When shouldn’t you think at bridge?

November 11, 2009 at 5:09 pm 26 comments

This was written in the early 2000s. I discovered it the other day, lacking a title, lacking a date, lacking an ending. It looked thought-provoking to say the least as I read through it and raises some interesting issues. Well, I hope you agree. Look forward to your comments!

When SHOULDN’T you think at bridge?

Naturally an event producing such a poor performance as the National Playoffs did for my partnership calls for some self-analysis. Being aware of the basis sport psychology principle ‘don’t think at the meet’, I wanted to try to put that into practice. The last time I think I played as best as I am able to was in the semi-final of the 2001 NOT. My feeling is that I did not think at all, and yet was about double-dummy perfect. Interestingly I now realise in retrospect that it was impossible to achieve that state against the then world champions in the final. I don’t think this was so much because of their complex methods as because they explained everything. This consequently involved much concentration on (largely) irrelevant information. And that in turn totally prevented play in the unconscious state which is ideal in competition. In the Playoff this was not a consideration because everybody was playing normal – or at least familiar! – methods.

Within the general description ‘sports’ there are at least 2 distinct types: athletic where one has no opponent and where there are no surprises. One merely has to repeat the same thing one has been practising day in, day out. And sports with opponents, whether one on one, or team on team. These are sports of continual surprise, with the player relying on their instincts for the most part. The flow of the game means there are time constraints generally preventing other non-instinctual responses. The odd exception makes us realise that this is for the best. We have no doubt all observed, in Aussie Rules in Australia, other games elsewhere, that the player who has the ball and doubt about what to do with it often does not only the inferior thing in the end, but even the catastrophic, such as kicking straight to an opponent. Or the really considered goal kick that goes completely west.

Bridge has got to be different from both of these. In the first place it doesn’t have any time constraints (ignoring the ethical aspect of some situations). The physical sportsman generally has no choice but to react. Not so of the bridge player. In the second place, well, it’s a thinking game. The critical abilities I think will turn a player into a good player are these: (1) determining when to think and (2) making best use of that.

Making best use of thought is a proposition not to be sneezed at. Most people come up with worse answers when they think. A partner I had early in my career was the most dangerous imaginable. If she ‘just pulled cards’ she was quite good. But she insisted, from time to time, on thinking and you could write the consequence in the out column before she’d done a thing. In Australia Peter Gill strikes me as a good example of one who comes up with something better by thinking on a consistent basis. But the player I’d most strive to emulate is Tim Seres. He never thinks until it is appropriate to. Often he sets about a hand by playing cards until he gets to a position where he has the information to decide what to do. That’s his critical point.

Determining when to think is inevitably also fraught with difficulties and dangers. On the one hand we are cruising along on auto, our decisions are being made by instinct, which means the collected experience of our bridge career, and then – wham, bam something happens which we should think about. Take the hand looked at elsewhere: |H xxxxx and C Ax. On lead against slam in a 4-4 heart fit, clubs weak jump overcalled by partner. This was a hand on which to think. But how should that process be initiated. We are doing things on auto, how do we switch from auto? How do we recognise the moment?

I don’t know if sports psychology provides an answer to this, being concerned with physical sports. I turned for some advice, as I often do, to chess players. The collective experience of chess, which has in effect been professionalised far longer than any of the physical sports, has pre-empted both sports psychology and brain theory in various ways which are important to us.

I presented my problem thus to two chess players:

A question, but I’m not sure how to put it. Something like this. How do you balance instinct versus thought at chess? In bridge it is true that it is sometimes bad to think. Is that so ever at chess, and if not, can you tell me what makes chess different?

I’m trying to find out, if it is generally right to obey one’s instincts, how does one not do that when it is right not to? Is the thought process like this? (1) Instinct, recognised (2) think (3) go back to instinct – generally? When correct? But if this is the process, doesn’t (2) corrupt one? Isn’t that half the point of obeying (1) and not going to (2) is that by doing (2) you can no longer tell if (1) was right?

