1. Recent developments in our mentoring services to less experienced members have suggested that we need to put those sessions into an overall context to enable those considering attending to understand the potential benefits and how they should ‘fit’ with the benefits flowing from the other measures which the individual player or partnership should be taking to improve their performance. This paper aims to create a common understanding of that overall context. There are five elements involved in a bridge performance improvement strategy:
duplicate sessions for the just ‘qualified’ student;
personal development individually and with partner; and,
There may of course be overlap between all of the elements. Each element is considered in the following paragraphs.
2. This is straightforward for the individual who is new to the game. Programme of training over up to four years are well established and our resident teacher (Colin Smith [email protected] ) can guide accordingly. For someone returning to the game or who wishes to strengthen what is only a partial understanding, a more tailored approach may be needed but again Colin can advise on the best approach. It is important to understand the value of structured teaching to those who have a partial knowledge of the game. Without the foundations provided by structured teaching programmes, it is very difficult to develop a player’s ability because the ‘holes’ in a player’s knowledge will continue to impede understanding.
3. As soon as you have the sound foundation delivered by classroom teaching, practice classes can be attended. There you will be able to bid and play hands at your own pace with access to one or more experienced players to deal with the inevitable questions that will arise when you first ‘stretch your bridge legs’. Regular attendance over a period of time will help develop the confidence to join an actual duplicate session. Classes are held on Tuesdays and details are available from Eileen Perrigo [email protected].
Duplicate sessions for the ‘just qualified’ student
4. These are held every two weeks on Thursday afternoons and they provide the opportunity for play in a full but abbreviated session of play which allows a slower pace than a normal session and helps the student to develop his/her confidence. Again there is access to one or more experienced players to deal with questions. Details for each session are posted on the notice board. Comfort and confidence here should lead to attendance at a normal duplicate session.
5. After the structured teaching programmes, this is probably the most important element available to the aspiring player and his partner. I say “and his (or her) partner” because bridge is, of course, a partnership game and if a partnership can commit to developing together, the rate of progress achieved can be exponential. Why? Because two ‘armies’ of intellectual horsepower are being applied to every issue, challenge, problem etc and exponential because you combine a lower rate of regression (whereby things go wrong despite your commitment to improve) with a higher rate of progression (where things go right much more frequently than if only one half of the partnership is aiming to improve).
6. There are three primary components to a joint improvement strategy:
Reinforce your formal training and other learning with book study in key areas such as the play of the cards as declarer, opening leads and defence. For example, if you are comfortably familiar with the odds of a particular number of missing cards splitting a particular way, you can overlay this ‘automatic’ knowledge with the other evidence available before deciding on a line of play. The mentee notes documents recommend three books as a ‘starter’ library. Very many others are available. Read books section by section, re-reading sections until you are comfortable with the key lessons conveyed in each. Don’t just read a book all the way through as very little of what you have read will ‘stick’. Share key learnings with your partner, preferably by each of you reading each section at the same time.
By reference to the session hands printout or online, analysethe key deals from each session (those where you scored at the extremes) to understand any potential learning opportunities. Where you scored badly simply because your opponents bid and played well where your counterparts did not meet such strength, simply shrug and move on. Where reasonably you could have acted differently or where you got it right first time, make a brief note of the circumstances. These notes can be reviewed from time to time to reinforce the learning opportunity.
If you have one, consult your mentor from time to time to add his/her input to your partnership discussions.
All of this may look arduous but email allows a partnership to move forward together with relatively little additional effort.
7. As the partnership develops, two additional elements may be introduced:
Join forces with another pair to enter teams’ competitions to broaden the extent to which your skills are being tested.
Consider testing your partnership against a higher average standard of play either at the club or at county level.
8. This is covered in full detail elsewhere but the most important thing to remember is that it is not a substitute for one or more of the other parts of a bridge improvement strategy. Rather it should be used to complement those other parts.
9. I would urge you to embrace the fact that you will ALWAYS be learning something new. As a member of a number of grammar school miscreants who taught themselves bridge 60 years ago when they should have been participating in sports periods, I can confirm that you never stop learning. Indeed, with the almost infinite number of possible 13 card hands you may hold, the opportunity to learn more is one of the things that maintain my passion for the game. That and the belief that I will hold a thirteen card suit one day!