Bridge City Bridge Club inspired Card Game Genealogy

The legend is true. I play bridge.

It started a few years ago when I was dating a lawyer and we were looking for “the most entertaining and intelligent card game the wit of man has so far devised.” 1

Actually, I can’t remember what kicked off the intrigue, only that a friend had invited us to her bridge group. Since I’d grown up hearing my grandma speaking fondly of her Bridge nights, I decided that I’d learn how to play so that I could play with her before she passes. Having grown up playing a zillion card games from Go Fish to Crazy Eights (move over, Uno) to 101 Ways to Play Solitaire (now 150 ways) to Gin to Rummy to Michigan Rummy to Canasta (the family favorite) to Oh Hell to Euchre to Pinochle to Ten Penny to Asshole to Egyptian Rat Fuck War (many thanks to the boy scouts on a train to Michigan when I was 14) to War to Hearts to Spades (my college favorite) to Pitch (my high school pride) to Poker to others of lesser fame, I figured I’d pick it up quickly and play grandma online before the end of the year. 2

That was something like 4 years ago. And I’m still learning. In a series of 3 books about bidding, we’re still on the first one. In fairness, we switched conventions a couple years ago and rarely get together more than once a month so it’s hard to build the muscle memory needed for the game. Which is strange considering the similarities of this game to the aforementioned list. So I decided to build a card game genealogy tree…which now (after a couple of hours) I must cut short with a hope to expand and timeline later. (And if I win the lottery, I’d look into writing a history of the world through the games we play. Unless it’s already been done, in which case, tell me about it!)

Until then, enjoy a little history and please let me know if you grew up playing (or still play) a game I haven’t mentioned. I’d love any tidbits you have! And if you like to play Bridge, let me know. Bridge City Bridge Club is absolutely fabulous.

  • Tarot / Tarocco (Italian) / Tarock (German) — basic rules first appeared in the manuscript of Martiano da Tortona, written before 1425.
    • Triomphe / Trionfo / Triumph / Trump, 16th Century France – first documented in 1529. Trionfo was also the name of the original card game for which Tarot cards were designed where the major arcana cards had the role of what are now called trumps. Legend has it that later rules were designed to use one of the ordinary suits as a replacement for when Tarot cards were not available. (@todo – see if this was due to religious or otherwise sanctioned use of Tarot cards)
      • Ruff and Honours, 17th Century England — While I’d never heard of this before tonight, throwing this in here for the relation to what we call “honors” in Bridge and further investigation. Upon first read, the play sounds fun. According to Wikipedia, versions of this game seem to be principle of some games in the 16th and 17th centuries, though by the 18th, they were replaced by Whist.
      • Whist, 18th Century England — while popular with the English in the 18th and 19th centuries, it’s derived from the 16th century game of trump or ruff, via Ruff and Honours
        • Reversis became popular around 1750 in Spain –> a branch of its evolution became what we now know as Hearts. This is the odd lady out at the table, since it involves strategy to not get tricks.
        • Spades, devised in the United States in the late 1930s. A simplification of Contract Bridge, a skilled Spades player can learn Bridge relatively quickly (the major additional rules being dynamic trump, the auction, dummy play, and rubber scoring). 3 Ahem? I’ll give you dynamic trump (Hearts) and dummy play (Cribbage) as easy to pick-up but the auction? We’re on book 1 of a 3 part series on the auction and when I tried to see if I could find the book online, I stumbled across this Wikipedia page that lists, oh just a few, of the books about Bridge. There’s a bajillion. Take a look and search for books about “bidding” as that’s the auction. Alas, I digress.
        • Bridge, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the English pronunciation of a game called Biritch, which was also known as Russian Whist. In 1904 we added the auction, where we bid in a competitive auction to decide the contract and declarer. In 1925 some guy by the name of Harold Stirling Vanderbilt decided to make scoring more complicated (probably so he could always be the scorekeeper and win) and that’s when Bridge players started only counting the tricks they contracted below the line with “sandbags” going above and had to constantly ask each other who’s vulnerable.
  • Oh Hell, born around the 40s in the US, this is seemingly a variation of both Spades and Bridge where going over your bid (or contract) counts as a loss. In short: No Sandbagging, Larry. –> US Games’ Wizard 4
  • Mahjong (Chinese) –> Khanhoo (Chinese) meaning “watch the pot” –> Conquian, 17th Century Central America, notably Mexico. A game considered by games scholar David Parlett to be ancestral to all rummy games.
    • Sai Rummy / Basic Rummy
      • Gin
      • Michigan Rummy
      • Canasta (@todo: check out Khanhoo, a Chinese card game noted as being similar)
      • Ten Penny
  • Klaverjas / Klaverjassen, 17th Century Netherlands –> Belote, 1920 France also known as Bridge-Belote in Bulgaria (along with other names in other countries) and noted as THE no. one card game in Saudia Arabia. Noted here for a reference to it as “Pinochle’s cousin.”
  • Piquet –> Marriage (Sixty-six) & Briscan –> Bezique / Bésigue, 19th Century France.
    • Pinochle, 1920s – “Auction pinochle for three players has some similarities with the German game skat, although the bidding is more similar to that of bid whist.”
  • Dai Hin Min (Japanese) / Zheng Shangyou (Chinese), not sure yet which came first, though seems decided that America’s Asshole and Vietnam’s Tien Len came later. In the Chinese version, the winner is called the daifugō (the grand millionaire) earning various advantages in the next round, and the last person is called the daihinmin (the extreme needy).
    • Asshole, America
    • Tien Len, Vietnam
  • Beggar-My-Neighbour appears in Great Expectations (1861) as the only card game Pip, as a child, knows how to play.
    • Egyptial War
  • Schafkopf – 18th Century Germany, most notably Bavaria.
    • Skat
    • Sheepshead – Some say that since kings are weak cards in this game, it was a way to insult the German Kaiser without getting one’s head chopped off.

Notes, just like we used to pass in class:

  • 1 – Says W. Somerset Maugham according to Bridge World (back)
  • 2 – I’d have added Sheepshead to the list, but it’s really another one I just started learning even though Grandpa’s already passed and he’s the one I’d want to play with. Or maybe for my home town’s next big celebration. Howells recently celebrated its 125th birthday and held a Sheepshead tourney in celebration. (back)
  • 3 – Oh, Wikipedia (back)
  • 3 – I couldn’t help it. As a lover of card and board games, I was ecstatic to have worked with US Games in the way back days.  (back)

Extra: Today is Day 21, Post 18 of my 30 day blog challenge. Click ‘Follow’ at the bottom of the page to receive weekly updates in your inbox or follow me on Tumblr if that’s your scene.


  • jewel
    August 5, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Sharon- it’s about time I get you back on some trivial information. And Mike, I’ll get you a Power Point if you can get me a TPS report by this Saturday. Mmmkay?

  • Mike
    August 5, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Excellent historical survey, Jewell! You should turn it into a powerpoint presentation and give a talk at our next BCBC meetup.

  • Sharon E.
    August 5, 2013 at 10:35 am

    I love this! Thanks for this illumination. (I will be stealing bits of this for trivia, of course, and will be informing my Russian American friend from grade school that Bridge is Russian! (basically) :)) Oh, I also love knowing that W. Somerset Maugham was a Bridge fan. I read all his non-famous books. 😉


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