Letter from a Player

Regional Master: My Story
July, 2017
By Pravin Shah

I was reflecting on a request by District 3 director, Carlos Munoz to write my story in response to becoming a regional master. I can not escape to let readers know that the story is interwoven with two ideas, winning at the bridge game and developing relationship with my wife as a bridge partner.  

My wife Deena and I learned to play bridge about 50 years ago and sporadically we played rubber bridge socially.  For last five years we are playing bridge regularly once or twice a week. Initially we played socially and gradually transitioned into playing duplicate bridge.  My wife is a good bridge player but only one problem became apparent: that playing duplicate bridge with my wife as a partner, often led to heated arguments, blaming each other for a smallest mistakes and strained relations.  Sound familiar?  This was not good for our relationship.

So for a while we took a break and stopped playing bridge together. Then, I found a partner, Kishor Lathi, competitive in nature, who was interested in excelling at playing duplicate bridge. After playing once a week for couple of months together, we realized that our game was inconsistent like a seesaw.

On an analysis, we found that our basic bidding and playing was not well–grounded.  Under pressure of time we reverted to our old habits of bidding. Essentially it all boiled down to communication, mastering basics and unlearning old habits. We also made the observation that many players were bogged down in cramming many conventions; but when the time came one or the other partner forgot to initiate or forgot to decode.

We bought Audrey Grant’s book, “Bridge at a Glance” (expanded version), and we decided to follow the book to a T till we were well–grounded in the basics. We adopted and mastered only a few conventions that helped us in some frequently–occurring situations, and we consciously avoided any fancy stuff. We included Deena in above plan and we three communicated and analyzed our hands regularly. We discussed out difficulties and figured out how to communicate.

For me playing bridge was a metaphor for life. It involved communication, judgement, imagination, playing the cards you are dealt to the best of your ability, and enjoying the friendship. Deena and I considered not to play with each other was a failure of our relationship. So we started playing bridge together once a week on a day I was not playing with Kishor.

Our goal was to communicate well. When we had disagreements, instead of blaming each other, we referred to the book.  Our final arbitrator was the Audrey Grants book. Voila, our ego was at a bay and we started enjoying the processes. We bought two more books by Audrey Grant, “Competitive Bidding” and and “Play of Hand in the 21st Century.”

With this little program our game became more consistent. There was lot of healthy competition and fun among us. Winning came as a byproduct of mastering the basics, communicating our hand accurately and consciously unlearning old habits. We are also aware of the fact that bridge is a partnership game and we tried to overcome emotional attachment to our individual hand.  Even now under pressure we do make mistakes in a bidding or a play of hand. We accept our mistakes as they are going to be a part of the life. Our goal is to be mindful and minimize mistakes.

Our level of enjoyment is increased and most of the time we are having lot of fun. Yes we do argue but we LOL afterwards. Our next challenge is to get mastery over defense and we are working at this new challenge. Happily we all three are regional masters looking forward to the next rank!

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