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Tips on how to make the jump to intermediate

#1 User is offline   thepossum 

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Posted 2018-September-11, 20:20

Hi all

I hope there are some more advanced players occasionally read this forum. I am trying to improve both bidding and card play as a two pronged strategy by comparing my bids and play with other tables. I'm finding that in general my bidding gets close to the right contract most of the time. However I often find myself a few tricks below better players. Sometimes as much as getting part-score vs 1-3 overtricks. I am analysing my worst hands in the hope that this is the right way to fix my game. Also playing match point tournaments which I read is more based on quality of card play with IMPs being more of a bidders game. I know both need good bidding and play but the extra tricks in MPs are what differentiates different levels.

Doe any experienced players have any tips please. I would say I'm getting close to calling myself intermediate but I still make too many occasional bad bids or bad plays. Maybe 1-2 tables in a tournament of 8. If I can reduce my frequancy below 1 on average I think I could call myself intermediate

regards P
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#2 User is offline   diana_eva 

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Posted 2018-September-12, 06:05

If you're the type who learns better by "doing" than by reading about it, I strongly recommend Bridge Master. On BBO, in the Practice section, click Bridge Master. It's a software meant to improve your declarer play, and it has 5 hands per level free. Try it, see if you like it.

#3 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2018-September-12, 06:21

View Postthepossum, on 2018-September-11, 20:20, said:

Doe any experienced players have any tips please. I would say I'm getting close to calling myself intermediate but I still make too many occasional bad bids or bad plays. Maybe 1-2 tables in a tournament of 8. If I can reduce my frequancy below 1 on average I think I could call myself intermediate


There are plenty of advanced players that make more than 1 bad bid or play every 8 boards. Although of course it depends partly on how bad is bad.

The first tip is to be patient, nobody really masters this game in months or even a few years. But don't be bulimic with actual play either, many people play far too often. Don't play exclusively with robots or human partners you don't know, talking to partners about your mistakes is vital. And read books, then read them again.
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#4 User is offline   thepossum 

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Posted 2018-September-13, 21:06

View Postdiana_eva, on 2018-September-12, 06:05, said:

If you're the type who learns better by "doing" than by reading about it, I strongly recommend Bridge Master. On BBO, in the Practice section, click Bridge Master. It's a software meant to improve your declarer play, and it has 5 hands per level free. Try it, see if you like it.


Hi

Thankyou. I have played all of them up to advanced a few times. I'm finding the tournaments provide quite good discipline. My averages are improving and I'm getting fewer hands that are totally wrong bid/play

regards D
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#5 User is offline   thepossum 

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Posted 2018-September-13, 21:10

View Postpescetom, on 2018-September-12, 06:21, said:

There are plenty of advanced players that make more than 1 bad bid or play every 8 boards. Although of course it depends partly on how bad is bad.

The first tip is to be patient, nobody really masters this game in months or even a few years. But don't be bulimic with actual play either, many people play far too often. Don't play exclusively with robots or human partners you don't know, talking to partners about your mistakes is vital. And read books, then read them again.


Hi

Thanks. By bad I meant missing the right bid my several tricks or in play being several tricks worse than the average hand. I'm playing both MPs and IMPs. I'm enjoying MPs as a learner more because one very bad hand is only 0% and not a huge loss on IMPs but both teach me different disciplines for different arts of the game. I don't mind getting 1 bottom out of eight provided my average is around 45-50%. But if its a very bad one or I get two in one set of hands or my percentage is much below 40% then that is what I regard as a bad hand/tournament


regards P
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#6 User is offline   dokoko 

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Posted 2018-September-18, 05:43

Imps is probably better when learning because it's easier to define your goal in play: Find a way to make your contract. Go for overtricks only when your contract is safe.

Avoid toying around in the bidding. When your contract is reasonable, you will get good results by good play. When your contract is unreasonable, you will mostly get bad results no matter how you play; sometimes you will get good results because you are lucky. Don't play fancy conventions - they won't bid your hands for you.

And don't overvalue results. Try to find out whether your result (good or bad) was due to your bidding or play (good or bad) or due to good or bad luck; if the former, try to learn from it, if the latter go on to the nextboard. Not every contract that fails was misbid or misplayed. And not every contract that makes was well bid and played.

