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What's the best way to improve your play? play includes declare play and defense

Poll: What's the best way to improve your play? (40 member(s) have cast votes)

Declare play

  1. Solving problems on bridge books (4 votes [10.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 10.00%

  2. Reading books that the author gives instructions and examples (15 votes [37.50%])

    Percentage of vote: 37.50%

  3. Software(e.g. BM2000) (11 votes [27.50%])

    Percentage of vote: 27.50%

  4. Play random deal(offline or online) (4 votes [10.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 10.00%

  5. Other (6 votes [15.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 15.00%

Defense

  1. Solving problems on bridge books (5 votes [12.50%])

    Percentage of vote: 12.50%

  2. Reading books that the author gives instructions and examples (15 votes [37.50%])

    Percentage of vote: 37.50%

  3. Software (2 votes [5.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 5.00%

  4. Play random deal(offline or online) (7 votes [17.50%])

    Percentage of vote: 17.50%

  5. Other (11 votes [27.50%])

    Percentage of vote: 27.50%

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#1 User is offline   frank0 

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Posted 2011-July-02, 10:32

There are some posts in this board discussing about how important cardplay is in bridge and how to quantitatively measure it. Let's talk something a little bit more practical-how do you actually improve your play?

What's the way you improve your play? Or if you're teaching bridge what's the way you teach your students?

I personally more interested in solving problems on books more than playing real deals. I usually find my play on real game is much worse than my ability of solving problems(Maybe when I solve the problems I know it's tricky and the obvious play must be wrong). Is that normal or awkward?

Hope you can share your experience.
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#2 User is offline   FrancesHinden 

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Posted 2011-July-02, 11:30

I would say that the best answer depends on how good you are now.
If you are a virtual beginner, then the best way to improve is just to play and get used to how the cards 'work', combined with tuition/simple reading.
If you are an 'advancing' player, then by far the best way, if you can, is to play with someone better than you and have them give you advice.
If you are already a good player, then I think books are good, as is discussing hands at length with other players, and watching how really top class players play hands. The problem with the last of these is you don't always know when your chosen really top class player is producing top class play, or is just thinking about his dinner.
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#3 User is offline   gwnn 

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Posted 2011-July-02, 11:34

I think BM2000 is good for any level.
... and I can prove it with my usual, flawless logic.
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#5 User is offline   Siegmund 

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Posted 2011-July-02, 15:14

Depending on your learning style, any of 1,2,3 is good for declarer play. As csaba mentioned the Bridge Master 2000 software is excellent (if brutally hard at the higher levels.)

Defense I feel more strongly about my #2 answer. Defense happens in the context of interpreting what your partner is doing and cooperating with him. We dont have good software for that yet, and just solving standalone problems is probably a harder way to figure out 'what is worth thinking about' that some directed guidance followed by practice problems is.

In either case, live play/lessons with someone you KNOW is a good and patient player is an alternative - but playing with random players is an awful way to try to learn defense, and in general random hands are not as effective for learning as directed practice is: in real life, sometimes bad plays go unpunished and good plays don't succeed, sometimes well-meaning partners and opps give bad advice, sometimes you learn a tactic that works only against an opponent who habitually makes a given type of error, etc.
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#6 User is offline   awm 

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Posted 2011-July-02, 15:34

For play, I think BM2000 is by far the best way. Playing random hands is okay, but a lot of times you can do well on those without really finding the "right" line (either because of a friendly layout or because of friendly defense). Reading books is okay, but most of us learn better by doing than by reading; it's easy to read about something and understand it conceptually without being able to execute with cards in front of you.

For defense, it's very much a partnership thing. The best way is to defend hands with a good partner (ideally better than you are, but at least comparable level) who will then discuss the defenses with you afterwards. Books are okay but too often matters of partnership style come in (i.e. you are supposed to reason something based on partner's carding but you typically play different carding). Defending hands with a weak partner or with a pickup where you have few agreements is not so helpful.
Adam W. Meyerson
a.k.a. Appeal Without Merit
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#7 User is offline   Free 

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Posted 2011-July-04, 02:34

Playing hands is definitely a good way to improve the defense, because it depends a lot on your partner imo. However, playing is not enough, you need to analyze the hands afterwards to get real results. What could've been done better, is there a way you could know, was partner able to signal what was necessary,...

