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September 6, 2000
Partnership Skills

The Scorecard is the publication for ACBL District 16. I was asked and consented to write a regular column aimed at the 0-299 masterpoint player. I will post my columns here as they may be of benefit to the same readers that benefit from my newsletter.

Scorecard, Volume 32, No 5 - September/October 2000

There are countless books and articles covering all aspects of bidding, play, and defense. However, rarely do they touch on the equally important topic of partnership skills. How good a partner are you? A solid partnership using only basic bidding and signaling tools can overcome a poor partnership with a convention card loaded with gadgets and complicated understandings. Bridge is a team sport and you will win or lose together.

I watch and speak with hundreds of 0-299 players during the course of the year. I see the same partnership mistakes time and time again. I have listed twelve common mistakes. Which of the following apply to you?

No. 1 You are on lead after partner has opened or overcalled. Do you lead partners suit? Unless you absolutely positive that another suit will be successful, then partners suit should hit the table. I have watched hundreds of contracts succeed after a defender failed to defeat them by simply leading partners bid suit. Partner expects to see her suit on opening lead.

No. 2 Partner leads a suit and declarer wins. When you regain the lead do you return partners suit? You should, unless you know for certain that it will not advance the defensive cause. Developing defensive tricks requires persistence. Sometimes just finding out that declarer is now void in partners suit will simplify (and therefore improve) the defense.

No. 3 How clear are your signals? Time and time again I have watched a defender make life potentially difficult for partner. The classic case is discarding to show attitude. A defender holding AK1098 and wishing to encourage a shift to this suit should discard the 10. Countless times I have watched a player signal with the eight or nine thinking it is high enough. Why add any doubt to a signaling system that is already crude and sometimes hard to interpret?

No. 4 Speaking of discards do you actually watch what partner plays? How many times have you admitted to not seeing what partner played? Your future decisions may well be based on what partner can indicate from his discards.

No. 5 Are you a dummy grabber? Keep track of the number of hands you declare compared to the number that partner declares. Over any one session there can be a disparity, but if unless the totals are pretty close after 5 or 6 sessions then you are not bidding to the best advantage of your partnership. If you are honest you can probably identify hands where you should have orchestrated the bidding so that it declares from the side to your greatest advantage.

No. 6 Do you remember your job? Are you the captain or the crew? As opener do you follow the instructions from responder? Do you suppress showing a fit in order to mastermind the hand? How many times did you rebid that five card suit thinking that partner must not have heard your bid the first time?

No. 7 Partner plays a 4spade.gif (842 bytes) contract and goes down one after failing to pull trump. The opponents are able to score a ruff and beat an otherwise makeable game. How do you react? Are you quick to point out partners error? Do you react with anger or disgust? If you think that speaking up will improve the balance of the session you are sadly mistaken. Partner knows that he made an error. When you are error free and play a perfect session then you can comment. Until then, work on your skills and let partner work on his. If you must discuss the hand, at least wait until the after-game post-mortem.

No. 8 When defending a hand do you regularly think of ways to make the defense easy for partner? During the auction do your bids make partners further action easy? Bridge is significantly more difficult when each player only see the world through their own eyes. Work to support partner.

No. 9 Are you disciplined? It matters not to me what agreements that you and partner make. Let us say that you agree to have two of the top three honors when you open a weak-two bid. How often do you violate the agreement? If you can say never, then you pass the test, otherwise you fail. Either change the agreement or abide by it. Anything that goes wrong after one partner breaks an agreement is automatically that partners fault.

No. 10 Do you show up rested and ready to play? To be successful you must apply your full concentration for three hours or more. I hear many players admit that they knew better after a mistake. They simply had a lapse of concentration. The lapse created a poor result. You owe it to partner to arrive alert and ready to play.

No. 11 There are four people at the bridge table. Without a doubt two of them are against you. Only partner is on your side. You must cultivate a trust in partner and rely on her decisions. If an auction indicates that someone is not truthful, then believe partner 100%. Take partners bids and plays to the bank. If partner realizes that you are looking (see No. 4) and relying on her plays and bids then she will be more careful about the bids and plays he chooses. Never play partner to have made a mistake. Trust your partner completely.

No. 12 Are you quick to take responsibility for errors that you make? If partner discards wrong after you mislead him then it is your fault. Step up and take the blame. Partner should quickly and silently accept and then move on to the next hand. The game is not the place to work out system problems.

How did you do? Did you see yourself in any of the items listed? Work to be a better partner. Work to build up partner and make the game easier for him/her and your results will improve. Watch the best players in the game. The truly great players are calm, introspective, and non emotional. Have fun and let me hear from you.

Gary King

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