Try to find partners who give advice. Don't try to learn from bots.
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#7 User is offline   HardVector 

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Posted 2018-September-23, 19:45

View Postthepossum, on 2018-September-11, 20:20, said:

Hi all

I hope there are some more advanced players occasionally read this forum. I am trying to improve both bidding and card play as a two pronged strategy by comparing my bids and play with other tables. I'm finding that in general my bidding gets close to the right contract most of the time. However I often find myself a few tricks below better players. Sometimes as much as getting part-score vs 1-3 overtricks. I am analysing my worst hands in the hope that this is the right way to fix my game. Also playing match point tournaments which I read is more based on quality of card play with IMPs being more of a bidders game. I know both need good bidding and play but the extra tricks in MPs are what differentiates different levels.

Doe any experienced players have any tips please. I would say I'm getting close to calling myself intermediate but I still make too many occasional bad bids or bad plays. Maybe 1-2 tables in a tournament of 8. If I can reduce my frequancy below 1 on average I think I could call myself intermediate

regards P

First of all, the fact you are analyzing your results is a very good step. When you note that you have played below the field, did you determine what the correct line of play was? If you are doing that and you are uncertain what that line should be, then you may need more tools in your play toolkit. Look for a book on cardplay (I used Root's book on play of the hand back in the day). Keep doing this, and be patient. Unless you are a genius, it's going to take awhile. I usually tell people who are just starting out that it will take 6 months to play in a club without confusion, 3 years to get to the point you are not consistently in last (in an open field), and 5 years to begin really getting it...and that's if they are fast learners. The more hands you play, the more situations you see, the better you will get.
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#8 User is offline   rmnka447 

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Posted 2018-September-24, 01:33

Yes, there definitely are very good players who check this particular area in the forum. All are interested in helping newer players get better because they want to see the game flourish. That means having a continuing flow of new players who develop into good players.

Getting better at bridge is an ongoing process for all bridge players from novices all the way up to and including World Grand Masters. It includes both study and playing. And part of it is learning from the mistakes you make.

First of all, you need an objective. Whoever (Yogi Berra?) said "If you don't know where you're going, you're never going to get there." was right. For a new player, that objective is to get to a point where you consistently play really good, solid fundamental bridge. Players who play good fundamental bridge consistently are winning players.

I think you're on the right path by trying to analyze your results, identify the mistakes you made, and try to correct them. In the US these days, many bridge clubs use pre-dealt hands and electronic scoring, then post the results on-line including the contract and result at each table for each board along with hand records. Such postings are terrific for reviewing your results. If you live elsewhere, then maybe they have something similar.

If you've picked up how to play the cards on your own, then a good step would be to read a good book on overall card play. In the US, William Root's books are good as is Louis Watson's Play of the Hand. In the UK, Mollo/Gardener's Card Play Technique is a classic. There are probably a lot of other good books out there, too.

As far as bidding is concerned, I'd recommend using a fairly simple natural bidding system at first. KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid applies. Larry Cohen, top American player recognized as one of the best teachers of the game, in an article emphasized that newer players will make much better progress learning to use basic bidding tools well, then trying to add a lot of gadgets to their bidding systems. It's good advice. For example, understanding the meaning of all the possible bidding sequences that follow from using Stayman and understanding when to use them to describe your hand is much more important than adding a new bidding gadget. It gets you further down the road of being a good fundamental bridge player.

The reason I'd recommend a natural based bidding system is that there's a lot to learn about the mechanics of and judgment in bidding to become a very competent bidder. These include things like -- which bids are forcing, which bids aren't forcing, how do you invite, when do you accept invitations, hand evaluation, slam exploration, etc. These are probably a lot easier to learn and understand when using a natural bidding system.

If you have question about mistakes you've made, you might be able to get answers from really good players. It doesn't hurt to ask.
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#9 User is offline   wuudturner 

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Posted 2018-October-02, 06:44

Tips to improve? There are many things you can do. Some require help of course. I'll focus on ideas that may be a little off the beaten track, since others have discussed much already.

1. Find a mentor. This can be difficult to find someone who will be patient with your problems, helping to identify them. Helping to work through things. And some might actually like a mentor who bashes them upside the head when they do wrong. Figuratively, of course. (I know of one person with that style. It works with some people, not on others.) So find a mentor who fits you.

How do I do mentoring? I've found BBO to be a perfect resource. I'll set a bidding table, with only the two of us present. Set the generator to give us hands where we have at least half the points, as that will give us things to discuss. Then we bid the hands, and discuss each one. How should the hands have been bid? (In fact, I often do the same thing with my regular partners. Over the span of 20 hands or so, a huge number of things seem to come up that are worth discussion.)

