Friday, April 13, 2007

Rate Yourself as a Partner

Do you think you are a good partner? A steady stream of smiles and “thank you partners.” Lots of sincere consolation at the end and a refrain of “we will do better next time.” Here is a chance to test just how good you really are as a partner. The following list comprises some of the match point lessons that I have learned the hard way. Look at all 12 of them and say “yes that is me” or “no that is not me.” If you get between 11-12 “yes” answers, you are surely going to “partner heaven.” If it is 9-10, you have been taking notes while I make mistakes and are probably sought after as a partner. If your affirmative answers are 7-8 you really need to copy this post and read it every day at breakfast. If you only get 5-6 on the “yes” side, you are a candidate for the Gong” show!

1. Do you identify vulnerability before the cards come out of the tray and make vulnerability part of your bidding strategy? If vulnerability is unfavorable, don’t be carried off the battle field on your shield. If vulnerability is favorable, don’t let them play a contract if you can hold your losses to down 1 or even 2. Remember that when opponents play the hand, a score of -90 to -120 is the “death zone”. Even the best players find it near impossible to double low level contracts, and the urge to take another bid, rather than suffering the ignominy of letting the hand be stolen, is almost irresistible.

2. Do you give expert players a little respect? The “David and Goliath” scenario hardly ever plays out at the bridge table. If your opponents are known to frequently play at the 55+% level, you will do well against the field holding them to an average board. Find another time, place and opponent to demonstrate your cleverness.

3. Have you accepted that in match point duplicate that you are not the master of your own result? In match point games, inequity plays out on every hand. Good players defending will steal an extra trick from poor players and good players declaring will do the same thing. Play the hand for its full potential and don’t worry about the “gifts” that other teams may be getting on the same hand. Pouting about “fixes” is the quickest way to fix yourself. “If you want justice, go to night court!”

4. Except for checking our score for accuracy, I never look at travelers. Do not look at travelers. Can I say that again? “Do not look at travelers”. Once the hand is done, it is over. You are never going to see that hand again; the odds are 1 in 465 billion! Looking at travelers only will set in motion mood swings of highs and lows (more lows than highs) and will prevent you from playing with equanimity. Don’t give away the next board worrying about the last one.

5. I accept the fact that a badly defeated contract can still be a great board. If you are in a contract that is going down from the minute the dummy hits the table, play extra hard to minimize your losses. One way to do that is to mentally reset the contract on what you think is a reasonable expectation and then make that your goal. If you have bid the hand correctly, other teams will be in the same contract and going down as well. I recently saw a hand where –300 was an average+ board for declarer.

6. I realize the value of average plus boards and their place in determining overall results. Good results in match point duplicate are not produced by a massive array of high boards. High and low boards will frequently even out. At the end of the day if you have more boards in the “average plus” range than in the “average minus” range, you will have a good result. Have patience. Trying to force high boards will only diminish your chances for this strategy to work

7. I would rather be a winning coward. Grand slams are for bridge heroes. Heroes are usually carried off on their shields. The risk-reward ratio is out is whack because we are competing against teams composed of imperfect people and not robots! Bidding and making a small slam in the right denomination will invariably get you an average plus board even if the hand makes 13 tricks. A special note: The “right denomination” is not always no trump.”

8. I am a tranquil declarer. When you declare, do not panic. You can’t develop a playing strategy if your mind is running in all directions. Tranquility is a state of mind and no battle plan was ever created in the middle of a full retreat. Don’t be overwhelmed by the problems and risks in the hand. Focus only on developing a reasonable plan that will let you control your own destiny rather than conceding the momentum to the opponents.

9. I "plan my work and work my plan." Once you have a plan, execute it with confidence. Don’t appear to be frazzled and torn by indecision. Thank partner for coming down with exactly the cards that he bid (effusively if you are disappointed). If opponents think you have it “in the bag” and are about to “claim”, they might just fall asleep and start pitching cards carelessly. Never give the opponents even the slightest reason to kindle their hope.

10. I leave creativity to bridge bloggers. Don’t look for “creative” maneuvers. More often than not the party at the table who is deceived is your partner. The most important element of a bridge partnership is “trust.” Misleading partner undermines partnership confidence and is the fast lane to disaster. Once the seeds of distrust are sown, it is hard to recapture that partnership magic.

11. I bid on the KISS principle. If you have two choices, make a bid that you are sure partner will understand. Game day is not a bidding examination. If there is any concern that your bid will send partner “into the tank”, then it is wrong even if it is 100% right. Save the bidding lesson for later.

12. I reward partner for balancing. If partner acts courageously in a balancing situation, give him a little room for his bravery. Don’t hang him out to dry. Remember that he has already bid some of your points. It is not necessary or advisable for you to bid the same points again!

If you think your partner does not read this blog, copy the post and give the test to him or her. Remind them that they can always see my posts at

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