It was in this
atmosphere of slide rules and equation-covered blackboards last week that the
engineers were found brushing sandwich crumbs and milk cartons to one side to
play a card game that makes a kibitzer think he has stepped into a Kafka
have trumped my ace," one player glaringly accuses his partner. "Fine
work; you took only three tricks," another offers in a sincere, if
What has befallen
the most vicious of seated sports that its values should be so reversed? Not
much. Simply the introduction of an added bid: a minus bid at any level.
A bid of minus
four hearts, for example, means that you pledge you can avoid taking all but
three tricks if hearts are trumps. If you take four tricks you are down one;
five tricks, down two; etc.
As Peter Bolles,
one of the founders of antibridge, explains, normal positive bids may also be
made, though a corresponding minus bid is higher—minus four hearts is higher
than four hearts but lower than four spades. The rules of play and scoring are
unchanged, except in a minus contract declarer's partner plays the hand.
combines regular bridge with a hint of high-low poker and the nasty venom of
hearts, that game in which devious means are used to keep from winning tricks.
What the new bidding does for bridge, Bolles claims, is end the traditional
complaint that "we sat here all night and didn't hold acard." Now low
hands are as interesting as high ones.
It also turns a
good bridge player into a better one, says Bolles, for you must keep track of
low cards as well as high ones during the play of all negative bids. If you
don't you suddenly win tricks with fives and sixes that you didn't want to win
at all. About 30% of all hands are played at negative contracts, say
playing has led Bolles & Co. to develop bidding conventions, some of which
must be watched as closely as a card shark's sleeve. Six points or less in high
cards, for example, makes an admirable minus-one no-trump opener, says Bolles,
but a minus-one bid in a suit actually shows an opening positive hand with a
singleton or void in the bid suit.
The word on
antibridge is beginning to get around; to the point, in fact, where the Los
Angeles engineers have printed instructions for their game and passed them to
friends on the outside, so to speak.
But if it becomes
popular, look out. Those chaps at Thompson Ramo Wooldridge sound like a
restless lot, and one of them is sure to start working on a new game soon
called anti-antibridge. When it happens, you'll be told.