Next, I'll set a table up for play, with bots as E-W, no constraints this time. Bid the hands. If I end up as declarer, we swap seats. Partner plays EVERY hand that came our way. But I don't just let partner play the hand out as fast as they want. I force them to think about everything that happened. Before they play, I'll ask who has what, based on the bidding. I'll have them assess the contract, their chances to make. I'll have partner tell me their plan. What will they do if trumps split poorly, etc. What backups do they have. Each hand goes slowly, but who cares?

Finally, when I do play with my student, we agree to discuss all hands after the game. Go over the hand records. As needed, I'll write up a discussion about hands that were difficult.

Finding a mentor that will do any of the above is not always easy. But if you can find someone, it will greatly improve your game.

2. Find a group of friends who will act as a sounding board. For many years, I have had a group of friends who periodically send out e-mails when a hard hand comes up. We ask how others might have treated a hand for bidding or play. This can be hugely valuable, since you all grow together in skill and knowledge. Yes, you can do the same sort of thing on a bridge forum. But a group of friends will tend to be more patient with you.

3. Forums are great resources, of course. You can learn a huge amount. READ THEM. You will quickly learn which responders tend to give sage, sound advice.

4. Writing is a valuable tool for me. Long ago, I found that the best thing for my game was to write up a hand. Start with the hand, as if you are talking to someone. Tell them everything you think as you count the hand, as you bid it, as you play it. Think of it as a hand diary. It forces you to consciously rethink what made you make a decision. Did you screw up? Why? Did you do something well? Hey, this is you, talking to you. Be honest. Writing it all down forces you to look critically at what you did. Did you find a squeeze or an endplay, even if you stumbled into it? Go back, thinking over the play. Think about what you did that made it work. This way, the next time, you may be able to work it out in advance, to actually foresee that play.

5. When you are playing a hand, make sure you discard the last hand. Toss every thought about previous results into the bit bucket. Focus on the current hand. After the game, all of those hands will return to your mind as you peruse the hand records.

6. During play of the hand, do things to help you focus. Make it a habit to mentally record the opening lead. Look at the card. Burn it into short term memory. When someone shows out in a suit, immediately reconstruct the distribution of that suit around the table. When you are playing a suit and you see an honor played, ask yourself which honors remain outstanding. Is that 8 now a winner? Practice these things. As dummy, I do the same things, practicing my declarer play as dummy. Never say anything to partner of course, about how they should have made that hand, at least not until after the game and you are discussing the hands.

7. Ask yourself what is your most glaring weakness as a player. Everybody has one. If you can't see it, then ask the best player in the club. Then focus on improving that particular skill.

Everyone is different. Everyone seems to learn differently. Find what works best for you.
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#10 User is offline   thepossum 

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Posted 2018-October-05, 08:41

Dear all

Thanks everyone for your great tips. Hopefully they can act as a resource for others as well as me

regards
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#11 User is offline   tm255 

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Posted 2018-October-15, 10:25

View Postwuudturner, on 2018-October-02, 06:44, said:


Next, I'll set a table up for play, with bots as E-W, no constraints this time. Bid the hands. If I end up as declarer, we swap seats. Partner plays EVERY hand that came our way. But I don't just let partner play the hand out as fast as they want. I force them to think about everything that happened. Before they play, I'll ask who has what, based on the bidding. I'll have them assess the contract, their chances to make. I'll have partner tell me their plan. What will they do if trumps split poorly, etc. What backups do they have. Each hand goes slowly, but who cares?

Finally, when I do play with my student, we agree to discuss all hands after the game. Go over the hand records. As needed, I'll write up a discussion about hands that were difficult.

Finding a mentor that will do any of the above is not always easy. But if you can find someone, it will greatly improve your game.



Wow, whoever has you as a mentor is fortunate, indeed! Post game analysis is of course helpful, but I think it would be invaluable to go through hands together in "real time" as you describe.
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#12 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2018-October-16, 09:58

Hi Possum

Welcome to the forums (a belated welcome)

My advice is somewhat complex and what parts of it might work for you depends on your personal circumstances.

For me, I have always been someone who finds it relatively easy to learn by reading, so my inclination is to recommend you do a lot of that. You should not worry about learning sexy new bidding systems or load up your convention card with lots of gadgets. Many advancing players see that the experts use very complex methods and seem to think that the fast route to expert status is to emulate them. No, it's not.

I once watched an episode of Top Gear, in which Hammond (who is a very good driver) was invited to try to drive a Formula 1 car. He literally couldn't get on the track....he stalled every time he tried to put the car in gear. When finally pushed out onto the track, he couldn't make himself drive the car fast enough to warm up the tires, so was sliding off the track at low speed due to lack of grip.

