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Nigel’s Bridge System and Tips A fleshed out bidding system with helpful comments designed for the improving player Written by Nigel Bird With thanks to Brian Senior, Ian Pagan and John Probst In association with SIM BRIDGE ‘Play Bridge at Home with Duplicate Scoring and Expert Commentary’ www.simbridge.com Factors in favour of a borderline opening bid Factors Against Good suit (Honours in Suit) Broken Suit Second suit with High Card Points in the two suits HCP in short suits (except suitable for No-Trump) Being Non-Vulnerable Being Vulnerable Shape (5-4-2-2 significantly worse than 5-4-3-1) Lack of Shape (worst = 4-3-3-3, 4-4-4-1 also bad) Honours in combinations, tenaces Singleton Honour 3rd-in-hand - much wider range for opening bids 1st, 2nd or 4th fairly disciplined, particularly in 2nd seat 3rd-in-hand - want suit led or can pass any response (Opening not especially lead directing in 1st, 2nd or 4th) 3rd-in-hand - do not bid 1NT if marginal May open lowest 4-card suit in 3rd for weak and balanced 4th-in hand - only open if confident of not being out-bid Weaker hands with minors - Pass out 4th-in hand - weak twos, threes have higher HCP range Lack of length or HCP in Spades a significant negative Strong 2C - Game Force, 23-24 balanced, few strong twos Open ‘Strong Two’ hands at one level unless very strong Weak Two - good suit containing Honours A Void - stay at one level unless very weak or 3rd seat Weak Two - second four-card minor suit, Honours in suits No 4-card major unless very weak or partner has passed Weak Two - good 5-card suit non-vulnerable There is no gap between one/two/three level openers Weak Two - wide ranging in 3rd position (Do not pass any hand that appears to be in between) Weak Two - higher (intermediate) range in 4th position Weak Three - non-vulnerable 6+ cards good suit, little outside No 4-card major, unless weak or partner is a passed hand Weak Three - upgrade from weak two with 6-4 shape Weak Three - wide-ranging in 3rd, higher range in 4th position Gambling 3NT - long solid minor No outside Ace or King-doubleton Weak Four - as with Weak three, but stronger, longer suit No real interest in exploring game in minor or any slam Weak Four - upgrade from weak three with 7-4 shape No 4-card major, unless weak or partner is a passed hand Style of other opening bids Further Description Outside NT range bid the higher of two (three) 4-card suits, Except with both majors open one heart, blacks one club? Open non-balanced 20-22 hands at the one-level In opening 2NT allow one flaw (5-card major, singleton, unstopped suit, second suit etc.) but not two 20-22 balanced - Kokish 2C-2D-2H-2S-2NT After relay bid of 2S, 3H=Hearts, Minor = Hearts and the Minor. 2NT balanced 20-22, 3NT 25-26 balanced 23-24 balanced - 2C-2D-2NT System on after discovered 2/3NT. 2C-2D-3NT = 27-28 2NT at least 5-5 in the minors, 7-11/9-13 as vulnerability See section following for responding sequences Style of responses Further Description 1 level: Respond on 4 counts only with good reason Respond on almost all 5 counts 2/1: May respond 2 of Minor with 9+ points, 4 card suit But may often respond 1NT with 9 HCP and poor hand 1 Minor - 3 Minor: natural sound raise to three level 2NT natural 11-12 balanced, but denying 4+ card major With some distribution and 3-card support bid 2 of a Major No gap with sound raise, bid 2 of Major if hand too weak With fit bid 3 of a major as a pre-emptive raise Not flat shape or with HCP points in outside suits With major fit bid 2NT as sound raise to 3 or 5 level Assume weaker variety until extra values shown With major fit bid 3NT as sound game raise (13-15) Weaker bid 3 Major, stronger splinter/jump shift or 2NT Jump in new suit: 15+ and good suit or good suit and fit The preferred action if there is the choice of a splinter 4 level new suit = splinter (distributional slam try) Only with singleton, preferably not Ace or King One level above any forcing bid is a splinter 1H-3S, splinter for hearts, 1H-2C-3S, splinter for clubs 4NT = Roman Key Card Blackwood 30/41 4NT Quantitative only for the following exceptions Directly over opening 1NT/2NT (& discovered) After a stayman or transfer over opening NT When a minor has been agreed and <2 cue bids Raising 3NT to 4NT in some sequences After 4th suit forcing shows better hand than 3NT Response to 2C: 2D denies positive of any AKxxx or better 2NT is a good balanced positive, Jump in positive suit on second round - long very solid suit Response to (discovered) 2NT - 5-card puppet Stayman See section following for sequences that follow Response to Gambling 3NT: 4C/5C pass or correct Leave in if at least two of three suits are stopped Response to Weak Two - 2NT forcing enquiry Suit bids constructive non-forcing, doubles are penalties Advanced - use next suit up as forcing enquiry, 2NT as next suit up After 2NT repeat suit if weaker, else bid any Hx or 3NT Jump in new suit below 4-level is also forcing Responses to Weak Threes New suit bids forcing, double if available is penalties Style of overcalls Further Description Light, lead directing, or one suited non-vulnerable Vulnerable should be good suit and decent hand Over 1 Club, perhaps overcall 1 Spade with AKxx or better Less space taken up implies better suit, 1D (1H): good 5+ Double on 3-suited hands, weaker HCP if best shape Not on two-suited hands or having a 5-card major (bid it) Double followed by new suit on next round One suit and shapely, hand too strong to overcall initially Overcall followed by double on next round One suit, but fairly balanced with extra values 1 NT overcall 15-17, 1-1.5 stops, system on as opening 1NT 11-14 in 4th - no requirement for full stop, but balanced Michaels and Unusual 2NT - not too weak, but unlimited With intermediate strength hand may bid suits in turn (In 4th, 2NT=19-21, Michaels is intermediate) Double later to show extra values Weak Jump Overcalls - as for opening weak two bids Vulnerability more important, intermediate in 4th Weak Double Jump Overcalls - as with opening three bids A little more shape and vulnerability orientated Jumps to Five of a minor Sacrificial/some prospects of make, little slam interest Jump to three of opponents suit Looking for 3NT if partner has a stop in the suit Jump to 3NT - gambling based on solid minor One and a half stops, no outside Aces or protected Kings Response over intervention Further Description Support of partner’s suit is pre-emptive at any level Over Double 2NT is an as yet undefined sound raise Fit Jumps, 4+ card support with side-suit source of tricks HCP concentrated in two suits else bid cue/2NT Cue Bid of opposition overcall - sound unlimited raise Un-assuming cue bid in opener’s suit over partners overcall Fit or stronger hand capable of handling any response Negative Doubles - Take out, no constraints With good fit bid opposition’s suit More penalty orientated at higher level Not with opposition’s suit, wait for partners double Negative Doubles - Too good to bid a single suit As opener with LHO overcall and two passes - Strain to double for take-out with shortage in opp’s suit Negative Free Bids - Constructive Non-Forcing Forcing at teams, double later to show extra values including over Jump Overcalls, (but with better suit) May support partner’s suit with 3 cards Over partner’s negative double - 2/3NT - natural 11-13/13-16 balanced with 1+/1++ stop Bids in 4th position Further Description After Two Passes: New suit forcing, reasonable suit 8+ HCP Pass without Spades or ability to boss the hand Natural NT bids (11-14, (1S-15), Double first 15-18, 2NT 19-21) Stop preferable, but not compulsory esp. if dislike double Double: Take-out, supportive/value showing for any un-bid suit After RHO has responded: Bidding any opposition suit is natural Or bidding RHO’s suit natural, LHO’s highly distributional 2NT=5-5 in un-bid suits, double with > HCP, < distribution Bid better stronger major, if other suit weaker minor 1 No Trump (11-14) Further Description Open 11 counts only if good and non-vulnerable, not in 3rd HCP spread over suits; rarely downgrade poor 15 counts Decline to open very poor 12 counts especially vulnerable Particularly in 3rd seat - may open lower of 4 card suits Over 1NT: 2C=Stayman, four-suit transfers at 2-level Non-promissory Stayman - use for balanced invitational Break major suit transfer with any but poorest 4+card suit And very good 3 AKx, to 3M if weak or 2NT if strong (re-transfer to 3M if desired, via bidding suit one-below) Break minor suit transfer to intervening suit with partial fit Ax, Kx, Qxx, xxxx or better, then major = splinter, slam-try Or break to implied suit and 2N = 5-5 in minors or 6 diamonds Transfer followed by minor forcing to 3 of major only (invitational 2NT is poor in practice, bid 3NT or pass) Stayman followed by a minor non-forcing (implies 5/6 card minor and a major weak) 3 level bids ask opener to bid 3NT with support in suit (slam tries via transfers at 2 or 4 level) such as Hx or perhaps xxxx and pass otherwise 4C/D are two-suit under transfer bids (usually slam-try) 4H/S natural - want to play hand 100% force to pass. 2NT - natural 11-13 balanced, after Stayman or transfer But often this is not a good bid, rather pass or bid 3NT 1NT - 2C - 2D - 2H Shows majors perhaps only 4-4, correct to 2S with 3-2 Response to opposition intervention over 1NT: Over Double: Pass = to play Re-double = 5 card suit, 1 NT Opener bids 2 Clubs for partner to pass or correct Suit = that suit and a higher suit (4 cards) Over artificial intervention, double is take-out orientated Suit bid and values or take-out (11-15) as