Dealing with your Inner Demons

It’s playoff and finals season in Australia and the last month or so has presented a plethora of events for me and some truly interesting hands. Often as players when we watch these events on vu-graph, or look at the results later, we often wonder how good players could go wrong on some of the boards. It is easy when looking at all four hands to think ‘oh they should have bid game’ or ‘how did they let that make?’ or ‘how did that bidding go off the rails?’.

Here is a circumstance an expert player described to me which occurred in a recent event. He said “my partner made a system bid that was too aggressive in nature and didn’t fit the minimum criteria for high-card and playing strength for the call. I attempted to salvage the situation by playing in game rather than slam, and partner managed to go off on an inferior line. While you say nothing at the time, internally you are fuming. Your mind is thinking about the imps lost, and in doing so you lose focus and before you know it you have misplayed the next hand and find yourself in a losing position.”

Wow – we’ve all been in that type of situation, haven’t we? Our partners sometimes do things that don’t sit well with us at the time. Either the wrong bid, a bid that is too aggressive, or too timid and suddenly we have lost 10 imps. We sit at the table with our thoughts churning around about how partner could possibly have got the system wrong, or misplayed the hand, or made that bid, or whatever. And we mess up the next board, compounding the problem by letting our thoughts drift away from the problem facing us at the time.

It is all very well to say: “forget the last board, you can’t change the result”, however that is often easier said than done.

I think dealing with this type of situation can be helped if the person who has made the error makes an effort to recognise their mistake and says something like “sorry about that…”. De-escalating the situation can be enough to take away the anger from partner and allow the pair to regroup before disaster happens on the next board.

Take this hand where North opted for a 1NT opening (14-16) against us in a recent event.  Our agreement is that double shows the top of the 1NT range or better.  Partner can evaluate whether to leave the double in or take an alternative action.






♠ 85



♣ 953

♠ K



♣ KJ876





♠ J10972



♣ 1042





♠ AQ643



♣ AQ

North       East                 South        West

1NT           Dbl                  2H1             Pass

2S              Pass                Pass           Dbl2

All Pass

1 – Transfer

2 – Takeout

After the lead of the H3, the contract was doomed and NS managed only 5 tricks for -800, against the making 4H for EW and NS turned their attention to the next board. It wasn’t clear at the time if the off-shape NT opening by North was a routine occurrence, but it clearly failed on this occasion. Perhaps South was distracted by the bidding on the board and the outcome, but for whatever reason, they followed up this disaster with another one.






♠ 87



♣ AQ1072

♠ Q10962



♣ K9





♠ A43



♣ J643





♠ KJ6



♣ 85

North       East                 South        West

                   1C1                  Pass           1H2

2C3            2H                    3C4             3H

Pass          Pass                4C               Dbl

All Pass

All Pass

1 – 11+ any

2 – Natural 9+points

3 – 2-suited (S & D)

4 – Correctable if suits not S & C

North-South took a different view on the meaning of the 2C bid with North believing it showed specific suits, and South believing it showed Spades and a minor. When South bid clubs twice, North decided to treat the club bid as natural rather than correctable and passed 4Cx out. When partner sitting East led the 8C, I was stunned. North had no chance, eventually going five off for -1100.

This type of scenario plays out time and time again at the bridge table.  One bad board is followed by another when the players fail to put the result behind them and regroup mentally.

Following some basic rules will help you to put the first bad result behind you and assist in preventing another disaster:

  • Make a note (mental or physical) to discuss with your partner after the round;
  • Say “let it go – I can’t change that result now”;
  • Take a deep breath;
  • Tell yourself to concentrate and move on – “next board”!

Until next time – Happy Bridging!

© First published Australian Bridge: October 2022