Bridge players are notorious for discussing the boards where imps were lost. While it is important to learn from our mistakes, dwelling on them will do little to help our overall confidence levels. Those who have read my book will have noted my acknowledgement of the Olympic champion Lanny Bassham whose work on mental management in sport is extensive. Lanny used to say – “if you shoot a good shot, feast on it; if you shoot a bad shot, forget it.” This quote holds true for us at the bridge table. Thinking about a time at the table where you made a particularly good decision, a good play or a good bid on a board is a great way of building your confidence. Even better if that decision turns out to be the decisive factor in a match.
In a recent online team’s event, which was a particularly close battle, my 11-count opening on this board enabled our side to reach slam in diamonds and this gave us a 13-imp swing which sealed the match for our side when our opponents signed off in 4NT. Our relay bidding gave my partner enough information to bid slam when I elected to play in five diamonds (rather than 4nt).
1 – 11+HCP 0+clubs
2 – 4144 Game Force
3 – To play – normally a weak NT in this sequence.
4 – 3 key-cards in spades
5 – To play
6 – My hand looks good if you have diamonds with me
Even with the 4-1 trump break, it’s fairly simple to make 12 tricks despite a trump lead from West. After winning the ♦A, I played a spade to the king and ran the ♣9. When West failed to split honours, I could now make 13 tricks on a cross-ruff.
Our opponent’s more conventional bidding methods, and their decision to favour majors over minors, produced the following auction:
1 – Better Minor
2 – Strong; Natural & Forcing
3 – Quantitative
Without discovering the diamond fit, and with no extras beyond what had been shown, it was difficult for South to decide to move over 4NT.
There are two reasons that this board brings back good memories for me. Firstly opening 11-counts is a standard part of our system and while some players argue against opening these relatively flat hands, our system’s methods allow us to determine the partnership’s combined strength and shape and to stop at a realistic level. So, when I think about this board, I can recognise how well opening my hand worked for us and how our philosophy of getting into the bidding early brought success. Secondly, my bidding decisions on the board enabled my partner to determine the viability of slam on the board. My partner liked the board because it increased his confidence in our system and in my ability to make the right decisions at the table.
Recalling a situation such as this one where your partnership made good decisions is a great way to create a positive mindset prior to future events. Taking a few moments to think about a board like this before starting your next match will bring a smile to your face and help you relax. It will also build your confidence before you enter your next bridge battle.
© First published in Australian Bridge: February 2021