Is any of this making sense to you? The basis of the theory, by the way, is that if you don’t respond by instinct to a situation, the problem is switched over to a part of the brain that treats it as a new problem. That is obviously largely going to be wrong in much of bridge: eg the opponents open 4S – absolutely wrong to think what to do. Just do.

To relate it to a concrete example, I held Ax in partner’s suit and xxxxx in the opponents’ slam trump suit recently. Not even thinking about it I led the ace and, too late, shifted to a trump. Trumps were 4-4, which I knew, so it was most likely that the way to beat it was by beginning with a trump, expecting to get back in with the ace in order to draw another round. Instead my trumps were crossruffed to death. I guess instinctively I was following two good rules: one, lead pard’s suit and two, cash aces against slams. But in this case the right thing to do was to think and then figure to lead a trump. How should I have done this, how should I have realised this was the time to think? By the process where one always does? Or is there some other way?

And the responses I received:

First, meet Jonathan Mestel. He is one of the few players in the world to be grandmaster of both across the board chess and problem chess. He has played Olympiads for England in both. He is an academic mathematician in England and, as for many chess players, bridge is a busman’s holiday for him.


I’m not sure I’ve anything deep to say here. Perhaps “think if something unexpected has happened” would be sensible. You don’t often hold xxxxx and an ace against a slam, so perhaps some sort of alarm bell should ring?

I think a trump is more likely to gain, but obviously it could be wrong, you’d feel silly if after some discards your ace was ruffed out, or some such.

Of course this isn’t a great example for your question – “think when there’s a problem you haven’t noticed” is hardly helpful advice! Obviously, not letting emotions cloud your judgement is a moral too.

Going back to chess, I think the Great players have a gut feel for when the critical point in a game is; when it is vital to play the best move; and they tend to concentrate their thought on these occasions….

Now meet Chris Depasquale. A Fide Master, He’s been one of the best players in Australia for many years. Ok, he’s my brother. But he’s also a profound thinker and, like Jonathan, an occasional bridge player.


In chess it has long been considered axiomatic that “the hand is more  reliable than the brain”. That is, in a huge proportion of occasions, the move you reach for to play instantly with no thought is the right move 95% of the time. This is, of course, only true if you have sufficient experience and understanding that your instincts are reliable. These guys Kasparov and Kramnik recently played a 5-minute match, and the quality was awesome. With two hours on the clock they might have each played 2-3 move/game differently – in other words they were in line with the 98%  instinct percentage.

How many times do you hear, “I had my longest think for the entire game here and made an error”? The guy is only thinking long because the issues to be resolved are not in his databank of knowledge and experience, and he is trying to work it out. If he was thoroughly familiar with the (type of) position he would not need to think long.

Instinctive moves in chess, however, do not necessarily relate to speed. For instance, in an Email Olympiad game recently my instinct told me that a pawn sacrifice I wanted to play was correct. Fritz, however, assured me it was a blunder, and that I would be losing. I followed my instinct, played the pawn sacrifice, and can demonstrate it to be winning for me in all variations if the sacrifice was accepted (which it was). The crucial point to all the variations was beyond the calculating ability of Fritz. My instinct here, however, was not about speed – it took me two days to convince myself to play the sacrifice, but it was only instinct, not calculating that led me to consider it in the first place.

Similarly instinct told me a certain position given in ECO as clear advantage White should not be so. So I sat down to work out how to refute the Encyclopaedia and did so. Only instinct works here – you would waste a life just trying to refute every assessment in ECO.

In bridge, where I have far less knowledge and experience, I am more likely to work out the right way by calculation than instinct. I can sit down and work out the only lead to break up the potential squeeze, but I am sure that, in such a situation, many other more experienced and knowledgable players would know which suit to lead by instinct, rather than calculating the possibilities.