you prefer Bid of implied Suit Take-out of that suit with 4 of other major New Suit natural and non-forcing, Over natural intervention X=Take-Out, 2/3NT Lebensohl: Fast Shows Suits at three level = natural and forcing (Described below) Splinters - one above forcing bid e.g. 1S - 4C or 1S - 2C - 3H, showing fit to at least game with singleton or void in bid suit All doubles following opposition intervention over a weak opening bid are for penalties Over 1x P 1y P 1NT use check-back 2 Clubs asking bid Asking first for 3 cards in responder’s major then 5 cards in own major else bid 2D if minimum, 2NT if maximum Suit at three level shows suit and 3-card fit, 2D or 2NT shows max 2-card in first suit and 3-card in second Jump bids not via 2 Clubs are non-forcing and invitational Any further bid by 2 Clubs bidder is forcing Lebensohl over Weak Twos or an overcall of 1 No Trump, fast arrival at 3NT shows a stop in opposition suit bid or implied Responding to the double: Bidding shows a good suit 8+ HCP, if bypassing 2NT Bidding 2NT demands partner bid 3 Clubs and then passing or bidding a suit is a weak take-out of that suit Bidding 3NT directly shows a stop A cue bid shows 4 of the un-bid major and a stop A cue bid after bidding 2NT shows 4 in Major without stop A double of a 4-level splinter bid asks for the lower ranking suit to be led. In response: pass = still interested without first round control bid = no interest in slam cue-bid = control in intervening suits up to suit bid re-double = first round control Use double as take out at low-level with emphasis on shape not HCP Use double in competition frequently as non-specific extra values Use 4th suit forcing below the three level as forcing for one round else as game forcing Support of partner’s suit after 4th suit forcing is 100% forcing Gambling 3NT - Long strong minor suit with very little outside except in 3rd seat (when may have better hand) DOPI/ROPI - normal RKC meanings (Double = 0 or 3, Pass = 1 or 4, Next suit 2 without trump Queen, then 2 with) 5NT - RKC meanings for Kings (after cue-bids = to play) ASPTRO - Anchor to the shorter suit if hold both majors Clubs - Hearts and another Diamonds - Spades and another 2NT - Both minors Partner has bids available as a forcing enquiry Against Strong Club: Double = Majors, 1NT = Minors Be prepared to bid a 4 or even a 3-card minor over 1 of a major as a temporary bid for exploring game or slam 1 major - 2 minor - 3NT: 17-19 HCP, choose to mean 5-4-2-2 with 4-card minor fit or without 5-card major or 4-card minor 1x - 1y - 1NT non-forcing 15-17 1y - 2x - 2NT forcing to game, 15-19 4NT can be two places to play in some sequences, usually over a bid at the 4 level 5 level bid in non trump suit = to play in 5NT No Trump Ranges and Structure Be prepared to re-evaluate at the boundary of all No Trump ranges, but with discipline and with more inclination to upgrade at the bottom end (e.g. a goodish 11-count for 1NT) than to downgrade at the top (with a poor 15 count). Many players play that 10 points is required for 2 over 1 response so that a 2NT re-bid from opener can be safely forcing. Some players play a 2NT response as exactly 12 and 4333 so that openers know what to do with 13 and similarly 3NT as 4333, 13-15. Advanced players might wish to consider varying their opening NT range to 11-13 in 1st and 2nd seat with 5 card majors and 14-16 in 3rd and 4th seat with 4 card majors and perhaps even not playing transfers so as to be most obstructive in the bidding. The most rewarding discussion that a partnership can have is how to play balanced hands (and then how to reach thin games). Particular sequences 1C - 1D ? 1 of a Major = 4 card suit, Double = both 4+ card majors 1C/D - 1H ? 1 Spade = 5 card-suit, Double = 4 card Spade suit Leads-Standard Suit Preference Areas 1. You are giving partner a ruff (or hoping to do so): Remember that leading a high card for partner to ruff requests the return of the higher of the outstanding two suits (trumps excluded). Leading a low card would demand the lower of the outstanding two suits. 2. Dummy has a singleton and you know partner can hold the opening lead. For example you have the ace and partner has led the king - low card for a lower suit, high card for higher and for budding experts, a middle card says carry on with the same suit. 3. Partner has led AK doubleton by playing king followed by ace - they are desperate to find your entry for a ruff - so a watchful partner must signal their preference on the ace - a low card for the lower, a high card for the higher 4. You are defending against No-Trumps and you are knocking out declarers last stop in your suit - you usually have a choice of cards, if so, a low one calls for the lower suit (i.e. my re-entry to cash my winners), a high one calls for the higher suit. 5. Partner