As my home state of Victoria entered the third month of its second lockdown due to the pandemic, online bridge events have played a bigger part in my life. I thank the organisers of the various structured games that have taken place as life would have been quite dull without them. Bridge post-mortems are still present although these have taken a different form to the normal après bridge conviviality over dinner or a glass of wine with electronic means replacing the face-to-face version. A recurrent theme I have noticed in these post-mortems has been comments from various players about the distractions from their environment while playing online. Whether it is the phone, the TV, an email pinging into your inbox, a loved one, the kids or some other extraneous cause, there is no doubt that distractions can abound in the home environment.
And sadly, just like at the bridge table, these distractions are often the cause of really simple errors – you know the ones that give rise to comments in the post-mortems like “I miscounted my points” or “My dog distracted me and I played the wrong card” kind of errors. In fact, I wonder how many people blame the dog for their glaring mistakes – who would know if it is true. The anonymity of online bridge allows players to do a variety of things that do not occur in the clubrooms including blaming ‘the dog’ for a mishap.
Some of the distractions in the home environment are easily addressed. For example, you can turn your phone off (just like you would at the bridge club), close your email browser, locate yourself in a quiet room, and take steps to remove the more obvious causes of distractions like the aforementioned dog. These actions are all possible and if you are serious about playing well online ought to be done as part of your routine. However, what can you do when the distraction is caused by something outside your control?
How can you focus properly to ensure you play to your usual standard and make hands like this one which came up during a session on the exciting new online platform developed by the ‘Real Bridge’ group which the NSW Bridge Association has recently been using.
On this board, our opponents made 3NT by South to pick up 10 imps for their team when our teammates went one off after the same lead. West led the 6♣ won by declarer’s Ace. After some thought he cashed the A♦ and upon seeing the Q♦ fall, exited a low club towards dummy’s J10. West rose K♣ and continued the suit with East and South both discarding spades. Declarer now ran the 9♦ and claimed 9 tricks. This line would have failed on this deal if East had been false-carding by playing the Q from QJ of diamonds. A slightly better line is to exit the Q♠ at trick 3 to give yourself extra chances.
It can be difficult to maintain concentration and focus on hands like this when something is annoying or distracting you. Whether it’s slow play, comments in the chat, or an opponent’s failure to provide complete explanations of bids despite being asked, there are many distractions in the online environment, many of which you can do little about. Hence you need some tactics to prevent these distractions from ruining your game.
The principles of refocussing when your attention has been diverted remain the same irrespective of the cause of the distraction or whether you are online or in a face-to-face bridge session:
- Take a deep breath and say a focussing cue-word like concentrate to help refocus; and
- Do a routine thing like counting your points or reviewing the last trick to help get your mind back on track.
- Plan your play or continuation to either make or defeat the contract
Distractions are a part of everyday bridge – whether online or face-to-face. Learning how to play well despite these interruptions is critical to success at the bridge table.
© First published in Australian Bridge: December 2020