same words the same way. When it's your turn to bid, you make some sort of bid (Lesson 2) However, just as with slang, some bids may mean one thing to one person and something different to another.

Does this mean that you have to know all the slang and what all of it means? No. But it does mean that you need to know two things.

The first is your partnership agreements. That is, what does it mean when you deal and bid 1NT? How many points does it show? What kind of suit(s) does it show? BOTH you and partner need to know these things very well. This takes practice and some effort, but it will change your play from a guessing game to something more like a science. The more you understand your partner's bids, the better you'll be able to determine how high to play the hand and in what suit you want to play it.

The second is your opponent's agreements. This one is a LOT tougher, since you will play against a lot of different partnerships in your bridge lifetimes. They might be using completely different meanings to their bids, so that might affect what your bids mean.

Sounds complicated? Well, yes, it is, but only a little. You see, each partnership should make an attempt to inform their opponents before playing what kind of "system" they use. "System" is a broad name for describing the meanings of types of bids. Some systems are well known (in Europe the "ACOL" system is popular, in the United States "Standard American Yellow Card"
(SA-YC) is popular, while in other places "Precision" or a wide variety of other systems are popular.)

These Beginner Bridge School Lessons concentrate on SA-YC, and will tell you what meanings are part of Standard American as we go along. If you think that you're more interested in ACOL or Precision, you might want to find a book or two on these systems to help you out or visit Bridge Links which contains links to sites where you may download information on other systems.

There's one other aspect of bidding, quite related to the system, but independent of it in many cases. That's the use of "conventions." A "convention" is a bid that doesn't really say what it sounds like it's saying.

For example, if you open 1NT and your partner bids 2, some people would say that you're showing five or more diamonds and fewer than eight points. This, more or less, makes sense. You've judged that the partnership doesn't hold enough points to reach game and the partnership has quite a few diamonds. Therefore you want to stop in 2 and play the hand there.

However, some people play that the 2 says NOTHING about diamonds! It says that partner holds five or more hearts and 0 or more points!!! This doesn't make sense!?! Why bid diamonds when you're interested in hearts!?! Well, remember that partner knows what you're saying, so partner will bid the hearts at her next turn, to complete the "partnership understanding." This is a "Conventional" bid: it says nothing about diamonds, in fact it says something else entirely.

Conventions are partnership agreements. BOTH partners must understand what they're saying. But your opponents might NOT, so they need to be forewarned about these "conventions." This is usually done (in tournaments) by providing a convention card, which tries to briefly explain what conventions a partnership uses and what these conventions mean.

The American Contract Bridge League created a special convention card that was to be useful to new partnerships called the "Yellow Card." Therefore, if two people who knew "SA-YC" just met, they could still play bridge and could use some very handy conventions to help them score better. For this reason, these common systems, particularly SA-YC, are typically played on online bridge servers such as OKbridge, Bridge Player Live and the Gaming Zone.

Some will say that SA-YC is not a good convention card to learn. Some will say that it has its problems. Some will say it's too complicated. We can't argue with any of these because these statements might be true for many partnerships. However, we have to start somewhere and we have chosen SA-YC as our starting place. As you learn more about bridge, you and your partner (or partners) might decide to skip some of the conventions in SA-YC or you might decide you want to add more conventions! This is entirely up to you and your partner. The thing is to have fun!

Go on to lesson 5

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