Stress at the Bridge Table by Bob Crosby

Bob Crosby
Bob Crosby

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Peter Jones once played with a partner when it was their turn to play , said “take me to the hospital” . This is not a good way to handle stress at the Bridge Table . Medical people says there are two types of stress “good” & “bad” . Good stress actually enhances your performance and concentration. Trained athletes use good stress to enhance their concentration to achieve peak performance. You are playing Bridge at a high level because you are supposed to enjoy the challenge of playing against top level players in your chosen sport/hobby . If the thought of this , induces “bad stress” then you should not be playing .

In Bridge , I borrow some lessons from golf in handling “golf stress” . Taking deep breaths and let oxygen work its wonders with the brain if you feel yourself tightening up . Also what helps in dealing with stress at the bridge table is “to smell the flowers” along the way . In other words , relax and enjoy yourself . In order to have a stress free session , partner has to be on your side . No bad comments , no facial expressions ( thank goodness for screens ) and no expressions of dissatisfaction when things go wrong. In every session there will be ups & downs . Live with that fact . The power of positive thinking also works at the Bridge table . The glass is half full is the better way of playing bridge . Try humour and praise for partner and see if that works to relieve stress.

Also do not be a worry wart . We all have the capability of analyzing hands . We can see that after we were defending 3 that somehow if we had got into the auction we could have made 4 with two finesses and a end play . Forget about that . It induces bad stress and wears you out. All of a sudden “ a cow flies by” and you make a 10 imp blunder yourself . If partner makes an error , do not have that induce an error in your own play . Believe that partner is allowed a blunder once in a while . 

“Result merchanting” is the worlds worst inducer of bad stress . Bridge is a game of probabilities . The present hand is just one instance of a number of possible statistical outcomes . How can we take this one outcome ( result) to be statistically valid over the long run ?. When arguments are made using just this one result to validate the argument it is fallacious to say the least . For one result on a hand , expert players can list a dozen others to support an argument the other way . It is a losing battle and a player who is labeled a “result merchant” is just a bad stress inducer . Bad results can be the result of a hand not fitting the system , a good tactical bid by the opposition or just plain bad luck . Partners decision was probably very good in the series of hands that this hand could have been given the auction . Result merchanting because the decision did not fit this particular hand is lame . Remember , when you are having bad luck , the opponents are also having bad luck at the other table . Do not let a series of bad outcomes make you pessimistic and throw you off your game. Remember that your partners are thinking they are having a “hell of a game” with their positive cards. Do not spoil their “good set” .

Klimo , in discussing garbage imps , brings up the point do not make bad things worse . Salvage what you can out of a bad round by not losing your concentration . Bad luck and good luck is supposed to even out in the long run . Remember that fact and optimism should get you through a bad round . A good partnership handles “bad cards” well and do not try to single handedly try to get their bad results back . Normally this just makes things worse …