Letter from a Player

New Gold Life Master shares his wisdom

December, 2020
By Chorng-hour Yang

My Bridge Playing Story

Bridge is an easy game to learn, a hard game to master. I played bridge in college, graduate school and first couples years after work for fun. When I took more responsible position and I was busy and travelled very frequently, I could not play bridge any more. Then in early 2000, I changed to less demanding work, I started to pick up the game again, I primarily played the Swiss team games at nearby tournaments earning mostly color MP's (Master Points). After I retired in 2008, I play bridge games about 5 times a week mainly at serval local clubs, Prudential (now closed), Denville, Essex center, White Meadow Lake, Sparta, Shrine center, Summit Area Bridge club. Then I played tournaments in District 3 and 4 regionals, and sectional at unit 140 and 106, Gatlinburg regional and a few regionals in NYC; briefly at Bridge club in Clive Iowa during 2002 and 2003.

I became Lifer Master (300 MP) in 2008, Bronze in LM 2010, Silver LM in 2014, and Ruby LM in 2017. Now I reached gold life master.

I enjoy playing bridge games in local clubs. Most clubs have very friendly people and responsible directors. If my regular partner could not play, directors will find a partner for me. I have played with close to 100 different partners, most of time, we would be placed to earn MP. I can attest that playing with multiple partners made me a better player. I am grateful to all my partners and teammates, especially long term ones, who have contributed to my MP's.

There are a few things I do besides playing to enhance my games and earn MP:

1. Read

  1. I read many bridge books, 3 books by Williams S. Root, talked about, bidding, playing and defensing. They helped me a lot. Also "Modern Bidding Techniques" by Kenneth and Alan Powell from Essex Bridge Center is an excellent reference book.

  2. I also read Bridge Bulletins routinely; initially I was focusing on various articles by many experts. As I became more experienced, I found "The bidding Box" and "It's Your Call" very educational.

2. Watch

I watch many bridge games on BBO, I usually do that while I was watching TV. I just watch to see how other people bid and play, especially the world experts at Vugraph, sometimes there are expert commentators making comments as well. I catch many good ideas.

3. Discuss

I discuss with my partners what I did wrong and right to improve mutual understandings and what to correct in our bidding and add conventions if appropriate.

4. Set up strategy

  1. I tried to earn as many color MP's as possible at the beginning, red and gold MP's at regional, silver at sectional and StaC games.

  2. As a note, lately, ACBL introduce golden opportunities in regional game and gold dust club games, less experienced players can earn color MP's easier.

5. Improve

  1. I tried to focus more, think but not over think, sometimes 1st instinct is the best.

  2. I tried to remember the bidding and card playing sequence; from that I derive the strength and distribution of all 4 seats. Decide whether to compete or not to compete, quite often "pass" is the best bid to make.

My observation of bridge games are:

  1. Bridge is a friendly competitive game, be ready to compete. But it is just a game, do not get too upset when losing a hand, just play another hand. Do not quickly blame on your partner, because most of time it is your own fault.

  2. Take calculated risks, balance between maximizing winning points and minimizing losing points against opponent. Luck is a factor, but on average in the long run, a good player will win more often.

  3. To reach a best contract, you need to make a decision based on imperfect information, just like many aspects of life.

  4. As a declarer, you not only need to count possible winners, but also need to avoid possible losers.

  5. The trick of winning bridge is to find a right partner, treat your partner right and trust him or her.

  6. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, minimize mistakes between partnership bidding and playing and take advantages of opponents' mistakes will help you win a game.

  7. The more I play, the more humble I feel, there are a lot more I can learn.

In addition, I have gained quite a lot by playing bridge outside the game itself:

  1. Meet a lot of nice people, players and directors in many different places. Share good stories of life, and sadness when someone got sick, or worse, passed away.

  2. Keep my brain working by following the rules; feel like you achieve something by making a friend, winning MP's and reach to another milestone are just extra bonus.

  3. Keep my mind off things, between bridge and golf, my retirement life is never boring, especially during Cov–19 pandemic time.

  4. Learn how to deal people properly, with partners, opponents, and directors.

  5. When I see people, who are over 100 years old still play good bridge, this is really an inspiration.

  6. Share the joy of winning with partners, especially with new partners.

  7. Most rewarding feeling is to hear from fellow players said to me "enjoy playing bridge with you", either they are partners or opponents.

Chorng–hour Yang

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