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What can a young player (U15) do to improve their bridge? Teaching players to teach themselves

#1 User is offline   sasioc 

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Posted 2015-August-24, 09:24

Hi all

I run the U15 squad in England and we are just kicking off the new cycle following the European Championships in Tromso. I'm about to take part in a 3 day residential event for young players (up to about age 20), where I will be running sessions for players aspiring to join the u15 squad. Many will be very inexperienced but none will be beginners.

Apart from playing bridge, discussing hands and running teaches I also hope to have a session in which I help players to understand what they must do if they want to be in contention for future selection and how they can go about improving their game if that is their wish (I fully support young players who want to play socially and not compete in this sort of thing but that is a separate topic).

What, in your opinion, can a young and inexperienced player do to improve their game? Please consider that suggestions must be appropriate for young teenagers (so forum use is out and evening games at clubs can be hard for players to arrange, as many run late) and also interesting to them (I will recommend some interesting books and am happy to hear any ideas here but realistically most of them are not going to want to sit down and read lots of bridge literature, especially if it is dry or technical). Quite a few of our young players are also geographically isolated from each other and obviously don't have the same flexibility of travel that older juniors do.

My ideas so far - Bridgemaster hands, attendance at a regular BBO session for U15s (which is already in place), use of dropbox to access tailored material, use of email to discuss hands with a small group of experts who are carefully selected to work with this age group.

Anyone have any thoughts?
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#2 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2015-August-26, 12:32

One thing that IIRC Landy/Horton used to do many years ago was to get sets of hands generated to practice bidding (often in particular situations like weak NTs). They would get a set of hands each and would then send the bidding back and forth till it stopped, at which point they'd send the hand over and they'd then discuss the results.

Doing something similar by email could be useful for any budding partnerships.
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#3 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2015-August-26, 17:03

The Menagerie books would be entertaining enough to keep youngsters interested.
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones -- Albert Einstein
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#4 User is offline   kenrexford 

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Posted 2015-August-26, 19:10

This might not be "appropriate " in today's world, but the best thing for me when I was younger was introduction to the hospitality room. The ability to drink beer attracts all young players. The drinks get the pros talking, and entertaining , into the late hours. You learn more about the game from a buzzed pro than from any other source.
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#5 User is offline   diana_eva 

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Posted 2015-August-27, 05:41

View Postkenrexford, on 2015-August-26, 19:10, said:

This might not be "appropriate " in today's world, but the best thing for me when I was younger was introduction to the hospitality room. The ability to drink beer attracts all young players. The drinks get the pros talking, and entertaining , into the late hours. You learn more about the game from a buzzed pro than from any other source.


They're too young for that IMO. A 12-13 yo girl might not find it that fascinating to drink or to be around a buzzed pro, just sayin'

#6 User is offline   KurtGodel 

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Posted 2015-August-27, 08:58

View PostVampyr, on 2015-August-26, 17:03, said:

The Menagerie books would be entertaining enough to keep youngsters interested.

Probably too tough for newer players, they might also seem a little dated to a 12 year old. Tbh a lot of my bridge education came from playing against randoms on BBO with friends, and when I realised that wasn't constructive I just bought every book I could get my hands on. I would recommend Eddie Kantar's "Take all your chances" and its sequel.
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#7 User is offline   phoenix214 

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Posted 2015-August-28, 08:27

Have a healthy sleeping schedule and have your team do some sports activities once a week - that is for non-bridge related stuff.
For bridge related activities - discuss every hand you play, because the best way to learn is from your own mistakes, practise bidding your own system.
For declaring - bm2000 first few levels, if perfect - to a level where they can play them automatically(replay them a lot)

But most important part should be - make them have fun and enjoy the process so they push themselves to become better so IMO this is the highest priority!
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#8 User is offline   phil_20686 

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Posted 2015-September-08, 11:18

View Postsasioc, on 2015-August-24, 09:24, said:

Hi all

I run the U15 squad in England and we are just kicking off the new cycle following the European Championships in Tromso. I'm about to take part in a 3 day residential event for young players (up to about age 20), where I will be running sessions for players aspiring to join the u15 squad. Many will be very inexperienced but none will be beginners.

Apart from playing bridge, discussing hands and running teaches I also hope to have a session in which I help players to understand what they must do if they want to be in contention for future selection and how they can go about improving their game if that is their wish (I fully support young players who want to play socially and not compete in this sort of thing but that is a separate topic).

What, in your opinion, can a young and inexperienced player do to improve their game? Please consider that suggestions must be appropriate for young teenagers (so forum use is out and evening games at clubs can be hard for players to arrange, as many run late) and also interesting to them (I will recommend some interesting books and am happy to hear any ideas here but realistically most of them are not going to want to sit down and read lots of bridge literature, especially if it is dry or technical). Quite a few of our young players are also geographically isolated from each other and obviously don't have the same flexibility of travel that older juniors do.

