Star-News – 14 Oct 1973
There are some who have to train themselves to remember, and then there is Rixi Markus, one of the world’s great bridge players, who has to train—herself to forget. A woman who can recall 150 deals hand by hand and who needs to be given only the first cards to recite many of the hands in a championship does not, as she says, want to «overburden» her mind.
The Mrs. Markus her opponents never get to see in competition is a gracious old-world hostess radiating easy charm and friendly warmth. She took time off from a crowded schedule of tournaments and authorship to discuss her book, «Common-Sense Bridge» (Random House). She had passed a sleepless night with toothache but no one would have guessed it. The book carries forward Mrs. Markus belief that tournament or money bridge is a game where the prizes tend to go to those whose play is bold, aggressive and imbued with «killer instinct.» «Handle your partner with great care,» she says. «Be polite to your opponent but show no mercy.» This bold philosophy does not seem to square with the pleasant lady who was a 13- year-old pre-war bridge prodigy in Vienna.
She likes to tell about another woman player who, after an informal chat over cocktails, exclaimed. «You’re so nice away from the bridge tables, I mean. «A lot of people say things like that.» she said, not at all displeased. «When they say they like me socially but are inclined to hate me in competition, I always reply that I don’t want to be liked at the bridge table I’m most anxious to make friends in the bridge world but I am more interested in being respected and feared during play. Frankly it gives me a great advantage «.
Mrs. Markus considers «Common-Sense Bridge» a «different» kind of bridge book and one that gets closest to imparting the kind of play that took her to European and world championships. It is aimed at the middle grade player, «the millions who have played for years, have reached a certain standard and gotten stuck. This will help them out of the rut. The average player longs to be a Master. Not everyone can make it but this will help.» Over giant asparagus spears and the first fresh Scottish salmon of the season she described steps she would suggest for improving the play of the ordinary bridge enthusiast.
«Play with players who are better than you are,» she said. «Watch the play at first class tables. Play for stakes so high that it will hurt you to lose. If you cannot afford to lose you will watch your step and learn to discipline yourself. Make a special effort not to take risks at the start of play A game is easier if you start with a few successful boards. Learn to count cards. Counting must become automatic. You hold five spades, four hearts, three diamonds and one club, therefore the other players must have the missing eight spades, nine hearts, 10 diamonds and 12 clubs. Listen to the bidding and you will already have some information about the cards held by the other three players. Then one player will become declarer, and his partner’s hand will go down after the opening lead. «Now you can see 13 or 14 more cards so you have only to discover the other 25 or 26. After each subsequent trick two of these cards will be accounted for. If you concentrate on counting and accounting for all these cards — even the small ones — you will be very close to becoming a champion.»
Mrs. Markus photographic memory would be a help and so would the run of luck which the says, thankfully, has been with her a very long time.