Issues about how to better our bridge at the top part III

February 6, 2011 at 12:40 am 13 comments

Peter, in the comments to our last post, says:  ‘I have often thought bridge needs a change of name, for a start.’

Good point about the change of name. ‘Chess’ is entirely its own thing, whereas ‘bridge’ is essentially meaningless. Google ‘bridge’ or look it up in a newspaper index etc and you get dental bridge, transport bridge, ship bridge, etc etc etc. It’s a great pity in a way that the name ‘whist’ couldn’t have been kept, not only because it is unique and people commonly know what it means without misunderstanding, but also because it would have kept a sense of history. We think that bridge as a game started in the late nineteen twenties because contract players wanted to distance themselves from all that went before. This is terribly unfortunate. There is a rich history going back at least a couple of hundred years that has been disinherited by the bridge playing community.

I find it interesting that whilst there is almost no market for bridge books as an antiquarian collecting interest, there is a strong demand for whist books. Does’t that make the point.

Khokan, Sorry, I’m still getting to your first question…now that the NOT has well and truly finished, I will try REALLY very hard to make this regular again.


Entry filed under: history, thoughts on bridge.

Issues about how to better our bridge at the top part II Issues about how to better our bridge at the top IV

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. bruce  |  February 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    “The impact of nervous tension on the breakdown in process and developing self-awareness for our own delivery mechanism is what we need to understand”

    so dont choke ?

    i agree – i watch the best go around and think to myself “i can do that” – which is not say that i’m an arrogant fool but is to reflect that the gap is not a technical one – i would describe it as a lack of professional preparation

    i think the first step for lots of players is to get retentive with errors – live with them till the reality becomes an intimate understanding of what happened in real time

  • 2. sartaj  |  February 16, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Post NEC, I asked Tony “How can we get better ?”.
    He responded “We need to play more frequently against good opposition”.

    Australian nationals, with their long swisses and short knockouts, dont help the cause.

    • 3. khokan  |  February 17, 2011 at 7:58 am

      Maybe the best way to encourage good oppostion is for the ABF to subsidise top international players to come to Australia to play in some national events – NOT, Surfers’ and SNOT.

      Given the current situation in Australia, with few players being full-time (and with almost none of these playing regularly in strong overseas competition), this may be the best way to go. It’s a bit of a chicken/egg situation for Australian players – it’s hard to get overseas sponsorships without winning international events and it’s hard to win overseas events (eg US Nationals) without sponsorship (not that I think it’s realistic that any pair/team in Australia could actually win such an event).

      • 4. cathyc  |  February 17, 2011 at 8:31 am

        I have to smile at your suggestion that the ABF has to sponsor teams to come here. I quite agree. But remember the days when we had private sponsors buying top players to come over here for the NOT. There was a time where the NOT routinely included several teams of world class (often world championship) Poles, the odd American, several world class Indonesian teams, maybe a few from the UK too. This was just normal expectation and we all got to play against them.

        In so far as some of these teams had private sponsors. they had to put up with a lot of flak from the bridge population at large, but did this fantastic thing for us.

        Compare this year’s NOT, how sad was it!?

    • 5. Ben Thompson  |  February 17, 2011 at 8:21 am

      I would say there is no single path to betterness. Playing tough opposition is certainly useful. Peter Gill swears by commentating on strong matches. For another example…

      I saw an excellent interview a few years ago with one of the stars of the awesome 1950s Hungarian football side, I think Ferenc Puskas.

      The Hungarians routinely scored lots of goals (like 6+) against all comers, and the interviewer asked Puskas how come they scored so much. Puskas said they played practice matches against ordinary club sides just to practice co-ordinating their offence, taking advantage of defensive errors and putting the ball in the back of the net.

      The same theory applies to bridge – practice sometimes against weaker players who put up a fight but make errors at a useful rate as a way to practice noticing and profiting from errors.

      • 6. cathyc  |  February 17, 2011 at 8:35 am

        Really important, I think, playing against weaker players and trying like it counts. I’d have to say that when Simon and I were consistently playing well, we played a lot in weak competition, simply because it was that or nothing: congresses, walk-in duplicates, we tried our hearts out. I think it was really good for our bridge.

        Another thing I think is important is GOOD kibitzing. Ie where you sit behind one player and share their game. I couldn’t imagine anything more the opposite than BBO where typically everybody looks at too many hands at once and will never see what the real problems are….