My ideas so far - Bridgemaster hands, attendance at a regular BBO session for U15s (which is already in place), use of dropbox to access tailored material, use of email to discuss hands with a small group of experts who are carefully selected to work with this age group.

Anyone have any thoughts?


It depends strongly on how good they are, how motivated they are, and how good they want to become.

The first thing you have to do is play. A lot. You should be playing hundreds of hands a month on BBO. When I was learning at University it was kind of expected that you would play between 500 and 1000 BBO hands a month. Pretty much every month really.

Once you have got about 10,000 or so hands under your belt you will start to be able to really think about the game, stuff like counting the hand and hand evaluation should be comfortable, and have come across most common bridge situations. Then you need to get into the cycle of reading bridge books. Start with defence. Pretty much anything written by Kelsey. Then play, a lot. And read, A lot. And talk about the game with pretty much everyone who is better than you. A lot.

Sometime after about the next 10,000 hands you will need to play with a strong player, they will introduce new dimensions to your game. Good quality partnership bidding. Good defensive signalling. False carding situations. Its about now that you should start working on remembering every pip every time.

There isn't any quick way to get better, and if you want to play in an U20 squad that has a chance of winning a medal, then that is roughly what you have to do. Play 20,000 hands, read all the standard books, and get in into a partnership with someone who really understands the game. That last part is where things like an U20 squad can really help.

Kids love challenges. Tell them that they need to practice that much if they want to get on the U20 team, and they will probably surprise you by actually doing it.



The physics is theoretical, but the fun is real. - Sheldon Cooper
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#9 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2015-September-09, 03:42

Sasioc,

why do you say that forum use is out?
Friends don't let friends post while drunk. --- Vampyr
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#10 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2015-September-09, 04:59

View Postphil_20686, on 2015-September-08, 11:18, said:

The first thing you have to do is play. A lot. You should be playing hundreds of hands a month on BBO. When I was learning at University it was kind of expected that you would play between 500 and 1000 BBO hands a month. Pretty much every month really.


Why BBO? Why did you not get together and play?
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#11 User is offline   phil_20686 

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Posted 2015-October-21, 12:46

View PostVampyr, on 2015-September-09, 04:59, said:

Why BBO? Why did you not get together and play?


We played Mondays and Tuesdays at the club, and league matches on thursday. But its basically impossible to play that volume of hands in f2f bridge. If you go to a bridge club you take 5 hours including transport and post mortem (beer!) and you play maybe 24 hands in total. If you play on BBO with people you know you can do upwards of 20 hands an hour. Thats 100 hands in the same time. If your goal is exposure rather than deep thinking BBO is much better. We would play, and just insta-claim hands that seemed dull. It would go 1N p 3N AP and see dummy has a 12 count so just claim 10 tricks and move on without bothering to actually take your finesses. BBO is great for that. With no dealing time, no moving seats and a willingness to claim often on boring hands you can play a lot of hands.
The physics is theoretical, but the fun is real. - Sheldon Cooper
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#12 User is offline   FrancesHinden 

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Posted 2016-March-12, 18:17

View Postphil_20686, on 2015-October-21, 12:46, said:

We played Mondays and Tuesdays at the club, and league matches on thursday. But its basically impossible to play that volume of hands in f2f bridge. If you go to a bridge club you take 5 hours including transport and post mortem (beer!) and you play maybe 24 hands in total. If you play on BBO with people you know you can do upwards of 20 hands an hour. Thats 100 hands in the same time. If your goal is exposure rather than deep thinking BBO is much better. We would play, and just insta-claim hands that seemed dull. It would go 1N p 3N AP and see dummy has a 12 count so just claim 10 tricks and move on without bothering to actually take your finesses. BBO is great for that. With no dealing time, no moving seats and a willingness to claim often on boring hands you can play a lot of hands.


When I was at university we played rubber all night. That still seems to me more fun than sitting in front of BBO, is just as fast if you want it to be, and you can discuss the hands and socialise if you want to.
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#13 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2016-March-15, 04:32

It seems to me that there is not one single answer to this. For me the most important thing for players that age is that they gather experience and find playing the game fun. What activities they find fun is going to vary greatly from player to player. For some it will be the intricacies of card play while others will enjoy discovering how the bidding systems fit together and thinking about how they can improve things like building a secret code. Some will see each hand as a challenge to find the optimal path while others just want to get on and play as many hands as possible.

