Some useful tips to help you have a prosperous 2013

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Compiled by Julia Lunn

It’s that time of year and I would like to wish all of you readers a wonderful New Year — I hope 2013 brings you all good things at work, at play, at home, and, at the Bridge table.

I can’t help out much on the first three, but perhaps I can give you a bit of a head start on the fourth by giving you some general and specific tips on bidding, defence and declarer play around which you can build some New Year resolutions.

I always start with discipline, consistency playing bridge rather than poker in a bridge game, and simply trying to do the right thing as often as possible — do that, and over the long run you will score well and you will win.

Very few plays in bridge are guaranteed, so all you want to do is make the play or bid most likely to succeed, and more often than not it will.

A few words about discipline. I personally do not get any pleasure from getting a good result from a bad bid or a bad play. I love games of chance and play a lot of poker and love having a bet on almost anything, but for me bridge is an intellectual game and I love the beauty of a great bidding sequence, defence or declarer play.

I am not suggesting that you don’t ever step out of line — but for me the time to do that is when you are so outclassed by your opponents that it is in your best interests to turn the game into a lottery as that is your only hope.

If, however, you are playing against opponents who you know you can beat, all you will do by getting stupid is bring them into a game where they normally have no chance. So, choose your moments.

Here goes — this is not a comprehensive summary — just a few areas that I think are important.

BIDDING

By far the most important part of the game especially at the top level where pretty much everyone is a good declarer player and defender. In the early stages of your development you may gain a lot of points from good, even normal, declarer play and defence but that will lessen over time — so work on that bidding.

Get a regular partner with whom you play at least once a week and with whom you can develop a bidding structure.

Keep it simple. Resist the temptation to invent a bid to cater for every situation — it just clogs the brain and leads to bidding misunderstandings.

Discuss every hand after a game especially the ones where you lost points. The old cliché holds true, that if you don’t learn from your mistakes you are destined to repeat them. You don’t have to have the discussion straight after the game, take the hand records home and set some time aside before your next game.

Read and learn, hopefully from the same book as your partner. Some areas to concentrate on: Bidding after a no trump. Stayman, Transfers or game — forcing Stayman? What do you do when RHO interferes — what does a double by you mean, what does a bid at the same level mean, what does a bid at a new level mean, what does a bid of 2NT mean?

Learn Lebensohl, absolutely, both here and after partner doubles a weak two bid.

Agree on your pre-empting style: Two -level pre-empts, three level pre-empts, how do they differ depending on vulnerability, how do they change when partner is a passed hand?

Get out of the bidding early on misfits.

Try and bid your hand based on its strength. There are many instances where you simply cannot bid out your shape as your hand is weak. So, don’t.

Get your Blackwood structure sorted. Learn Roman Key Card Blackwood, but try and avoid using Blackwood when you have a void. When you ask for Kings it confirms that you and your partner have all four Aces, remember that.

Don’t bid grand slams unless you can count 13 tricks based on the bidding, just don’t.

LEADS

Work out your lead style with partner.

Lead low with an honour in a suit, high without one.

Agree on your no-trump leads, fourth best, fifth best? Figure out how to then decipher a fourth best lead.

Agree with partner what you lead from KJ10xx. The jack? Interior sequence.

Never lead away from an Ace on opening lead against a suit contract. Just stay away from it and it will make partner’s life much easier. It is, however, often necessary against no-trump contracts.

If partner bids a suit, lead it, unless you KNOW (not think) that something else is better. Not only is it better bridge but it is good for partnership morale. It also teaches partner not to bid with bad suits.

Choose when to be aggressive and when to be passive. Passive against a grand slam, aggressive against a confidently-bid small slam. I tend to be more passive when opponents have struggled into a game, or slam via an invitational sequence, as a trick given away on opening lead could be the whole difference.

Lead very aggressively, even an unsupported Ace, when opponents have shown a double fit in two other suits.

When they sacrifice against you, usually based on distribution, it is usually right to lead trumps at every opportunity.

Agree with your partner what you lead from three small cards. I like MUD (middle — up — down). If partner has bid a suit and I have three small I like leading up the line, i.e. lowest first

DECLARER PLAY

Too much to write about here so I will keep it short.

Think at trick one BEFORE you play from dummy.

Develop a plan. Try and reconstruct the opponents hands from the bidding (or lack of it) and the opening lead.

When things look horrid decide how the cards have to lie in order for you to succeed and play the hand based on that.

When things look great, ask yourself just what can go wrong and try and protect against it.

Don’t be afraid to give up definite losers early in the hand. The opponents cannot help you unless you let them in.

Be brave. If you have Kxx opposite xx and you need a trick in that suit just lead towards the King, it is 50-50 that the Ace is on your left and putting off the decision and getting in a muddle will not change the location of the Ace.

Watch your entries to dummy, too often players go down in stone cold contracts by ending up in the wrong hand at a crucial moment.

Keep a clear head, especially if you are in a contract you don’t like. Make the best of what you have and fight for every trick.

GENERAL

Be nice to your opponents

Love, honour and respect your partner. Okay, maybe that is going too far.

So there we are. Try following some of this and I promise your game, enjoyment and results will improve, or your money back.

Happy New Year again, have a safe and wonderful one.

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Published Dec 29, 2012 at 9:10 am (Updated Dec 29, 2012 at 9:09 am)

Some useful tips to help you have a prosperous 2013

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