# What Is A Bridge Tally?

Bridge isn’t just about bidding, playing tricks, and counting points; it’s also about socializing, rotating partners, and keeping everyone engaged. Enter the humble bridge tally—a tool that has been quietly orchestrating bridge games at parties and social gatherings for decades. Let’s look at the story of the bridge tally, a small but essential player in the game’s social side.

## The Basics: What Is a Bridge Tally?

Imagine you’re at a lively bridge party, surrounded by friends, snacks, and maybe even a little wine. How do you keep track of who’s playing with whom, and where they’re headed next? A bridge tally is the answer. It’s a simple yet clever tool used in social or party bridge games to organize players’ movements, scores, and partnerships.

## How Does It Work?

### Pairs Movement

A pairs bridge tally designed for games where players participate as fixed pairs or couples will allow each team to stay together while rotating through different tables and opponents. Here’s how a pairs tally works:

1. Assigned Pair Number: Each pair (or couple) is assigned a specific number (e.g., Pair #1, Pair #2, etc.) that corresponds to their movements throughout the game. This number dictates where they will sit and who their opponents will be in each round.
2. Round Movements: The tally provides detailed instructions on which table the pair should move to after each round. For example, Pair #1 might start at Table 1 and then move to Table 3 for the next round. This organized rotation ensures all pairs get to play at different tables and face a variety of opponents.
3. Fixed Partnerships: Unlike individual tallies, a pairs tally keeps partners together throughout the entire session. This setup emphasizes teamwork and strategy, as pairs compete together against different opposing pairs in each round.
4. Opponents and Directions: The tally specifies which pair will be the opponents for each round, along with which direction (North-South or East-West) each pair will play. This ensures a balanced competition as pairs face off against all other pairs in a structured rotation.
5. Scoring: Many pairs tallies include spaces for recording scores after each round. The scores are usually written directly on the tally or on accompanying score sheets, making it easy to track each pair’s performance over the course of the game.
6. Clear and Organized Layout: The tally card is laid out with clear instructions, often using large type to ensure players can easily follow their next steps. It outlines the round number, table number, opponents, and any other necessary movement details.

### Individual Movement

One of the more popular ‘party’ bridge games is an Individual where partnerships switch up during the evening and Individual Movement Tallies are a great help for this kind of game. Here’s how an individual bridge tally works:

1. Assigned Player Number: Each player receives a tally card numbered specifically for them (e.g., Player #1, Player #2, etc.). This number corresponds to their movements and partnerships throughout the game.
2. Round Movements: The tally provides clear instructions on where the player should sit for each round. For example, after the first round, Player #1 might be instructed to move to Table 2, while Player #2 moves to Table 3. This ensures that players rotate around the tables in a structured way.
3. Changing Partners: The tally specifies which player you will partner with in each round. For instance, in the first round, Player #1 might partner with Player #4, and in the next round, they might be with Player #3. This setup ensures that all players get the chance to play with and against different people throughout the session.
4. Recording Scores: Many tallies include spaces for players to jot down their scores after each round. This helps track individual performance and keeps the competition friendly yet organized.
5. Easy-to-Read Format: The tally’s layout is designed to be straightforward, often with large type for easy reading, especially during busy social games. It shows the player number, their partners, opponents, and the table to which they should move.

Individual bridge tallies help keep the game flowing smoothly by clearly directing each player’s movements and partnerships, ensuring everyone enjoys a varied and engaging bridge experience.

### How many tables?

Bridge tallies are designed to cater to a varying number of tables, depending on the type of game and the specific tally set being used. Typically, tallies are available for:

1. Small Games (2-3 Tables): These tallies accommodate 8 to 12 players, making them ideal for smaller gatherings. They are often used for intimate bridge parties or games at home.
2. Medium Games (4-5 Tables): Tallies for this setup cater to 16 to 20 players, providing a balanced number of rounds and a good mix of partnerships. This size is popular for larger social events.
3. Large Games (6-8 Tables): Designed for 24 to 32 players, these tallies manage more complex rotations and movements, making them suitable for bridge clubs or bigger social events where multiple tables are in play.

Each tally set is specific to the number of players and tables it’s intended for, ensuring a smooth flow of play with clear instructions on movements and partnerships for each round.

Tallies are most popular in casual, non-tournament settings, like bridge parties. These gatherings are all about fun, food, and friendly competition. Tallies keep things organized without anyone having to pull out a clipboard and start barking orders.

