Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

The teacher learns more than the students

Ray and I have been teaching bridge to a class of our friends here in the Landings in Sarasota.  When we decided to teach we had no idea that so many people would show up for classes.  We decided to run two classes one for beginners and one for more advanced students and we still had to turn people away.  This reminded us how popular bridge can be.  Most of these people will not show up as members of the ACBL (although we are encouraging them to compete) but they will be playing bridge with their friends.  All of them tell us that they had no idea how much there was to the game and also how much fun it was.

I think that bridge should be a fun activity for most people.  It should be accompanied by refreshments and gossip.  Competition is okay but it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

One lady brought in a deal from the bridge column in the local paper.  It was a crisscross squeeze.  Even reading the column she couldn’t figure out how it worked.  It had a bit of a trick because entries were an issue and you had to cash a side winner in dummy very early on for the squeeze to work.  It makes me think that those who write these columns ought to focus on deals that don’t require either a lot of knowledge of complex bridge plays or “Deep Finesse” to work them out.  But I also was amazed how important the bridge column is to our students.  A bridge column seems to get mentioned at every lesson.  Can we pass this message on to the newspapers?

What I also learned is that you pretty well can’t go slowly enough.  When Barbara Seagram and I wrote Beginning Bridge (the book we are using for the course) we followed Barbara’s lesson plans more or less.  Some other teachers told me that the book went too quickly for their beginners.  I can see that now.  We recommended that they break a chapter into two lessons.  And you know what?  That can still be too much.  Better to let them play more deals and teach less stuff.  I might see how to break the chapters up into even more lessons and publish that as a help to teachers.

Another thing I learned is how very effective the special cards are.  We took all of the deals in the book and made cards with numbers printed on the back that allowed the students around the table to quickly deal out the lesson hands.  It is much easier for the teachers than making the boards themselves or other methods of preparing the hands.

One thing that didn’t surprise me at all was the deals which were designed to be pretty foolproof and get everybody to the same contract and the same result didn’t work out that way at all.  One of my students is a very aggressive card player and there was no keeping him out on a hand with six good clubs and about 10 high card points.  He overcalled even though we hadn’t even mentioned the possibility of overcalling.  He just invented it himself.  Not only that but after partner raised him, he competed over three diamonds (the expected contract) to four clubs (which would probably make) and then set the opponents in four diamonds.  Good for him.

One thing that didn’t surprise me was that memory tools like (BOSTON – bottom of something, top of nothing) and reciting “lead honors from the short hand first” as a chant, are very effective.

Our students read the book between lessons, read the newspaper columns and come to the lessons full of questions.  They stop me on the street to discuss a deal and the ones who play duplicate find me by the pool with a coloured piece of paper carefully folded, the hand records.  I have noted that most of the deals from the hand records they show me are triumphs and very few are disasters.  I like that.  It seems good to me to savor the triumphs and not worry too much about the bad results.

I, of course, do the opposite.  When I play I brood about all the deals where I made a mistake.  In most cases I quickly forget the good results.  I know that you can learn from your mistakes but for most people bridge is for fun.  And that is way more important than avoiding an error in the future.  At least I think so. 

I wonder if I can play for fun any more.  I sure hope so.


James McLarenFebruary 6th, 2012 at 3:18 am

I like your viewpoint, Linda.
And I think even competitive fanatics should like it. I expect that a decent pool of competitive players will come only out of an even bigger pool of socially oriented players. To try to promote competitive bridge while ignoring, or even sneering at social bridge, is a bit like trying to generate something out of thin air.

Jeff HFebruary 6th, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Wonderful blog.
I am somewhere between you and your beginners when it comes to remebering deals. One of my favorites is a bidding disaster where we ended up in 7D missing the K, J and a small diamond. Not a particularly good slam, but I found the missing honors and made it. But I do tend to study the hands where something went wrong for the same reasons that you do. Bridge is indeed suppoed to be fun, else why should anyone want to play the game.

MichaelFebruary 13th, 2012 at 6:32 pm

First of all it is terrific that you and Ray are giving back to the game by teaching your friends.

I too learned this game because it was fun but then life got in the way.

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