He was a good driver trying to operate the most difficult-to-drive car on the planet, and he was hopeless. Try to play the methods used by the top players, without a very solid understanding of bridge would lead to a similar hopeless outcome. At your level (and I am not being condescending.....I was at your level as was every good player on the planet), there is so much to remember about card play and basic bidding that trying to learn and apply a complex system will make you worse, not better.

If you are playing face to face, try to find out who the best player is, in your area. That can be difficult. Ask the better players who they think is the best player. One of the realities of life is that most of us can gauge how bad someone is, when that someone is worse than we are at something, but it is very difficult for a relatively new player to gauge who, amongst those who consistently outperform us, is genuinely good.

At our local club there are a handful of players who routinely do very well at the club level. They even occasionally do ok at the Sectional level. However, they crash and burn in serious competition. They know how to beat up on bad players, but don't know how to play against good players. You want to look for the best players in the area, not the best rabbit-killers.

Most good players are very happy to answer questions. Don't expect a mentorship relationship, and don't expect to be able to ask hundreds of questions in a short time. Most importantly, don't be one of those players who go up to a good player, ask a question, and then argue that he or she is wrong. That's one sure way to have the expert refuse to talk to you in the future, and it's amazing how often that happens. That doesn't mean accepting everything as gospel...even experts and especially 'local experts' (who may not in fact be expert....a lot depends on where you live) can be mistaken and it is ok to raise concerns and seek clarification.

Read the more advanced forums here. BBF isn't as active as it was and many of the better posters seem to have moved on. Join Bridgewinners, which seems more active nowadays. But stay here as well. Learn to recognize the posters who make the most sense (in terms of bridge problems as such, look for posts where the writer explains his or her thinking).

If you play in an environment where the hand records contain a list of what EW and NS can make.....ignore it. I used to give lectures at the local club, based each Friday on the hands from the previous Friday. Even after doing this for several months, I'd invariably get people complaining that they missed 4 which happened to make on a double-dummy line and lucky lie. I'd have to explain, time and time again, that 'if you made 4 on that hand, either the opponents misdefended or you misplayed....the proper line is such and such....it fails....that doesn't make the winning line right'

GIB never fails to get a 2-way finesse right, even on a hand where an expert would properly get it wrong....say you count out a suit, in which you are missing the Queen, to be 3-2, with length on your left. Absent clues from the bidding or play, the percentages say that the queen will be on your left 60% of the time, so you play LHO for it and lose to Qx on your right. GIB would never do that. Some players would 'learn' from this that it's ok to play for Qx on your right. No. It isn't. There were always a couple of players who seemed to think that I was lying to them...they preferred to be 'right' on the actual hand than to learn that sometimes the correct line is a losing line.
BBO has software that has excellent play problems, aimed at various levels of play. The top level is very hard indeed. One good thing about it is that it explains why the right play is the right play.

Try to find a partner who is slightly better than you are. Obviously this can't work for more than half the population B-) If you can't, then try to find a partner roughly as good as you who is eager to learn.

This forum, even more than BW, is an excellent place to post bidding and play problems. Don't be embarrassed about doing so. The good players here love to give back to the game. Back when I learned, there were many players my age who played at the local club, and we'd go to the bar afterwards and review the hands, with the better players doing most of the talking and arguing, and the rest of us occasionally asking questions but mostly learning. I did a lot of reading, but I am sure that I learned most of my knowledge of 'advanced' thinking in this sessions....the books gave me the basics and the discussions showed how they could be applied in actual play.

If your regular partner(s) isn't as interested in advancing as you, move on, which can be difficult when the partner is a friend, but you are never going to become 'good' playing with a partner who doesn't share your enthusiasm.

If you have a lot of gadgets on your convention card, think about the ones you forget the most or get mixed up and take them off until you can play what's left with no 'forgets'. Never add a gadget unless you have identified the problem that it solves AND the problem(s) that it creates. No convention is perfect in that it solves problems with no cost. Even stayman, probably the best cost-benefit convention ever devised, has a 'cost', although one that is overlooked because everyone plays stayman. One cannot bail out from 1N to 2C, to play. One cannot, as another possible use, bid 2C to show long clubs and create a force. We don't normally even think about this, because stayman is so engrained, but Stayman wasn't immediately and universally adopted when invented (by Rapee, not Stayman) precisely because of these costs.
'one of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God' Johann Hari
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#13 User is offline   neilkaz 

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Posted 2018-October-16, 12:01

From reading your posts, my advice is straight forward for now. Work on your declarer play a lot! There are so many fine books and also programs to help.

.. neilkaz ..
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