Don’t know about your lead to slam; you may have oversimplified where your instinctive lead came from. Your instinct might have told you that where you have a making ace and an unexpected trump trick (with 5 vs 4-4) that, to get a good score, you need to take it 2 down. Or your instinct might tell you that your best chance to defeat the slam is to force declarer to take a key decision before he becomes aware of the trump break, so you need to see the dummy. [Maybe you erred at trick 2 by not finding the only lead to force a decision from which declarer could not recover if trumps were 5-0, and maybe he would have decided wrong, because if trumps had been 5-0 you might have led one at trick 1 or 2.] Are you absolutely satisfied that Trump x is superior to A lead over the range of possible distributions?

Playing for the drop when missing K x x x x is the only way to make some hands, but that doesn’t make it a superior play overall. Maybe your instinct was correct but the patient died…

I think the process for the chess player is like this:

1. instinct tells him which move “feels right”;

2. (a) if time permits he calculates variations

2. (b) if no time, moves instinctively

3. If calculations verify instinct move is made

4. If calculations conflict with instinct difficulties arise, generally resulting in much time taken, and possible errors when move finally chosen.

If instinct was incorrect this is probably because the player lacks sufficient understanding of that (type of) position.

Of course, numerous other complications can come into the actual move chosen. The instinctive move might be objectively best but very drawish, and a draw is as bad as a loss in the tournament/match situation. The opponent’s clock situation might be a factor also, but your puzzle seems to assume that you are always trying to play the objectively best move.

Probably in bridge it is rare that you can absolutely calculate the objectively best move to maximise tricks but play a different move anyway.

Belated thanks to Jonathan and Chris!

In my vain attempts to describe what I love to do best in the world, the closest I’ve ever got is to say ‘to lose myself in what I am doing’, to become one with it, to cease to exist, to become nothing but part of the thing one is doing. As a consequence I have always been drawn to activities that involve sustained concentration. I’d rather read a novel than a short story. The playing of music comes to mind, and needless to say a concerto rather than a small piece. But nothing more than chess.

Reading a little in the area of sport psychology lately has made me realise that what I’ve been talking about is the ideal of competitive sports. It’s the state one wishes to be in while competing. In their jargon it is referred to as ‘the Zone’.

Some sport has no stop-start about it at all. It is one fluid from go to wo, whether that be discus or the 5000 metres run. Team sports always (?) have stop start as part of their constitution, and so do many one-on-one activities to a greater or lesser extent. Eg tennis. Chess has ‘no’ stop-start. It is pure, sustained activity from the beginning, excepting in highly irregular circumstances where a referee might be involved. Naturally, over the course of, say, 5 hours, one will not spend every moment at the table. There will be ‘pit’ stops, and for some cigarette breaks. But one may continue in the same state while undertaking these activities, so they are no breaks in the same sense a change of end would be for a tennis player.

Bridge is really different again. Rubber bridge is the closest one can come to the perfect state because there is very little stop start. But tournament bridge has a major stop-start aspect to it. Nor is this only so between boards, where it is not uncommon even to have to wait for minutes for a new board to be available. There will be chit-chat, analysis between partners and between opponents at such times. More dramatically than this, however, the actual course of the hand itself, particularly, but not necessarily only, during the auction, is accompanied by much communication with the opponent. Most of this will be extraneous to what one needs to know. Ie, it will be informing the opponents of something you already know, or attempting to inform them of something you don’t really know. Much the same, if it comes to that, applies to information they wish to impart to you.

We’ve all been here before. Behind screens, the auction proceeds:

1C 1H

1S 2C

2S 2H

2S 3C

3D 3S

4C 4S

4NT 5D

6S All Pass.

