Day 4, Thursday July 3rd 2014
Beginners tip: How to become a better player?
By Yehudit Hasin-Brumshtein
"Practice makes perfect" is a sentence I heard more than once or twice in my life. And mostly it turned out to be true. In bridge however, in my experience, practice is enough to make you better, much better perhaps, but not necessarily your best. Bridge, like chess, is a combinatorial game. In both games the number of all possible combination surpasses by far the number of situations any one player can or will ever handle. After all this is one of the reasons we love this game – it always presents a new challenge. Roy H. Williams said that "A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether." To become better in bridge one needs to become wiser, and not only smarter. So in this note I would like to summarize the approaches that help me to improve at this game (not necessarily in any particular order):
1. Make a plan! Make a list of aspects you think you need to improve (e.g declarer play, defense, bidding, leads, handling entries, counting…) and prioritize them. Try to be as specific as possible. No one can improve every aspect of the game at once and all the time, so choose one and focus on it for a significant period of time. When you see results, or just feel that you need a break from it, focus on a different aspect.
2. Read, read and read some more. There are many good books, articles and websites out there, that will help you improve – Larry Cohen, Audrey Grant, Eddie Kantar and David Bird are just few of the names we would suggest to look up. There are internet forums where people would be happy to discuss any bridge related question you might have. BridgeWinners or BBO forums are some of the more popular ones, where world class players often comment on every aspect of the game.
3. If you can, and would – hire a professional to play with or coach you and your partner, even if it is once in a while. Don't look for someone who will earn you points, but rather find someone who will take the time to explain, to go over the hands and to answer questions. Someone who will teach you to fish, not someone who will feed you.
4. Discuss, and listen. Don't be afraid to ask a question. Bridge is all
about communication, whether with partner, or between opponents. If
you do not discuss the problems, you can not improve that - so take an hour after the game, go have drinks with your partner and talk about every hand or bid or play that was not clear, or that you think there was a better alternative. Just do it after the game, preferably using hand records.
5. Learn to walk, before you run. I often see beginners that are fascinated with complicated conventions, but are unsure about the meaning of a simple auction. Similarly, others try to learn difficult play techniques that are useful once in a blue moon, but make mistakes when playing simple suit combinations. Sorry, but these will not generally improve your results very much, however focusing on the basics will! I do not mean to discourage those of you that are trying to improve. Just make sure that before you try to play 6 ace roman key card blackwood, I would suggest to find out what your system is after 1NT-X-? It just comes up much more often.
6. Find a steady partnership. Bridge is a partnership game. As Peter Benjamin says, "you can not win a bridge tournament alone, you can only loose one". Just like in life or business, good partners do not appear out of nowhere. It takes time and work to build one, but it is worth it.
7. Finally – play. Play a lot, but learn from your plays. If you have the hand record, try to go back to the hands that did not turn out so well. What could you do better? It is more useful to play 20 hands and go over them, than to play 50 without giving them a second thought.