Most bridge tips you see are about rules (1 to 40), the choice of bids and rebids, opening leads, or the nuances of declarer and defender play. But the ones given here are a little different and a lot simpler. One of them you can even do when you are dummy!
Here they are in no particular order:
1. Give the opponents a chance to misunderstand each other
Back in the late ‘90s an earnest young bridge player playing a tournament asked the opponents to explain each time they alerted their bids on their long complicated way to slam. They told him every detail truthfully: game-forcing bids, suit controls, numbers of aces, the location of the queen of trumps and more.
Actually they were delighted to give this information and for good reason. As my annoyed partner pointed out to me after the opps made their slam (yes dear reader, that naive player was me), my requests for information had allowed them to tell each other all about their hands, without the possibility of a bidding misunderstanding messing up their conversation to our benefit.
So the lesson I learnt was: “Don’t ask, Don’t tell”. Instead, ask for explanations of the alerted bids only when the bidding is over. (Think of it as the Three Pass Rule or Susten-Furka-Grimsel)
But do ask during the bidding if you really need to confirm some key information, for example if you are thinking of competing in a suit that they might be bidding conventionally.
2. Slow down partner, you move too fast
Ever noticed your partner as declarer failing to count trumps? Or playing the first card from the table too fast? (a popular way to make many contracts fail). What can you do about it? Reprogramming partner’s brain is not allowed in most countries, however you could try this stunt suggested by Howard Schenken:
a) When your opponent makes the opening lead you can give your partner time (and maybe even the motivation also) to count trumps by putting them down one at a time. Slowly.
b) Take note of the card that the opponent lead and put the cards in that suit on the table last. Partner has to wait until at least then before playing the first card.
By the way if you notice your partner doing this to YOU then you might want to think about counting better and thinking longer in order to up your game.
3. Hide your shortness
Declarers would love to know how the suits will break. When you are a defender you can accidentally help them by revealing you have a singleton or perhaps a doubleton when you play a card from the extreme left or right of your hand.
To get around this, hide your short suits by putting them in the middle of your hand where the picture is much fuzzier. Might be a good idea to do this with your trumps too since that’s usually the most important suit for declarer.
It is of course not ethical to play a card very quickly when there is a choice of cards to play, nor slowly when you only have one in the suit. Don’t do it. Against even semi-competent opponents it will not be believed and probably the only person at the table you will fool will be your poor partner who, as usual, has enough problems of his own already.
4. Cover your tracks
After the game is over, don’t forget to shuffle your cards before you put them back in the tray (traveller). That way the next person to play your hand won’t get a clue what triumph (or disaster) happened when you played it.
For example picking up a hand that is already sorted into suits would give a strong indication that the deal was Passed Out previously.
5. Rouge ou Noir?
When you have a choice of equal suits to discard it doesn’t matter if one is black and one is red does it? Wrong. As long as humans continue to play bridge and not computers only then there is the potential for stupid mistakes, especially by a tired player.
Klinger suggests that if you discard a card of the same colour it may look like you have followed suit to declarer. He might then find your partner taking a trick later with a trump that he thought he had drawn.
On the other hand if you are in a situation where want to make sure partner notices you are out, then send a strong signal by discarding with the other colour: red on black or black on red.
Often it will make no difference, but as they say sometimes “desperate times call for desperate measures”.
1. Howard Schenken, 1973. The Education of a Bridge Player p46
2. Ron Klinger, 1995. 100 Winning Bridge Tips, Tip 100, 6th Edition p128