The opponents are positively eager to impart all they know. You get the following explanations:

(1) 15+m, any; spades could have a longer suit 9+

(2) relay; diamonds, either suit could be longer

(3) relay; the spades are longer

(4) relay; 5242

(5) relay asking for controls. There are some inferences here because he could have asked for…blah blah blah; a number of queen based controls

(6) relay setting denial cuebidding; shows this and this, denies that or could have

(7) more of (6); shows and denies or could have

Welcome to dumbsville, you too have failed the IQ test. You have just spent 5 minutes being bombarded with a heap of meaningless rubbish. And it has cost your opponents absolutely nothing to provide this information. They know it automatically. It can only be good for them and bad for you to have you bamboozled by it.

There is the other approach to being informed about this hand:

Wait until the end and then get the highlights. Find out dummy’s shape and controls, where they are, by all means. It may tell you something about declarer’s hand. I am willing to ask the opponent and trust them to tell me if there is anything I’m really going to need to know. Have a policy of not doubling artificial bids. That will help this approach.

What makes me so certain that this approach is generally right was the experience of playing against the Italians in the final of the 2001 NOT. It felt like every hand my brain was assaulted by this information volunteered by the opponents. Most of it, in retrospect, I’m sure was information I didn’t need to know. So, virtually every time they bid, that bid showed either these, or none of these, or 5-4 of those, or one suited in the other. Or, or, or. So it went on. Did I need this information? Would I have been better off left to my own devices? Now, I‘m not exactly trying to say ‘I would have beaten the world champions if.’ I am saying that the playing field wasn’t even and this was to my great disadvantage.

Entry filed under: thoughts on bridge.

Thoughts on the World Championship book The Italian work ethic

26 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Peter  |  February 20, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Cathy, have you read Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow?

    Nowadays I advise some clients that, when they stop to think at bridge, never think about whatever thing it was that made you stop to think. Instead, go through a checklist of each relevant item i.e. each Pass or Bid, the opening lead, and each play so far.
    I sometimes wish that I followed my own advice better.

    • 2. cathyc  |  February 20, 2015 at 7:58 pm

      No, I haven’t, but I see many of my friends have – I must get a copy…I like the advice, it sounds like a great way of dealing with the dilemma.

  • 3. Chris Depasquale  |  November 30, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Reading this I do remember saying all that stuff (part of which sartaj described as “poetic”). Looking back on it now it is clear to me I was responding instinctively; now that I think about it…

  • 4. Bridge of AngST » Thinking at bridge  |  November 16, 2009 at 10:26 am

    […] Reference: When Shouldn’t you think at bridge (Cathy Chua) […]

  • 5. andrew webb  |  November 13, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    There are a very small minority of cases where good players think and then make a mistake. They are often memorable, so their importance is overstated. Many more contracts are blown by not thinking than by thinking – however, we mainly forget, or even possibly don’t recognise those. Peter Gill has played many more right cards after thinking than wrong ones.

    I think the real question is what causes us to sometimes think ridiculously poorly? One relevant answer is anxiety, which irritatingly can be generated by so many things that it isn’t particularly a helpful answer. However, in Cathy’s case versus the Italians, anxiety created by information overload seems like a completely plausible cause for less than usually effective thinking.

    The specific issue of information overload from the opponents’ bidding system explanations is certainly a tricky one; I believe the ACBL has had views on this for a long time. There are certainly partnerships/players who actively seek to use the complexity of their system as a weapon, which I don’t think the rules actually support.

    To some extent the anxiety which this complexity engenders can be mitigated by preparation; there was a time when I spent so much time on developing & researching bidding ideas that I found it very easy to deal with this kind of information (OK, there was one exception) because it easily fitted into mental structures that I already had in place. But if you don’t think about bidding much, or, your bidding thoughts run along radically different lines, you may find the explanations intrusive and thence anxiety-causing.

    Sports psychologists have a lot to say about anxiety, and particularly dealing with generalised non-specific anxiety. Their general strategy is to implement very structured routines; this will certainly work at the bridge table (try & borrow Reese’s pencil). If you have an absolutely fixed routine that you follow before making an opening lead you will be better placed to avoid second guessing yourself. Cathy’s sample slam lead sounds to me like a case where there is a 60-40 decision and the 40% suddenly acquires undue prominence because on the hand in question it was the right decision. But that’s just local prominence overriding the global truth that a 60% action is better than a 40% one, irrespective of one hand. The lack of provability in much of bridge folklore inclines us to do that.

