Squeezing The Dummy

Friday, April 20, 2007

Hard Work

Professionals at the top of all sports and mind games spend countless hours with coaches training to improve their games and keep their edge. For some reason this doesn't seem to hold true in bridge. Sure, the top players play a lot of hands (but not more than half of the year usually), but in general these are against weaker opponents and time is not spent critically analyzing the bidding and play. Is bridge inherently different from other games and sports?

I don't think so. Certainly there are diminishing returns from studying positions and analyzing hands, but that is true in all sports. The edge gained from studying is worth it to stay sharper than your opponents. In general I believe that once the paychecks start rolling in and your play reaches a certain level it is easy to become complacent and not work on your game. Your hunger and desire goes away, and your thought process turns to landing your next client.

The biggest reason the Aces were so successful is that they analyzed every card played and bid made together with a critical eye. They would have heated discussions that would sometimes result in hurt feelings, but it made them tough. It made them into a machine that would just make fewer errors than their opponents (except the Blue Team). Players on the Aces like Hamman, Wolff, Soloway, Goldman ended up becoming some of the best players in the world.

I have realized I don't want to become complacent, and I don't want my game to stagnate. To take it to the next level I have to practice and train every day with peers, essentially I can't just be lazy and be happy to get by with sub par performance. I have started training with Chilean junior Joaquin Pacareu and Josh Donn. I am also studying double dummy problems every day. Ideally we'd have a coach but no one fits the job, and if they did they would probably want to be compensated for it.

Yesterday we had several interesting hands. Here was an error I made that cost twelve imps. I picked up 2 AJ7 AKQT654 T6. I opened 1 and partner bid 2 which was game forcing. I chose to rebid 3 showing a solid suit and some extra values. Partner bid 3N. What would you do now?

I felt like I had shown my hand. I had shown solid diamonds and extra values, and that's what I had. At the table, I passed. After a lengthy discussion I believe that this was a mistake. Notably, my hand would be far worse if I had 2 spades and 1 club as opposed to my actual holding. Having 2 clubs is really important opposite a long suit; we have more chances to establish it and we won't be off 2 cashing tricks as often. For slam I really need very little, basically just good clubs. Also, it is very hard (but possible) to construct hands where 5 is going to go down so if I bid 4 and we end up playing 5 it's not the end of the world. Had I bid 4 that would catch a 5 bid from partner which would really turn me on (no spade cue means good clubs), and I could have bid the slam.

Without having Josh and Paca analyzing hands with me, I may have just continued thinking partners 3N bid was bad. Or I may have just been lazy and not tried to figure out what went wrong at all. I'm really excited about these sessions and am hopeful that I can improve my game and fix some holes in my thought processes.

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