Not sure what the best way is to improve declarer play. I've read books, played with BM2000, played many hands,... A combination of them all is probably best, but I don't have a clear favorite.
"It may be rude to leave to go to the bathroom, but it's downright stupid to sit there and piss yourself" - blackshoe
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#8 User is offline   xxhong 

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Posted 2011-July-05, 16:44

I think the only way to improve fast is to read some books and play a lot of hands and review them in an objective way.
Books and software are just optional because they usually present a problem. In real plays, you actually don't know whether the hand is of special interest or not.

View Postfrank0, on 2011-July-02, 10:32, said:

There are some posts in this board discussing about how important cardplay is in bridge and how to quantitatively measure it. Let's talk something a little bit more practical-how do you actually improve your play?

What's the way you improve your play? Or if you're teaching bridge what's the way you teach your students?

I personally more interested in solving problems on books more than playing real deals. I usually find my play on real game is much worse than my ability of solving problems(Maybe when I solve the problems I know it's tricky and the obvious play must be wrong). Is that normal or awkward?

Hope you can share your experience.

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#9 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2011-July-05, 17:15

BBO is a valuable learning resource for play and defence. For example...
  • BIL (Beginners Intermediate Lounge) is a relaxed place to play. They provide mentors to help you. And there is a useful library of instructional material.
  • Attempt to solve the play and defence problems presented in the Bridge Base fora. I find the expert comment helpful.
  • Watch world-class players on BBO viewgraph.
  • After an on-line session on BBO, down-load the deals to Bo Haglund's superb Double-dummy solver. Play through them, experimentally. Discuss them with partner (especially useful for improving defensive rapport).

Nigel Guthrie

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#10 User is online   Vampyr 

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Posted 2011-July-05, 19:58

Play rubber bridge for higher stakes than you can afford.
London, England
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#11 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2011-July-05, 21:09

For me, the absolute best is to review hand records. When I do this seriously I take a completely (or as much as I can) dispassionate view. Did I make an error? Could I have helped partner? Is it a system problem? Was it a sensible line that failed on the unexpected lie of the cards? I don't beat my self up, nor to I try to see how everything that went wrong was partner's fault. I try, as best I can, to think through the errors and the missed opportunities.

So often I hear players say "Oh, we could have beat 4". Maybe. But that's not the point. Rather one should look at what clue, if any, was overlooked.
Ken
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#12 User is offline   ggwhiz 

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Posted 2011-July-05, 21:49

View PostVampyr, on 2011-July-05, 19:58, said:

Play rubber bridge for higher stakes than you can afford.


All the reading and practice in the world won't count for squat if you can't do it at the table.

Go to every BIG tournament you can. My personal record was entering the Vanderbilt as the 104 seed out of 105 teams.
The race may not go to the swift nor the battle to the strong. But that's the way to bet it.
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#13 User is offline   Antrax 

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Posted 2011-July-05, 23:29

The beginner perspective:
The Watson "the play of the hand" book was very helpful - I found a used copy for $2, but you can also get a soft copy for free from the BIL.
Bridge Master 2000 is really excellent too.
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#14 User is offline   the_dude 

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Posted 2011-July-06, 07:47

#1 Read, read, then read some more. You just can't just "figure out" all of the possible plays/stratagems/techniques in this game. You have to see them once or twice first (or 10-20 times in my case).

#2A Play ALOT. There's no substitute for reps.
#2B Go over every hand after each session. Most of us make a hundred little mistakes each session. The difference between the old timer who is still terrible after 40 years .. and the good player .. is that one has examined and learned from those mistakes.
I don't care how old or tough or mean you think you are - if a toddler hands you a toy phone, you answer that sh*t
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#15 User is offline   inquiry 