    Let’s say you have a 70% methodology for bridge; if you switch to your fallback because a couple of the losing options crop up early, you will have a 30% game. What you have to do is keep employing the 70% methodology in spite of the disappointment and the fact that you are now looking at a 63% game, and that’s what the psychologists routines are about. But I think for a lot of bridge players, they don’t have a thinking methodology, so it’s hard to make a routine of it.

    Instinct is a strange beast. It’s not actually clear that we are all talking about the same thing when we talk about it; for me, instinct is the first thing that goes when I get tired, while for others, I feel that they believe instinct is what keeps them going when they are tired. Is that the same thing behaving differently in two people? Or is it two different things?

    Since I now play so rarely, I don’t use instinct at all. I rely entirely on what I can work out. Now, that probably isn’t true, but what I mean is, I never think, I’ll follow my instinct. If I am playing instinctively at any given point in time, it’s because I was too lazy/tired/emotional to think.

    In summary, I think one should think until one has an answer, and then stop. But as it happens, playing quickly has advantages, so insofar as instinct allows one to play faster, the cost of thinking should be factored into your decision as to which answer you will accept.

    On the question of bidding system noise, I think that’s a little undecidable, but worth another separate article.

    • 6. khokan  |  November 13, 2009 at 10:07 pm

      As a former partner of Andrew’s (and even as an independent observer), I totally agree with Andrew – I reckon it’s that it’s very rare that players will come up up with a worse percentage decision after thinking things through than otherwise. That’s not to say that I don’t get a lot wrong after thinking about it, but, at least, I make decisions that will work out better on balance.

      Having said the above, my best decisions are made when I don’t have to think too much and they just happen – unforntunately (for me) these moments are very rare!!

    • 7. Richard  |  November 14, 2009 at 12:15 am

      I think there are two modes of “playing by instinct”. One is being “in the zone” to the extent that your brain is really firing and you’re really doing the calculations at an unconscious level. The other is when you’re tired or distracted and you really aren’t thinking, just going through the motions of stuff that’s worked in the past. The second one is what I call autopilot, and that’s where too much of my game lives. The first one is where you want to be: they call it mushin in the martial arts. I can get there, but sustaining it for an extended period is draining.

  • 8. Chris Mulley  |  November 13, 2009 at 9:25 am

    It’s been a long time since I read it, but I seem to recall that in “Think Like a Grandmaster”, Alexander Kotov made some interesting observations about the lack of structure in many chess players’ thought processes. The thing that particularly struck me at the time was the tendency to “go around in circles”, which was one that I could clearly see in my own thought processes at the time.

    Reflecting on my current thought processes in bridge (when I shift off autopilot), I think I could learn a lot by re-reading it.

    • 9. cathychua  |  November 13, 2009 at 2:31 pm

      Going around in circles is certainly a shocker. I recently acquired a hundred chess books and I think Kotov might be amongst them….I’ll take a look.

  • 10. Richard  |  November 13, 2009 at 6:50 am

    I confess I spend far too much time playing on autopilot. My “instincts” are pretty good, but I need to wake up and think more often. So I guess my question would be how do I set the alarm more accurately? Not so much when NOT to think, but more when to realize that the “obvious” may not be best.

    I think the opening lead is one task that needs to be thought out, which may be why we’re so bad at it (in general).

    I’ll second the thought that blow-by-blow explanations aren’t helpful. In the old days, when I used to play against Precision and Blue Club more often, we would regularly defer alerts and explanations to the end, and then ask in the form “OK, what’s he got?” Our opponents never seemed to mind.

