A veteran of more than 50 years competition, Dan Cabot has written a useful pamphlet called Duplicate Bridge for Beginners. He will be using it as textbook for a beginners class meeting Fridays from 1 to 3 at Howes House, effective Sept. 29. There’s limited enrollment, so sign up soon.

Playing your first game of duplicate can be a fraught experience. You must adjust to placing a card in front of you rather than throwing it into the middle of the board; telling dummy which card to play instead of reaching for it; using bidding cards, say a heart symbol with a number on it, in place of oral bids. I am at most a social drinker. After playing my first round of duplicate, I needed four hours and four glasses of wine to settle down.

That said, duplicate fills three and a half hours with challenge, inspiration and pleasure once you get used to it.

If there’s one practice that distinguishes experienced players from tyros, it’s a disinclination to bid minor-suit contracts. To paraphrase Gene Wilder from the movie Young Frankenstein, minor suits are doo-doo! Clubs and diamonds are worth 20 points per trick, and you’d have to take five tricks over the six-trick “book” to make a 100-point game. Major suits provide 30 points per trick and need 10 tricks for game. NoTrump bids produce 40 points for the first trick and 30 for each additional one. Hence, a nine-trick game contract.

Typically, duplicate games are scored with matchpoints. You are playing the identical hands of pairs sitting in the same direction; hence, the term “duplicate.” Once all the scores are tabulated, your side earns one matchpoint for each score of a similarly seated pair you have bettered and half a point for each score you’ve duplicated. The winning pair has the highest total of matchpoints for the session.

Dan provides the following chart, with both sides vulnerable:

Team        Contract        Result        Score        Matchpoints
Smiths      4♠                 Made 6      +680          6
Evanses    4♠                 Made 5      +650          5
Browns     3NT             Made 4      +630          4
Burts        4♠                 Made 4      +620          3
Joneses     5♣                Made 5      +600          2
Doufuses  3♠                 Made 6      +230          1
Whites      6♠                Down 1      -100           0

Plainly, bidding 5 ♣ was unwise. Why weren’t more pairs in 3NT? When it comes time to choosing between a major-suit and NoTrump game, “most of the time a four-four fit in a major will make one more trick in the suit than in 3NT.”

Here’s a gem I hadn’t considered. Suppose you open 1NT; partner bids 2♣ , the Stayman convention asking if you have a four-card major, and you have four hearts and four spades. How do you respond? With the better major, according to the author. Dan produces this hand opposite a 1NT opener:

#5. ♠ 8 7 5 4
      ♥ 10 7 6 4
      ♦ Q J 4 3
      ♣ 10

“There is a reason why the 1NT opener should always respond to Stayman with the strongest major if s/he holds more than one. If your partner opens 1NT and you hold a hand like #5 (note the singleton club), you will make a bid called ‘garbage Stayman.’ 2 ♣ will look like the regular Stayman to your partner, and s/he should respond normally, but you will pass whatever s/he answers, even if it’s 2 ♦ . Why? Because opposite this terrible hand, your partner will almost certainly go down at 1NT with only half the points in the deck and the opponents making the opening lead. However, with a four-four fit in a suit, s/he may have a chance. Even playing in 2 ♦ with a three-card diamond suit (possible if s/he has a long club suit), you are probably still no worse off than at 1NT.”

I’ve read only 10 pages in the 28-page document, and it’s safe to conclude that more goodies are on the way. To order Duplicate Bridge for Beginners, send $10 to Dan Cabot, Box 361, West Tisbury, MA 02575.