has led an obvious singleton - you do not have the ace - count is useless - signal with your pip cards where your entry lies in case partner has a trump entry Signalling, following suit and discarding King asks for Count, else Attitude. In No Trumps King asks for the unblock of an Honour otherwise having top sequence Hierarchy of Signals: Attitude, Count, McKenny Following Trumps: Reverse Count e.g. High-low shows odd number, with ruffing potential; lie if you do not want a ruff No Trumps - First time following suit, show how much lead was liked (for advanced players) With four small, play cards in sequence 2, 4, 1, 3 else signalling something in other suits perhaps McKenny First discard McKenny, or middle card = neutral Second discard is natural current count, e.g. if you have three left in a suit play middle card or top of a doubleton Returning lead from Axxxx or similar - lead original 4th best Do not tell partner what to do, but inform him or her and allow them to do the appropriate thinking Responses to (strong balanced) opening 2NT 3C = 5-Card Puppet Stayman then (or discovered 2NT) 3D at least one 4 card major, but no 5 card major and then 3H - 4 Spades and perhaps 4 Hearts 3S - 4 Hearts 4C - both majors slam interest 4D - both majors no slam interest, then opener completes bidding 3H - 5 Hearts 3S - 5 Spades 3NT - neither 4 nor 5 card major 3D/H - Transfer to H/S 3 Spades = exactly 5 spades and 4 hearts Two-suit under-bids 4C=H, 4S=D Intervening Bid = Interest in slam 4 No Trump Invitational to 6NT 5 Minor - to play 5 Major - bid on with good fit/hand 5 No Trump - bid 6NT if minimum and 7NT with maximum 6/7 level bids - to play Opening artificial 2NT: 5-5 in the minors 7-11 non-vulnerable, 9-13 vulnerable. Responses: 3C/D - to play 3H - enquiry 3S - would have supported natural and forcing Heart bid 3NT - wanted to play in 3NT 4C/D - Slam try in bid suit 4H - to play Other - slam try in hearts 3NT - would not have supported a natural and forcing Heart bid Pass - to play, may/may not have hearts 4C/D - Slam try in bid suit 4H - to play Other - slam try in hearts 3S - natural and forcing (opener raises with xx support, bids 3NT with Hx in hearts, cue bid with 4H) 3NT - game invitational in unspecified minor (opener bids 4/5C pass or correct) 4C/D - pre-emptive 4H/S, 5C/D - all to play Note a) A vulnerable sequence such as 1D - 1S - 2C - 2H - 3C is now certainly forcing since it shows 14+ b) If the opposition overcall then bids are natural and 4C/4D is invitational for a maximum opener Teams and Pairs: Variations in system and tactics Many Pairs play so much Bridge or play predominately one variety that playing a slightly different bidding system in Pairs competitions than in Teams Matches is not really worth the effort. However being by nature and experience a preferred Pairs player myself, I feel there are definitely different styles of conventions played by almost everyone at Teams that are at least open to variation. Playing slightly different methods gives you an edge against a Pairs field, which you might like. At Pairs where over-tricks matter and reaching thin games and particularly thin slams is less important, increasing one’s competitiveness in the part-score range can be worth the odd missed game or slam. Most differences may arise from whether a sequence is forcing or not. At pairs each hand should be played to its full merit, attention paid to obstructive and competitive bidding as well as constructive and further conventions can be introduced helpfully for weaker distributional hands. Being dealt bad cards is not the disadvantage it may be at teams against good players as being in the right contract, especially the right game is very important. There is also more room for aggression with the safety net of a maximum of only one board capable of being lost, not a whole evening ruined on one decision or bit of bad luck in the lie of the cards. Some examples are: 1) Play Negative Free-bids from the 2 level upwards. When partner opens 1 Heart and RHO overcalls 2 Clubs, I contend that at pairs playing 2 Diamonds AND 2 Spades as constructive non-forcing, leaving all the strong with spades hands to go via the negative double is a good choice. Of course the Spades will have to be good and better than diamonds would have to be, but this can be a winning action in a part-score battle and may even find some games. Giving partner a problem on strong hands if LHO jumps to 4 Hearts may be a price worth paying - and he or she may still get it right! 