    • 11. phil markey  |  November 13, 2009 at 8:58 am

      i dont think you should think much about maybe 80% of opening leads – i mean you should of done that thinking while they were bidding

      when you do have to ask because they speak an alien language i suggest reconstructing the auction to your own system as a first step in deciding what to lead – i know what to lead against people speaking acol

  • 12. Peter Gill  |  November 13, 2009 at 12:26 am

    There’s many things that are food for thought here.

    Is being bombarded by info bad for your bridge?

    Ten years ago, when I was a much worse (and naive) bridge player than I am now, I would have doubted it. Not any more.

    With various clients, I have tried out the LOL defence to Forcing Pass Systems, where we treat their 1H opening as a normal 1H opening, even if it means spades or whatever.
    We never have to ask what a bid means. Outcome: stunningly good results. I could hardly believe how good the results were.
    I asked a regular FP player who confirmed that the LOLs seem to get the best results against FP by not preparing any defence to it. Being in your Comfort Zone and all that. Not being distracted.

    I wish I was psychologically savvy enough to say more about this, but I’m not.

    • 13. cathychua  |  November 13, 2009 at 7:25 am

      Peter, I thought it was a most important area to discuss, how one should access information and whether the way in which it is presented is damaging to one’s thought processes. This is especially so these days where the alert rule has become completely absurd and so much has to be alerted which is merely a variant of natural bridge.

  • 14. Peter Gill  |  November 12, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    I feel like I get it wrong after many of my long thinks.

    I run Supervised Games at a Sydney bridge club – time and again I tell the players to back their instinct or gut feel, and ignore everything we’ve taught them, and I feel (based on their results) that this is the best advice I ever give them.

    I think it’s hard to generalise, because, just like body types, brain types are different. In my opinion, brain research has not yet delved far into the differences between people’s brains, so such differences remain largely unknown and invisible.

    I advise some of my clients of what they should do – what they should think about – when they stop to think. Today I noticed on one board that I had failed to follow the advice I give them – I.e. when I stopped to think, I followed the wrong thought sequence – creating a bad score on the board in question.

    In 1983 I asked Tim Seres if his lightning fast play was an acquired skill or a natural ability. Is the answer obvious?

    • 15. cathychua  |  November 13, 2009 at 7:06 am

      In 1983 I asked Tim Seres if his lightning fast play was an acquired skill or a natural ability. Is the answer obvious? Peter, stop teasing. What’s the answer!! I would have thought it was an acquired skill that becomes hard-wired into intuition, thus looking like a natural ability.

      • 16. Peter Gill  |  November 13, 2009 at 1:10 pm

        Acquired skill, Tim told me …. When Tim arrived from Hungary, working in a factory for a few pennies worth of pay, Tim realised that his personality was unsuited to the business world, so he had better make a success of himself in the bridge world. At that time, all the income came from Rubber Bridge, so when he played duplicate Tim played faster and faster until it became second nature for Tim to think and play faster than the other rubber players.

        I used to kibitz Tim regularly at duplicate in 1981 and 1982, so a typical 2 board round was 8 minutes of bridge and 6 minutes of Tim telling me how bridge works. At that time, I was slower than John de Ravin. In 1982, following Tim’s lead, I deliberately played as fast as I possibly could and got poor bridge scores. In 1983 and 1984 I won masses of Nationals, made the Aussie Open Team and was described in Denis Howard’s bridge column as the most improved player in Australia.
        , .
        Because my brain operates differently from Tim’s, I have become able to play at two speeds, very slow and very fast.
        I think this is a useful skill. How do I know which approach to take? As Phil Markey has pointed out, I don’t…. yrt. I’m still working on how to improve this area of my game.

  • 17. sartaj  |  November 12, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    “I think the process for the chess player is like this:

    1. instinct tells him which move “feels right”;

    2. (a) if time permits he calculates variations

    2. (b) if no time, moves instinctively

    3. If calculations verify instinct move is made

    4. If calculations conflict with instinct difficulties arise, generally resulting in much time taken, and possible errors when move finally chosen.

