The following is a Bridge Tip from our friend HG in Austria. He and Chuck frequently
e-mail bridge hands back and forth. In an effort to improve my game, Chuck insisted
I read this e-mail. I did find it beneficial and insightful and thought I would share
it with you. Thanks HG.
January 17, 2009
Most bidding problems happen because of:
- Greed, i.e. overbidding,
- Card drunkenness, i.e. bidder carried away by his cards,
To 1 and 2 I think whatever your style is - you have to live with it.
People pay money to play bridge, so they have paid to be allowed to bid.
So it is nice to have a bidding system which allows you to bid on week hands.
To 1: If you are an over bidder, your partner should know.
If you or he or she overbids all the time you will have several 60% +
games but also some 40% days. Whether you have a run or not ...
Just be persistent with whatever you do.
To 3: Partner should always know whether a bid is:
- a sign off,
- a barrage bid,
- a sacrifice,
That is why a new partnership should take time to talk about these subjects -
before the game.
Are systems on over ops bids?
What do we do over preempts?
What do we do over opponents DONT?
Now - still misunderstandings can happen. And of course your partnership may still
benefit on doing stupid stuff or by misunderstanding each other.
Protection of innocent opponents is pretty strong though. If they get wrong
information, you are in trouble. On Regional's in NYC I was penalized for
hesitating on my bid at the 4 level. I lost a game and my temper on a hand where
an old Lady tapped on the table which I took for bid, which it was not ...
It is a game. Directors have to make decisions, even bad ones ...
When you are playing this wonderful game, consider, would your partner prefer you be
right slow or wrong fast. This was the result of a hand where Lee opened 1 heart,
LHO bid 3 spades, his partner bids 6 clubs, holding, S=void, H=void, D=QJ9x,
C=AQJT98xxx. Preferring to be right slow, Lee very slowly passes. The hand made 7
clubs, when the K-C drops as a singleton. (This tip came from Lee Hastings, Sept. 14, 2008)
The wonderful world of bridge has given us friends all over the world. A friend
from Hull, England shared his English Bridge Magazine with us. I was impressed
with one article written by Andrew Kambites in the English Bridge, page 28, April
2008, titled Concentration, Concentration, Concentration. A brief summary follows.
Experience and errors All of us make some unavoidable errors. I believe
strongly that most things we get right particularly at card play, come from pattern
recognition. When a beginner first sees dummy he can be overwhelmed. It is probably
pointless expecting him to count winners and losers, preserve entries and a million and
one other things. If he even tried to do this, he would slow the game down to the point
of serious disruption, and totally exhaust himself.
Learning bridge is like learning a foreign language: having to think about everything you
do it is hard work and you do it badly. With experience you start to do the right
things naturally and effortlessly. Even very experienced players still encounter
new situations and are likely to get them wrong. Unavoidable errors should be accepted
as part of the learning process. The problem isn't that you get it wrong; the problem
is that it preys on your mind and leads to avoidable errors on the next hand.
Avoidable errors So if we cannot prevent unavoidable errors, we must
clearly focus our attention on avoidable errors, caused by lack of concentration,
poor temperament etc. Any loss of concentration during play is off-putting.
For example, I lead the two of clubs against 3NT. Dummy wins with the ace of clubs.
Partner and declarer play, the cards are turned over quickly and declarer quickly
calls for a card to trick two, but I become aware that I didn't notice partner's card.
I feel uneasy for the rest of the defense. Even if partner's signal turns out to be
inconsequential, I feel disoriented. So how can we avoid this type of error?
How to avoid avoidable errors You need to analyze when your concentration
is liable to waver, e.g.
- External factors, noise or temperature. Opponents, e.g. you don't like them.
- Internal Factors, (many of these involve emotions)
- Fatigue sometimes is unavoidable, but you do need to play at a pace and
level that is sustainable for the whole session. Players who try to work
out every last detail at a snail's pace at the beginning of an evening but
are totally exhausted at the end are not helping themselves.
- Anxiety. How will partner or team-mates react to your -1100? Good team
spirit and partnership morale will help this. Anxiety brings on fatigue
later in the day. Something we all need to avoid.
- Frustration with partner's error, team-mates' poor performance, a perceived
poor TD ruling, bad luck (opponents making a grand slam on three fineness).
Note that the factors are external, but the problem is internal. It is not
the event that is the problem; it is your reaction to it.
- Elation, Don't get so excited it reduces your concentration.
- Complacency. You have had seven good boards. That is not an excuse to
relax and chuck 13 IMPS on the eighth.
- Thinking about a previous hand: "could I have made that 4 spade contract
if I did this or that.
- In a long match or session, by far the most common times for a concentration
lapse are the first board, (when you haven't yet settled in) and the last
board (when you are mentally winding down).
Key Principle: It is the bridge player's reaction to the problem that determines
whether concentration will be lost, not the problem itself.
The chances of a consistent performance are maximized by using a consistent
pre-performance set of behaviors, called Performance Routines.
There are two types of performance routines:
- Pre-session routines. I like to arrive early and spend at least five minutes
sitting quietly thinking about nothing. There is nothing more damaging that
cutting it fine, fuming that every set of traffic lights are red, and then
frantically looking for an elusive parking space.
- Pre-hand routines, involving attention cues. This would include physical,
e.g. taking a deep breath, or verbal, e.g. say a word silently, such as
"concentrate" or "focus" or visual, e.g. focus intensely on something specific
in your environment.
Fact: Total continuous concentration is impossible, for most people twenty minutes is
probably the limit.
At the bridge table, you should never start a hand until the previous hand (whether a
good or bad result) is consigned to the recycling bin of your mind. Ideally, emotions
(elation, depression, frustration) should play no part in bridge. Your attitude to
board 2 should be the same, independent of whether board 1 was +700 or -700.
Useful Rituals Partnerships should have rituals to signify that a hand is
finished. One possibility is that when one player takes out the hand for the next
board, it is a sign that all discussion or thought of the previous board is finished,
My partner and I feel that sometimes a brief 'clearing of the air' helps us settle
after a particularly unsuccessful result. Suppose one player takes an action that
goes horribly wrong. He can say:
- "Sorry. That was stupid/my fault' or
- "My reason for this action was..." or
- "I did have a reason for this. There is not time to explain now but I will
explain later." Very often there is not time to explain at the table and a
player needs to be confident that his partner is not being judgmental without
knowing the facts.
If you doubt the effectiveness of this psychological approach, bear in mind that
many top sports players pay a lot of money to sports psychologists to help maximize
their performances. Some of the seemingly slightly eccentric actions we see from
top sportsmen are performance routines to ensure that every time they pay a shot,
take a free kick, etc, they have exactly the same mindset, free of distractions.
- Rugby Union star Jonny Wilkinson's routine of hand-clasping before taking a
- Snooker players who are disturbed by a noise in the crowd, walk away from the
table and start their pre-shot ritual over again.
- Cricketers who reach a century and take a new guard as a cue to regain
concentration and start again. (Remember this is from a British magazine)
Sometimes we have seen just how seriously this can be taken. In the 2003
World Athletics Championships two athletes were disqualified in the men's
100 meters sprint under new rules which judge false starts by a computer
measure of their reaction times on the starting blocks rather than whether
they have crossed the starting line. Every time the officials tried to
restart the race, the crowd jeered and hissed. The most experienced
remaining athlete would not start under those conditions, and repeatedly
walked away from the starting blocks, delaying the start by over thirty
If you found the above article interesting, please let me know. I welcome
May 25, 2008
If you have a suggestion for this page, please give Barbara a call at home
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