2) Play transfers over 1NT followed by a minor as forcing only to 3 of a major is better than bidding 2NT or pass, since 2NT is almost always a poor bid however arrived at over 1NT and helpfully giving partner something of your shape to help reach the right contract, may well be worth divulging that shape to the opponents 3) Play Stayman followed by a minor as weak non-forcing with a 4-card major and 5/6 card minor. Partner bids 3 Hearts (or 3 Spades if they have already shown Hearts) to pass or correct and play in 4-3 major fit 4) Play 4th-suit forcing below the 2-level as constructive, but not forcing to game 5) Play auctions such as 1H-1S-2C-2S as constructive non-forcing Tips for Pairs Play The frequency of gain is more important than size of gain; bid contracts that are >50% likely, not those that are <50% likely Safety in bidding is often not important - the occasional bottom can be afforded Do not bid thin games that you would bid at teams If the most likely contract is clear then reaching it with fast arrival may well be appropriate Part-score: No-Trumps v major: ~ major with 8-card fit, NT with 7-card fit No-Trumps v minor: No-Trumps with more HCP, minor in riskier contract with less HCP or bigger distribution Major v minor: With likelihood of equal fit play in the major, play in safest contract if low combined point-count Games: Look for 4-3 major fits with good trumps in preference to minor suit games, but be content with such games on occasion. Stay in No-Trumps rather than a major game with extra high card strength, if there seems to be no advantage from taking ruffs, in order to retain trump control or if the suits in the 4-4 fit are empty Bidding and making slam is usually satisfactory - do not strain to find the highest scoring one Risk-taking should be maximised at pairs with well above average required to win, but more caution at Swiss Teams where winning as well as the margin is important. Least risks should be taken in a Teams match - a 1 IMP victory would suffice! Competitive Bidding The best vulnerability to compete at is Love All Balance at the two-level when non-vulnerable, the opponent’s vulnerability is unimportant in this situation. Aim to play ~ 70% of hands at love all and 40% of hands at all vulnerable Balance most when opponents have found a fit as it implies partner is usually suitable and when opponents have not shown the majority of the HCP strength Sacrifice only with confidence the opponents are making and the save is on and do so once to the limit as soon as possible Make pressure bids where possible, particularly where opponents have not found their fit Try to make only one aggressive bid in competitive auctions - make the opponents guess If in doubt be persuaded to bid if it is lead directing, not otherwise An overcall is more lead-directional than an opening bid - alternatively it might suggest a sacrifice to partner Penalty Doubling depends a lot on what you are making your way - do not double just if you think it is one-off and beware that opponents might find a better contract Bid aggressively with fits; it is important to locate a fit and bid to its limit Further Tips Responding to partners opening bid, always bid a 4-card major before a 5-card minor unless you have 11+ HCP or equivalent, else a major fit may be missed. With 5-4-3-1 shape bid your 5-card major if your opponent bids your singleton even if the 4-card suit is the other major unless partner is a passed hand and game is unlikely. If you have a second bid discuss with partner whether double means just the other major or tolerance for both un-bid suits. Do double on 3-suited hands and definitely not on 2-suited hands. Use 2-suited bids or consider making an overcall and bidding the other suit later to describe your distribution more slowly. Be prepared to disguise your strength initially such as by making an overcall with up to 17 HCP or bidding gently on distributional hands. Even if trumps are breaking, check if you need to keep trump control or entries for developing tricks in the side suits if they are not breaking. Be prepared to leave a trump or two outstanding and start tackling the side-suits. The (often small) risk of a ruff (which may not cost) can be well worth it. Even a 5-1 suit can frequently be ruffed good for a discard with careful play using trumps as entries. Drawing just one round of trumps can often be right, guarding against a ruff in the short hand. If there is only one hope when an unusual contract is going against you, either in the defence or the play then do play for it! Assume the cards lie exactly as you want them to if there is no other hope; any hope is better than none! Remember the bidding of course, but be aware of your opponents system (and style if known) so that you can draw inferences about their shape and location of High Card Points also from what they have not bid. Tend to take necessary finesses early, but if there is a choice of lines or no hurry then play off winners to see if opponents’ cards and any agreements they have in their discarding can help you. Squeezes, a large subject of their own, can occur more frequently