      • 7. sartaj  |  February 17, 2011 at 12:54 pm

        Playing against weak players helps reinforce our prejudices.

        There are some situations a player will get right 95 percent of the time in his career. 19 times out of 20 times, he will make the winning play or bid. The one time he gets it wrong, he kicks himself “How could I be so stupid ?”

        The impact of nervous tension on the breakdown in process and developing self-awareness for our own delivery mechanism is what we need to understand. And address. Playing tough opponents simulates some sense of pressure and discomfort.

        Or otherwise we can stick with our machoistic notions and get hands right in pubs, telephone conversations and internet forums; and lose every knock-out match we play

        • 8. Richard09  |  February 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm

          There’s weak and there’s weak. If you play against opposition that’s strong, just not in the Meckwell-Fantunes class, I would think there’s benefit (if you take it seriously). But “rabbit-bashing” will hurt.

        • 9. cathyc  |  February 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm

          But Sartaj, the one who has a prejudice here is you. You should respect the opposition irrespective. Did I have this drummed into me over the course of my career by the very good players I had the opportunity to spend time with. You should have the right attitude irrespective of the opposition. If you don’t, that’s your problem, not to be blamed on the level of opposition. That’s precisely what I am saying in recalling how seriously Simon and I played irrespective of the situation.

          Frankly, I think you need an attitude shift, not different opponents! Good players in ANY sport have to play weaker as well as stronger opponents and they NEVER have your attitude. They always go in respecting the opposition and expecting the best from them. This cannot be stressed enough.

          By the way, another really important aspect of playing weaker opposition is the possibility that it leads to that sense of confidence which is far more important than how good a player you are on paper. We see this in sport all the time, the Australian cricket team and their opponents come to mind.

        • 10. Ben Thompson  |  February 18, 2011 at 10:15 pm

          Everyone is a rabbit sometimes. Seriously, everyone. And often enough that it matters.

          South African cricketer Lance Klusener was renowned for hitting the ball “out of the park”. “How do you do it” an interviewer asked. “I do it hundreds of times in practice” he replied. That wasn’t accidental, he practiced hitting many different sorts of deliveries out of the park. Hundreds of times each.

          There are lots of different skills in bridge, and we should design our training to work on lots of different skills. Tough live matches are important, particularly for match toughness, but they’re just one way to train.

          Watch real champions in any sport train. They do a remarkable number of different things, sometimes only a few minutes on specific drills. And it can be far from obvious what use some of the drills are, particularly cross-training drills.

  • 11. khokan  |  February 11, 2011 at 9:03 pm


    I appreciate that you’re trying to address some vexing issues, i.e., improving bridge at the top (in Australia, worldwide?). However, I’ve read very little in the way of answers. If this is going to be any more than an academic exercise, we really need to define the reasons behind the problem, then work towards an answer. I’d be willing to wager, academically of course, that the general stanadrd of bridge has improved markedly over the last fifty years, or so. Bids and plays that would once have been remarkable are now commonplace. So, what’s the problem and what are the reasons behind the problem?

    Anyway, I’ll get the ball rolling and say that the format of the SWPT/NOT is ludicrous. There should be a 12 round Swiss to select 16 teams, after which 64-board knockout matches are played from Friday-Monday. 1-8 get to choose their opponents in rank finishing order.

    Finally, what about the spectacular result for OzTwo in the NEC – easily finishing first in the Swiss? I think it’s the first time an Australian team has come close to winning the Swiss in the NEC. A shame about the aftermath, but you can’t have everything.

    • 12. cathyc  |  February 11, 2011 at 9:10 pm

      Re your NEC comment. It’s interesting, isn’t it? You see winning the Swiss as the first time that’s happened and shame about the rest….somebody else said to me this morning, so the Australians choked as usual.

      Winning the Swiss often has nothing to do with winning the event, unfortunately. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but the NEC seems weaker as time goes on, it seems to have failed to attract US teams in particular.

      Having said that, I think it’s a terrific Australian result, but since I consider us to be behind the eight-ball and not likely to be able to compete effectively, I guess I expect less than some others with more ambition for Australia.

  • 13. Dave Memphis MOJO Smith  |  February 6, 2011 at 4:10 am

    I reviewed a book by Milton Work, published in 1920 that you might be interested in taking a look at.

    You can read it here:


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