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Card Sense

(or how to finish a marathon)


                                               by Bernard Marcoux, Ste-Adèle





 How many mistakes are made in a bridge session at your favourite club? 


 Let’s add: let’s say one mistake for each player on each board (in the bidding, defence or declarer play, mistake meaning any inferior choice or a real blunder), which makes 4 errors par board. 


 We multiply by 15 boards (for 15 tables) and we arrive at 60 mistakes per board, then you must multiply that figure by 2 (2 boards per round) and you obtain 120 mistakes per round. 


 You then multiply that number by 13 (13 rounds) and you arrive at… 1560 mistakes per session. 


 You think I am exaggerating?  I don’t think so. 


 The number of mistakes is probably even higher, closer to 2 errors for each player on each board, which makes (brace yourself) 3120 mistakes per session at your local bridge club, roughly 1000 mistakes an hour !!!


 We are closer to the truth.  Why all those mistakes ? 


 The main reason, I think, is that the immense majority of players are sleeping at the table. 


 They hold their cards, they hear the bidding, they see dummy, but they don’t listen, they don’t look, they don’t think. 


 Why is that ?  I don’t know.  Probably they don’t believe they can control what is happening at the table.  I would say at least 8 or 9 players out of 10 think that way.


 Basically, those 9 players out of 10 believe bridge is pure luck and that they can’t do nothing about it.


 They don’t believe they can count the hands. They don’t believe they can know, for sure, the exact distribution of declarer or a defender. 


 And you see that in the way they play : they hesitate, choose a card, put it back, pick another one, go back to the first one, then throw it on the table, quickly, curious to see what is going to happen, like they have absolutely no idea of what can possibly happen. 


 The cards falling on the table are for them a constant surprise.  For them, bridge happens all the time in the dark and the players who enjoy repeated successes are magicians who access a superior world they will never see. 


 Those 9 players out of 10 will tell you that the successful player has a ‘’card sense’’, that he was born with that sense, and that his first words, when he was born, were probably: ‘’I open 1NT and I will make 8 tricks on a club/heart squeeze against West’’. 


 Or they will say that player is lucky, which means they are not, obviously.


 Let’s make an analogy: can we say a marathon runner has a ‘’marathon sense’’?  And if he finishes the race, will we say he was lucky? 


 If we accept that a bridge player can have a ‘’card sense’’, then we have to accept also that a marathon runner who finishes the race has a ‘’marathon sense’’, or he is lucky, obviously!!  That reasoning is evidently totally absurd.


How can a marathon runner run 40 km?  He trains for months, if not years.  And you think you can play bridge without training?  9 players out of 10 think they can.







West                                           East

AQ10xxx                                    xxx

10xx                                          Q

Jxx                                             KQ10xx

4                                               QJ105







West                      North                     East                        South

2                          p                             p (!!)                       2NT

p                            3                          X                              4 (!)

all pass



West opened 2, North passed and East also, 1rst big mistake, that we see everyday in every bridge clubs all over the world. 


 All those players pass, even if they have every reason to bid: they have a fit, only 1 heart (opponents have at least an 8-card heart fit and probably a game; so they have to try and make life difficult for them) and only 7 losers. 


 After passing, if opponents reopen the bidding, they will now, of course, raise their partner, but it is too late.  You have told them time after time to raise immediately, to rob opponents of space, they will never do it.


In 4th seat, you reopen with 2nt, instead of doubling, to protect KJ of spades. 


Your partner transfers with 3, doubled. 


You decide to jump to 4 (you also can make mistakes J) and everybody passes. 


 If you look at the hand, 4 has no chance… but…


West leads the J of diamonds, his 1rst mistake.  This lead shows generally shortness, but theses players play that a small card promises an honour.  For them, the J is obviously not an honour.


You play small in dummy, East ducks (his 2nd big mistake), and you duck also, to sever communications. 


East, if he listened, knows his partner has opened 2, he knows his partner has 6 spades, he knows declarer has 2 spades.  He knows he has to try to win the diamond in order to play back a spade, but he ducks.  WHY ?  Mystery.


I can’t explain and, if you ask East why, he won’t be able to explain either.  And if you take the time to explain all that to him, he won’t put into practice what you told him.  WHY ?  Mystery again.


West comes back diamond (2nd mistake by West), instead of a club maybe.


You win and play a heart to the King, picking up East’s Queen. 


So West has 6 spades, 3 hearts and 2 or 3 diamonds. 


East has to know you have 2 spades, 4 hearts, and that his partner has 6 spades and 3 hearts. 


How did declarer discover all those informations? 


With his ‘’card sense’’? 


And if East has not discovered the same things, is it because he doesn’t have a ‘’card sense’’?


You extract all the trumps and play a diamond, ruffing in dummy. 


West follows!!  Thus he had 6 spades, 3 hearts, 3 diamonds and only 1 club. 


East also is supposed to know the same things you know: your hand is 2434 and West is 6331.


You know you are going down.  You can’t avoid losing 1 or 2 spades, 1 or 2 clubs, added to the diamond already conceded.  You can maybe save a trick by endplaying West with his singleton club.  In hand, he will concede a spade or give you ruff and sluff.


So you play a club from dummy, East plays the 5.  3rd BIG mistake : he knows, if he is not sleeping, that you have 4 clubs; he has only to play the 10.  You play the 7, which wins!!!


The rest is easy : club to the king, small spade towards your Jack.  West wins, cashes the Ace and play back a spade, giving you ruff and sluff : +620.


Let’s add : West has made 2 mistakes and East, 3 big errors. 


So 5 mistakes between them on one board: let’s multiply by 26 boards and we arrive at 130 mistakes for this pair on one session. 


Let’s multiply then by 30 pairs, 15 tables, and we arrive at almost 4 000 mistakes in one bridge session. 


 Astounding, no?


And you thought I was exaggerating at the beginning of this article.


What is even more astounding is that those players play 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 times a week and they never ask themselves why they generally play 45%, and why, one day, they score 60% and, the day after, they go back to 35 %.


Why don’t they ask themselves those questions: that is the real question, it seems to me.