I do not think you should stand too much in the way of that, more look to put similarly-minded players together so that the post-mortem lovers do not disturb the "just play"-ers. At the end of the day, bridge to a large extent is about gaining enough experience to spot recurring patterns and put those to use. The main things to stress to young players in my view is to think about the game a great deal and constantly look for improvements. That along with having fun will develop their abilities without losing their interest. I think if you try to force specific studies too strongly you will always alienate one group or the other. The 14-18 age group have enough work to do with their school exercises, they absolutely do not need their hobby/distraction to become work too!
(-: Zel :-)
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#14 User is offline   The_Badger 

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Posted 2016-July-10, 04:05

Hi Sasioc

Lots of good advice from the commentators, and I speak from experience as I was 14/15 when I learned bridge (many years ago).

At the time I was a very good junior chess player, had a mathematical brain, and had a neighbour who was a excellent bridge player (she won a national title) and I was curious about this card game called 'bridge'.

I believe the word 'curiosity' is a clue here, because without being 'curious' how to master this complex card game, there is actually no point in playing, except if you want it as a gentle distraction or hobby. Thankfully, teenagers are curious and want to learn, like to be challenged, and still have developing brains and will find it easy to take on new facts.

Most bridge books are now graded as 'Advanced', 'Intermediate' or 'Beginner' so recognising when you have mastered one level and need to move to the next is usually automatic.

How many bridge books did I have by the time I was 18? Over 50. Yes, you have to read about bridge to learn it, just like any other subject. But you need to play the game as well, as much as you can. Unfortunately, my obsession with bridge led to me failing to get my 'A' level grades for university at the time, so there has to be a happy medium.

There's only one way to improve in my opinion, and the same goes for chess, and for that matter most games: Learn from your mistakes. You have to take on constructive criticism, even as a teenager, and realise that without it you will go nowhere. It will make you a better player in the end.

The only way to be assessed is to play with better players than yourself. As a teenager I was playing both serious duplicate and rubber bridge with some very good players, including against a world champion (Sandra Landy), and quite a few Life Masters. You learn very quickly in that environment.

So playing at a bridge club, even if it finishes at 11pm is essential. And tournaments too. Just playing computer bridge only is probably not an option. It is so much different I personally feel. But it is an easy 'fix' and will improve your game, but is not how tourneys are played in real life.

However - just a personal opinion - I feel a good way to learn - that wasn't available to me in the late 1970s - is to play through hands on BBO that famous players on here have played. There's so much knowledge right here on BBO in the 'Hand Records' Just select the hands played by Jec (Jimmy Cayne) or smispi (Dano de Falco) or sillafu (Benito Garozzo) and a host of other brilliant players to get an insight of how this game is played. See what happens card for card, bid for bid.

But the most important piece of advice I can give is 'enjoy the game'. Yes, it is nice to win, but it isn't the be all and end all of everything.

[By the way, I play here under another name than 'The Badger' for personal reasons]
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#15 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2016-July-11, 02:55

View PostThe_Badger, on 2016-July-10, 04:05, said:

Most bridge books are now graded as 'Advanced', 'Intermediate' or 'Beginner' so recognising when you have mastered one level and need to move to the next is usually automatic.

Are you joking here? Sometimes irony gets lost on the internet...
(-: Zel :-)
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#16 User is offline   The_Badger 

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Posted 2016-July-11, 09:19

I understand exactly where you are coming from Zelandakh (Mark) because reading a book and understanding it will never be a substitute for putting the ideas learnt into practice at the bridge table.

And what some bridge person may class as intermediate, may be to some technically advanced and vice versa.

But intelligent young people do get their heads around most technical-like things pretty quickly, and that can happen with bridge too - I assume. It certainly happened to me as a teenager.

I'm sure we've all be there, bridge book or novel, and thought this is 'heavy weather' at the moment, put it down for the time being, but gone back to it with the intention of finishing it come what may.

If we think we can cope with another book by the same author, we'll buy another; if not, we will search out easier material to read.

That's why I say it is "automatic" to move from one level to the next, as no-one (except a complete idiot) wants to feel out of their depth, whether it be a novel or bridge book.

But, I agree, reading is just reading, and there's a big difference between reading and the reality of actual bridge playing and experience.
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#17 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2016-July-19, 05:44

View PostThe_Badger, on 2016-July-11, 09:19, said:

That's why I say it is "automatic" to move from one level to the next, as no-one (except a complete idiot) wants to feel out of their depth, whether it be a novel or bridge book.

But you did not say that it is automatic to move from one level to the next. Rather you said it is automatic to recognise when you have mastered a level and need to move on. You only have to listen to the regulars at any bridge club, or even just look at the success of self-ratings, to know that this is not the case.
(-: Zel :-)
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