than realised and knowledge of even just simple squeezes will be rewarding. E.g. if you have long trumps in an end-game, always consider if playing them off is a) safe b) potentially awkward for the defence. Similarly if a trick has to be lost consider if there is a preference for which defender wins it and then how to play so that this defender does win the trick. An end-play is best, but also consider where you might gain if a particular defender makes a mistake. Always maximise the combinations of chances you have, which may involve turning down a finesse in one suit and playing for the drop, perhaps in trumps, that on its own may be a less likely option, but with the combined chance of the drop and the finesse in an alternative suit the chance to gain a trick is higher. Take into account the skill level of opponents and the rest of the team and any variation in style and system. Without being too deep, try to gain an understanding of table presence, psychology and individual and partnership mentality. It can often be the case that a bid or a line of play is correct in pure Bridge terms, but understanding a player or partnership makes an alternative more appealing. But do not try too hard to engineer good results against either strong or weak opponents. Bridge usually punishes those who stray too far into the realms of anti-percentage plays. It is right to occasionally 'try something' rather than be predictable, but only within reason. Even if you know partner is 'erratic' always bid correctly assuming he or she is taking responsibility for their bid and wanting you to assume it is within normal bounds of partnership understanding. Accent your doubles to promising the un-bid major or else being a much stronger hand. Leave in a double of a pre-emptive bid if flat, but not if you are 4-4 in un-bid suits. Aces are useful in defence, intermediates are useful for play, which may help judgment in whether to bid, pass or double. After partner’s double bid on suit-length rather than High Card Points; 2-level: any 5-card, 3-level: any 6-card, good 5-card. Do not cue-bid in partners second suit or splinter with a singleton honour. Always have a think when dummy goes down. Consider such as if you need to sneak a trick and how to do so as quickly as possible. Think through the main points of the play and aim to avoid thinking later on which may give clues to the defence. Defensive tricks should normally be taken. Raise of 4th-suit forcing shows the suit, but perhaps only 3 and a dislike of No-Trumps. 3NT opposite a weak two is based on long solid minor and is similar to a gambling 3NT opening. Jump Shift shows length and strength, either single suited or good suit and fit with partner’s suit. A subsequent jump to game shows a minimum hand for the first bid (around 14-16 HCP). Do not pre-empt over a pre-emptive bid. When you are beginning or improving it is much better to know a simple system well, than add too many conventions. Consider bidding two of partner's opening major suit with Hx later in the auction rather than bidding other suits if weak. When considering which opponent has a missing honour, attach more weight to distribution rather than their HCP. Do not over-bid strong hands (a common weakness). Always consider whether you have more than you have indicated to partner so far with your previous bids. Upgrade HCP you have in partner’s suit(s) and downgrade HCP in their shortages. General bidding Principle: Try to get your opponents to guess, but not your partner. Aim to describe your hand and then let partner decide what to do. Overall general philosophy 1. Avoid mistakes 2. Take opportunities 3. Make little improvements in your game 4. Give opponents extra chances to make mistakes 5. When on a roll with things going well be willing to take more risks, but if things are going badly play safe and cautiously. 6. Only after following the above look for the occasional clever play or brilliancy 7. Be lucky! Clubs One of the real breakthroughs in the history of the game of Bridge has been the ability to play Duplicate at a Bridge Club so that the luck of the deal is largely taken out and the degree of skill is greatly increased. The jump from Rubber Bridge at Home to a Bridge Club can seem large and daunting, but need not be so. Lots of imagined dangers such as the director being called regularly as one unwittingly 'breaks the rules' are greatly over-stated. In reality people are generally very helpful and the number of differences such as using bidding boxes, variations in scoring and conventions used can be picked up without much difficulty over time. Clubs do vary in standard and progressing to play at a bigger/higher standard club could seem unnecessarily scary. The one great failure of Duplicate is that experienced players can play much more quickly and