Taking Care of Your Partner

Recently I have been listening to the podcast series Sorry, Partner™ put together by Catherine Harris and Jocelyn Startz.  It is surprising how frequently the top players interviewed talk about how treating your partner well is an important skill to acquire.

Top bridge players often talk about the ‘critical point’ in a hand. This is the point where the right decision will make the difference between making and going down; taking a save or letting the opponents off the hook and so on.  There are many factors that might influence our ability to make the right decision at this point. While these include the stage of the tournament, the difficulty of the hand, your energy level and other factors, there is no doubt that what happened on the last hand and how your partner reacted to it will influence your ability to make the right decision on the next board.

Take this board from a recent event where I had a lapse in concentration on the bidding and made a bidding error according to our system agreement.

Dealer North; Vulnerable EW





♠ 76



♣ A5

♠ Q9



♣ KQ8643





♠ 8543



♣ J2





♠ AKJ102



♣ 1097

Our opponents played a quite aggressive system and so the auction went:

North     East        South     West

1NT1      dbl2        2D3         dbl4

Pass       2S           Pass       2NT5

Pass       3H           Pass       All pass

  1.  9-14 can be off shape
  2.  values at top of their range or better
  3.  scramble
  4.  values (Oops! I should have passed & waited for Partner to dbl again)
  5.  invitational to 3nt

EW ‘can’ make 4H on the hand, but we didn’t get there. While there is no guarantee that NS would have passed out 2Dx as North can clearly run to 3C which would be less costly, we would have doubled that for penalty and scored up +300 instead of +140.  My partner was clearly annoyed and reacted poorly to the incorrect bid. So, when the next board hit the table, my confidence in my decision-making was a little shaky.

Dealer East;  Vulnerable ALL





♠ J108764


♣ Q108

♠ 2



♣ AK732





♠ –



♣ J95





♠ AKQ953



♣ 64

 North     East       South     West

                1S           4H           4S1

5H           Dbl         Pass       Pass

All pass

1 – pre-emptive & weakest bid in our system 

Here I really wanted to bid 5S, as I was pretty sure that partner was relying on at least one or two spade tricks for the penalty double and with at least eleven spades between us, there was no guarantee we would take a trick in spades at all.  But our agreement is that all doubles of 4S and higher are penalty and well, who wants to go against system and be told off two boards in a row if your choice is wrong? After all, partner could have had one less spade and another ‘picture-card’ in the minors and 5H might be off one. So, instead of taking insurance, I passed, and the opponents wrapped up 11 tricks – ouch!

Making the right decision is much easier if you are relaxed and confident that your partner is not going to make any negative or critical comments about what you did while still at the table in the middle of the match, no matter how bad the result is.

Take this board where our opponents ended up with a poor result but they didn’t let it get to them:

Dealer East; Vulnerable EW





♠ A



♣ J1096

♠ KQ7532



♣ 2





♠ 106



♣ 843





♠ J984



♣ AKQ75

North     East       South     West

                1C1         1H           1NT2

2H           Dbl3        P             3C

P             3H4         P             3NT

Dbl         All pass

  1. 11+ HCP 0 +C (Polish Club style)
  2. 11 – 12 Points, no 5 card major
  3. takeout
  4. stop ask

Here, our opponents doubled our 3NT contract and 10 tricks were easily made on the JD lead from North. South’s aggressive 1H overcall at favourable vulnerability clearly led North into making the penalty double, however South had little to contribute. 3NTx making was a huge pickup for us. However, in contrast to my partner’s post-mortem comments, there was no recrimination put forward by North about South’s low value overcall and at the end of the hand NS simply moved on to the next board.

Keeping quiet during play is often easier said than done. However, saving the post-mortems for after bridge is an action that every player can take, no matter what their skill level, and it can only improve your partnership confidence and add points to your result.

©First published Australian Bridge: February 2022