## The Rise and Fall of Tally Ho

In the world of bridge tallies, one name stood out: Tally Ho. Known for producing high-quality bridge tallies designed for both individual and couples’ play, Tally Ho offered tallies for up to 8 tables (32 players) for individuals and up to 6 tables (24 players) for couples. Each tally was specific to a player or couple, clearly showing who they would play with and where to sit, all in large type for easy reading.

Tally Ho’s tallies were laminated, spill-resistant, and came with refillable tally sheets and score pads. Sadly, Tally Ho is no longer in business, but their legacy lives on among the bridge players who loved their products.

## A Bit of History: Where Did Bridge Tallies Come From?

Bridge tallies originated in the early 20th century as a practical tool for managing movement and scoring during progressive bridge games. The aim was simple: keep everyone moving in a fair and social way, often mixing up partnerships so no one got stuck with the same partner all night (unless they wanted to, of course).

Tallies came in all shapes and sizes—booklets, cards, or sheets—often decorated with thematic or festive designs. They weren’t just functional; they added a touch of flair to the bridge party, reflecting the decorative and entertaining spirit of these gatherings.

### Tallies in Progressive Bridge

Progressive bridge, also known as “party bridge,” involves players moving from table to table in a set pattern after each round. Tallies were a must-have for this format, ensuring that everyone played with different partners and opponents. The 1920s and 1930s were the heyday of progressive bridge, and tallies were right at the center of the action.

### Design and Evolution

Over time, tallies evolved with clearer instructions, larger fonts, and more durable materials like lamination. Companies like Tally Ho specialized in tallies for individual and couples’ play, making sure each player knew exactly where to go and with whom to play.

### The Cultural Impact of Tallies

Tallies weren’t just about keeping the game moving; they were a staple of social bridge, especially among middle and upper-class households in the early to mid-20th century. Bridge parties were a major social event, and the tally cards added a touch of order and elegance to the fun. My own parents played a lot of ‘home bridge’ given they had four children whom they could put to bed before the guests arrived. This was common in many families during the ‘baby boom’ of the post-war decades.

### The Decline and Continued Use

As bridge clubs and formal tournaments grew, the need for tallies decreased, but they never entirely disappeared. Even today, bridge tallies are still used in casual settings, and custom or handmade versions can be found online at websites like Etsy. They remain a beloved piece of bridge history, a reminder of how the game brought people together in a less formal, more community-focused way.

## The Ardisson Movement

The Ardisson movement ensures that players rotate in a structured and balanced manner, allowing them to play with a variety of partners and opponents throughout the game. The Ardisson movement is designed to manage the flow of players between tables efficiently, typically used when there are an odd number of tables or players.

Here’s how it generally works:

1. Structured Rotations: Players move according to a predetermined pattern, often specified by the tally card. The movement ensures that each player or pair faces different opponents and plays in different positions (North-South or East-West) across several rounds.
2. Balancing Play: Ardisson movements are particularly useful for keeping the competition fair and engaging, as they mix up the partnerships and opponents in a way that avoids repetitive matchups.
3. Flexible Adaptation: This movement type is adaptable and can be modified to fit various numbers of tables and players, making it a versatile choice for bridge organizers. It’s ideal for games with uneven or complex player arrangements.

Ardisson movements are part of a broader set of movement techniques used in bridge to maintain a dynamic and enjoyable playing experience, ensuring that players have varied and balanced interactions throughout the session.

You can find Downloadable Ardisson Movement Tallies on Baron Barclay Bridge Supplies. It’s a digital product that you will download and then print as many copies as you need.

## Want Your Own Tally? Here’s Where to Find Them

Bridge tallies make delightful gifts and prizes for bridge games, adding a touch of charm and elegance to any gathering. Often beautifully illustrated, these tallies come in a variety of designs, from classic and floral motifs to whimsical and themed patterns that reflect the joy of the game. Many tallies are decorated with intricate artwork, vintage styles, or colorful prints that make them more than just a game accessory—they become keepsakes that players treasure. Some are even handcrafted or feature high-quality materials, such as laminated covers or gold accents, making them both durable and decorative. These thoughtful details turn bridge tallies into perfect mementos or prizes, adding a little extra flair to your bridge party and making them a unique and cherished addition to any player’s collection. Whether given as a prize for the highest score or simply as a thank-you gift to a bridge-loving friend, a beautifully designed tally brings a bit of artistry to the game’s traditions.

Though Tally Ho is no more, you can still find bridge tallies available from various sources including some free to download tallies from BridgeHands:

So next time you’re setting up a bridge party, grab some tallies, mix up those partners, and let the games begin!