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Posted 2011-July-06, 10:08

There is no "best way" that fits everyone. Frances gave probably the best answer above. But one way that works for all level of players is to study your hands after the session (online bridge or bridge clubs that provide hand records combined with a good memory works too). If your level isn't all that high, when you review the hands it is useful to have someone better than you assist with the review or at least yoru partner. The point of self-review is to see where you went wrong (could you have figured out the unseen hands earlier than you did, what clues did you miss, did you give the right signal on defense, did you imagine your partners problem in time to help him, did you consider the best bid availabe on each round of the auction). There are things you will discover you did wrong or at least didn't think of on soo many hands, that you can learn from your own "mistakes". If you find a lot of common mistakes that you make, you can train yourself to avoid them by this approach. If you can correct the common mistakes you make, no matter what your level of play is, your will become a better player, and then you will start discovering a new class of common mistakes you make that you can address and get better..... and if you do this eventually you can become quite good.

I almost hate to admit that I spend more time reviewing hands than I do playing them.

If you are not able to find things in reviewing your own play, find someone to help with it, or post an occassional hand here that you got a bad result on but can not tell why (the assess the blame or what went wrong kind of thing). Good luck improving.
--Ben--

#16 User is offline   peachy 

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Posted 2011-July-06, 11:26

The answers to your poll depend on at what level the player currently is. Good advice so far from other posters, particularly BM2000.

For improving defense, once the basics of counting EVERY hand as an automatic reflex has been mastered, is to analyze played hands with a regular partner who is an expert. I understand not everyone has this last luxury, but if you have the means, I am sure this is where hiring a pro really comes in handy. Or sweet talk some expert to do it with you for free :) There are generous people who are willing to do it for a serious learner.
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#17 User is offline   peachy 

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Posted 2011-July-06, 11:31

View PostAntrax, on 2011-July-05, 23:29, said:

The beginner perspective:
The Watson "the play of the hand" book was very helpful - I found a used copy for $2, but you can also get a soft copy for free from the BIL.
Bridge Master 2000 is really excellent too.


For beginner/intermediate, Dorothy Truscott's "Winning Declarer Play" is a jewel to read. Can be read several times, and includes instruction as well as problems, plus its style of writing makes things easy to absorb.
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#18 User is offline   dustinst22 

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Posted 2011-July-06, 16:04

View Postpeachy, on 2011-July-06, 11:31, said:

For beginner/intermediate, Dorothy Truscott's "Winning Declarer Play" is a jewel to read. Can be read several times, and includes instruction as well as problems, plus its style of writing makes things easy to absorb.


Heh, that's one of the books I always try to get Spades players switching to Bridge to read.

Another great one is Card Play Technique by Mollo

Grinding out Bridge Master hands until you can do level 3 hands without a problem is a good way to develop your declarer play imo. Of course with Bridge Master you are really mastering "themes" and not all the nitty gritty details of declaring (which are much more frequent than general themes). For gaining proficiency in the "nitty gritty" details I think it just comes down to playing a ton of hands and then reviewing those hands with a player better than yourself.

I think learning defense takes a ton of hand analysis with your partner. There are also many good books on this.
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#19 User is online   Vampyr 

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Posted 2011-July-06, 16:21

Edit: never mind
London, England
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#20 User is offline   jogs 

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Posted 2011-July-07, 17:34

For defense learn to count.
Count to 13. Remember your hand. Count declarer's hand. Count partner's hand. Count each of the four suits. Count declarer's tricks. Count defensive tricks. Memorize all four suit patterns which add to 13.
Make a mental note of trick one.
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#21 User is offline   CSGibson 

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Posted 2011-July-08, 01:00

From my own experience, play lots of hands so that you recognize common situations and themes. Read books to supplement your technique and to give you different tools to attack less common situations, then play more hands and try and adapt the lessons from the books you read.

I was lucky in that I had played 15 years of home bridge before trying duplicate - I built up card sense and got the hang of counting things/seeing and planning common hands. When I learned about duplicate, I supplemented my knowledge - including learning all signaling - by reading books and applying what I had read, and by doing so I advanced quickly in cardplay skill from where I was.

I also agree that bridgemaster is great software for declarer play. If I feel that I am not playing well, I will often go through a pack of 30-60 deals to drill on the fundamentals again. Even better, the deals are good for players of all skill levels, and can be practiced without a partner to help. The bad thing about the software, though, is that there is a limited amount of deals.
Chris Gibson
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