he said. "I find it's best to rehearse first."
So we began the
rehearsal. The announcer introduced himself, cleared his throat, introduced me
as Charles Goren of Miami Beach, cleared his throat again and asked his first
question in pear-shaped tones:
"Tell me, Mr.
Goren, do you play bridge?"
amused me for several weeks, until I realized that it was not so ridiculous
after all. One night I was kibitzing a big local tournament and, after watching
play for a couple of hours, I realized that three-quarters of the people there
were not playing contract bridge. Oh, they thought they were. They knew how to
count points. They knew how many it takes to open, to respond, to jump, to
jump-shift; they knew how many points made game in a major, game in a minor,
slam and grand slam. But for the most part they were not there to play bridge.
Or, to put it another way: they were playing bridge, but playing bridge was not
the real reason they were there. Some of them had fallen for one of the new
gimmick systems and were spending the evening baffling opponents and partners
alike with bids that nobody understood and that, if understood, would not have
been wise bids anyway. That is not bridge; it is mnemonics. Others were
following all the old-chestnut rules: cover an honor with an honor, second hand
low, third hand high, never finesse your partner, and a good cigar is a smoke.
That is not bridge; it is slavery. Then there were the usual tyrannical
players, blowing their tops at partners who had failed to return their leads.
That is not bridge; it is sadism. And their partners would sit patiently and
take all this abuse. That is not bridge; it is masochism.
Of all the
failings I noticed, the most common was a childlike faith in points and the
point-count system. What's that you are asking? You are asking if it could be
possible that after all these years of drumming the point-count system into our
heads he's now going to tell us to forget it? Not in the least. But I am going
to suggest that you supplement point count with some good old common sense.
I've been saying that for years, too, but apparently not everybody has been
listening. Too many players are lazily counting their hands and then letting
what they consider the point-count system dictate their bids. But one thing the
system does not specify: it does not insist that you abandon all the workings
of your cerebral cortex and your medulla oblongata, not to mention your eyes
and your ears.
fact about bridge as it is being played these days is that many players are
ruining their game by trying far too much far too soon. Suppose I told you that
you could simplify your game immeasurably and at the same time improve it
immeasurably. Suppose I told you that the more bridge complexities, subtleties
and nuances you try to cram into your game the worse your game is going to be
(unless you're in the top thousand-or-so players). Suppose I had the colossal
gall to charge you with spending too much of your bridge energy trying to
perfect superduper devices that are not worth learning and at the same time
failing to learn basic techniques that make the difference between winners and
losers. Suppose I told you all that. Would you be insulted? Would you read
O.K., now that
we're rid of the hotheads, let's be more specific. The average American bridge
player has, among others, the following faults:
He gives away
thousands of points a year with stereo-typed, predictable bidding and play.
He often doubles
when he shouldn't, and more often fails to double when he should.
He rigidly obeys
rules that are nothing more than general guidelines intended for the rankest of