seem unapproachable in discussing the hands after they are played. As an inexperienced player one must be determined to ask questions both generally and to enquire the point(s) of a hand after it is played, however awkward it may feel to do so, otherwise much of the added value of playing at a Club is lost. Most usually people are willing to answer, even if their tone may occasionally be a little abrasive or patronising. But the discovery of playing at a Bridge Club can offer plentiful opportunity for spending leisure time - be careful it does not become too addictive! Partners When you start to play Bridge it is best to learn and play regularly with the same partner. As you improve it is good to play with other better/more experienced partners. Eventually you will have to decide on the time and effort you want to put into the game; the higher the level you wish to play at the more important it is that you commit to a regular partner of similar enthusiasm and ability. Otherwise, above a certain standard, Bridge is a common language where one can play competently with new partners with little prior discussion and a Bridge Club can usually supply you with a partner for an evening. Be polite in asking for a game with someone and try to accept invitations from others at least in principle on the understanding that it is no big deal and not necessarily the start of a long-term arrangement to play together. Play your best on each hand, but do not be too intense in discussion and be pragmatic in attempting to 'correct' partner. One should welcome partner's comments wanting to know where one has made a mistake for the sake of partnership understanding and improving one's game, but the tone and style of the 'loving rebuke' are very important. Even the best players can make mistakes and even be wrong! One further possibility is to hire a professional partner to play with you and this is increasingly common these days right up to the highest level. This should be done in two distinct cases, assuming funds are available, a) when you would just like a good partner for a pleasant game with no particular feedback b) when you wish to make a real and concerted effort to improve your game, which may involve tolerating the professionals methods, both in gradually taking on his favoured bidding conventions and methods and receiving his or her feedback and wisdom on your play in their particular style of communication. As with all partners there may be a divergence between the partner one would choose to play with as a person and the partner one would choose as the best for one's Bridge game, so it may be worth shopping around to find who you are most comfortable with. Many professionals are happy to provide added value such as in discussion of bidding system and comment on particular hands by email. It is worth discussing all potential costs and expenses in advance and, if you are in that bracket, how any prize money won might be divided. Playing with a professional can be addictive making returning to play with your normal partners a little frustrating, but overall this can be a very good and effective way of improving your game, particularly for a better player or if entering a bigger tournament in the hope of success. In Bridge you can afford to take a break from particular partners or even the game itself for a period and return without having lost anything in your standard of play - it should only take a game or two to get back to your level at any time so knowledge you pick up should stay with you. Some players can peak at older ages and most players can maintain a level of play not much less than their peak up to a very old age. Indeed playing Bridge is a great retirement hobby and it has been shown in studies to make a significant contribution to fairly uniquely warding off certain diseases and to be generally healthy. Tournaments (National and International) The leap from a club to a National Tournament is not large; people will assume knowledge of duplicate rules and be stricter at calling the tournament director if they are broken, but this still does not happen often. Teenagers and inexperienced players are easily accommodated and 'A' Flight competitions for those not wishing to compete with the best are becoming very popular. Swiss format events, both pairs and teams, provide an enjoyable if less rigorous variation on club Bridge. Bridge is an international language and tournaments abroad are easily entered so combining some competitive Bridge with a holiday is increasingly possible in many parts of the world, especially with the aid of the internet for travel planning. Wider experience can also be gained by joining internet sites where Bridge can be played online, (though it is probably best to have a partner).
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