    If instinct was incorrect this is probably because the player lacks sufficient understanding of that (type of) position. ”


    • 18. Ben Thompson  |  November 12, 2009 at 4:05 pm

      Here’s an alternative take that I overhead years ago at a congress.

      “Whenever I’m playing badly, I try to do whatever I think the 2nd best thing is.”

      I love it for its inherently fatalistic world view, but I also like the psychologically plausible element – when your instincts have demonstrably shut down for the night, do something else.

      • 19. Bill Jacobs  |  November 12, 2009 at 6:23 pm

        Ha! That might have been my wife.

        “I’d been doing everything wrong, so I tried doing what I thought was the wrong thing, because based on recent events, that will turn out right.”

        Listening to her reports, the strategy seems to work less than half the time.

        • 20. cathychua  |  November 12, 2009 at 8:16 pm

          Listening to her reports, the strategy seems to work less than half the time. But that’s a big improvement, isn’t it? On nothing working…Of course, Ben suggested doing the second best thing, not the worst!

          Still, isn’t it partly the point that if you can’t work out what the best thing is, you aren’t going to be able to judge merit or otherwise of anything else either?

  • 21. sartaj  |  November 12, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    The secret of thinking is to be aware that we are thinking and to commit to evaluating a solution. That helps weed through the randomness created in the head when we slow down.

    When i stop to think, i’ve been trying to train myself to follow a routine where at the end of the thought, you stop, say out “loud” the action you are about to take and the reasons for it.

    Helps to control the losing pattern of “Fuck it. This is all hopeless and confusing. I’ll do this “intuitive” thing!”

    Recall Markey making a very good comment on this subject in one of your posts in the early days of the blog.

  • 22. Bill Jacobs  |  November 12, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Most errors at the bridge table are a result of bidding/playing too fast.

    Unfortunately if you uniformly slow down, you run out of time.

    And I agree with your premise that if you uniformly slow down, some of the things you WERE doing right will now be done wrong.

    So I am sure you are correct in postulating that the key is to know when to think.

    My personal experience strongly indicates that a good rule of thumb about slowing down is to spend more thinking time on defence. That seems to be the area of the game that has the most to gain from detailed analysis.

    • 23. cathychua  |  November 12, 2009 at 2:46 pm

      My personal experience strongly indicates that a good rule of thumb about slowing down is to spend more thinking time on defence. That seems to be the area of the game that has the most to gain from detailed analysis.

      Yes, that does make sense as there is far more than needs to be worked out inferentially.

  • 24. phil markey  |  November 12, 2009 at 10:37 am

    when george smolanko thinks he always does a good thing – george is very rare in this regard – gill usually does a good thing but i have seen him lose his brain after a think a few times – both these guys are rare though – like you say usually a thinking opponent is about to stuff up

    i think you need to think about thinking – i nearly always review the thinks i have had in a set of bridge anxious not to avoid the horror of what i might have been thinking – i have got to the point where most of the time thinking is a good thing for me although i avoid it

    i find that remembering my cards is a big help when trying not to think – look at them just the once then put them down till you need to play them – remembering 13 cards is a doodle with a tiny amount of practice and this avoids the common thinking pose of staring aimlessly at them and retains a much better focus

    • 25. Peter Gill  |  November 12, 2009 at 11:28 pm

      In a NOT semi-final with you at the other table a couple of years ago, George S went into the tank then did the most inept defence to let me make 5C. The more he thought, the more I thought that he had no idea what was happening on the hand, so the greater my
      (almost hopeless) chances. The hand is probably on the internet somewhere. So put George in the same category as me, please.

    • 26. Shen Ting Ang  |  November 16, 2009 at 10:34 am

      I recall seeing a post somewhere on the Bridge Base Forums where quite a few people have attested that folding their cards up and not looking at them has actually improved their results.


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November 2009

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