A Magic Cookie for 2022

By Tihana Brkljacic

BBO asked me to be a guest editor of the February issue of the newsletter. They were nice and enthusiastic, so I said yes. How hard can it be? It’s only intended for an audience of around 150 000 players from all over the world. Piece of cake I said to myself, I’m up to it. I already publish a bulletin for almost 300 Croatian readers, and write scientific articles on the topic, interesting at least 10 researchers worldwide. So there are only 149 690 of you left, whose attention I still have to grab. 

Tihana with boyfriend at Santa's Invitational Teams!

My reputation obviously precedes me, as BBO were politely determined in explaining how they would appreciate if I don’t write about bridge bidding or play, but rather cover, you know, psychological or social matters. No worries then, I’ll stick to holidays, an area where my expertise can’t be denied. 

Yes, I confess, I am one of those folks who get crazy about holiday season. I bake, decorate, organize, arrange and supervise. Less ambitious souls would be satisfied with home decor, but I spread this Christmas euphoria to all my bridge activities too. The Croatian bridge community is already used to it, so they don’t protest when I ask them to play against North Pole at Santa Invitational Teams, wearing ornate red hats and Rudolph’s horns. They calmly accept that during Christmas tournaments, Elf team might use a magic cookie to remove penalty doubles, while at pairs tournaments less experienced players get a handicap of as much as 10% to be added to whatever score they achieve. 

But, holidays aren’t only about parties and festivities, they symbolize a transition of seasons. They say farewell to the old, and prepare for the new.  

So, did you take stock of your bridge accomplishments from the previous year, and make plans for the new one? What do you expect your bridge 2022 to be like? Did you make a bridge wish list or New Year bridge resolutions?  

Give it a try, it costs nothing and it can help you clear out what you really want from the game. Do you want to improve your declarer or bidding skills or maybe your priority is to increase your current partnership understanding or find a new steady and promising partnership? Perhaps you want to visit some specific tournament, or to play at least one tournament with someone you adore, to earn master points or become a life master. Maybe you want to reduce stress, build discipline and focus, improve your table presence, or just have more fun at the table. I guess each one of us has her own dreams and goals, and although bridge might not be on top of everyone’s priority list, for many of us it’s our favorite leisure activity, so it’s only natural we want to make it as satisfying as possible. 

Studies show that various forms of self-improvement are the most common New Year resolution, and bridge definitely offers a wide spectrum of improvement possibilities, including advancement of mastery, personality virtues and social skills. Scholars point out that resolutions should be challenging, yet attainable. Goals should be measurable and time framed so one can track the improvement. As goal achievement should (mostly) depend on you, there is not much sense in setting a goal such as winning a specific tournament. On the other hand, scoring above 55% at over 60% of the tournaments you play, or earning a certain amount of master points, would make reasonable goals. Once you set a general goal, it’s advisable to break it into smaller goals such as mastering some card-play techniques, applying more profitable penalty doubles, or improving bidding understanding with your partner. Finally, when you know what you want to achieve you have to decide on tools, like reading certain books, solving bridge quizzes and puzzles, taking lessons, working with partner on your system, etc. 

So, if you’re among those who like to plan, I suggest you consider including your bridge goals in your New Year resolution list. As a psychologist, I would certainly be very interested to learn about your bridge ambitions, so I invite you to share (anonymously if you prefer) in the comments below.

I‘ll prepare a short report for the next issue for those of you who might want to compare your own bridge goals with other players’ goals in 2022.

I hope your year’s started well and I wish your dreams come true, whether you clearly specified your goals or live from day to day, which is understandable in these unprecedented times. Most of all, I wish you all the very best to be able to deal with whatever life brings and a magic cookie whenever you need it most!  

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30 comments on “A Magic Cookie for 2022”
  1. I do nonetheless enjoy BBO immensely, Tihana. And on Take a Seat Casual, I move on if the two opponents seem to know each other, minimizing the possibility of cheating in that forum. I am amazed how many good players and seemingly agreeable people I encounter on TASC. And incidentally, I think it is appropriate to congratulate both the opponents AND a stranger partner for good bidding and play ..

  2. Yes Jane, you are right, Oliver Cowan is a great organizer of his Charity bridge games and extremely helpful whenever one needs him. I play in nearly all of his charities and thoroughly enjoy them

  3. Sorry posted before i made a comment
    There is an on line bridge club based in Yorkshire but available for anyone anywhere to play on line - the Oliver Cowan bridge club - look at his website - he will try to find partners for players without a regular partner. Membership is free. Games are played on BBO.

  4. Great idea!

    I want to reduce my silly mistakes. Too often I work out a strategy, execute it then... lose faith in the execution or just play a wrong card. Improving my concentration is probably the key. It feels a bit like driving a car - when you start you worry about operating the vehicle but later on the operation becomes automated and you worry about bigger picture items (road conditions, route, etc.). Any suggestions as to how I can improve that in my (BBO and live) bridge greatly appreciated!


    1. Hi Mike, I believe it is partially about concentration, but the lack of self-confidence or even fear of success can also contribute to what you describe as “losing faith in execution”. There is no easy or universal “cure”, and it often happens before one makes a significant improvement in whatever he is practicing. So, it is actually a good sign, you are about to make progress, you probably developed skills to play bridge on a higher level, you are just not mentally ready for it yet 🙂

      Regarding concentration in bridge, it is really funny, since we need sharp focus, but also an ability to switch to the next board and disregard all we were thinking about in the previous one. It is fascinating that bridge players manage to do this, and almost never mix up current with the previous board. There are many available exercises to practice concentration. Here is one link I find useful, and it is easy to follow improvement: https://concentrationgrids.com/ You can make two or there of these exercises per day for a month, it is just like a mental workout. Good luck!

    1. Hi there!

      This is very good resolution: it is specific, attainable, yet challenging, and you can track the improvement! I can suggest some resources to help you achieve specific goals:
      1) There are many good books on opening leads but I would recommend Lawrence & Klinger classic Opening Leads Flipper.
      2) Bridgewinners often have lead problem where experts explain why a certain lead is recommended in a particular situation. You can easily track the improvement by comparing your lead to the one suggested by experts.
      3) You can analyze your own leads and see in which occasions you make mistakes. You can use this to follow your progress.

      I trust you will achieve your goal!

  5. Since my wife dyed of Covid in Feb. 2021. BBO has kept me from giving up on life. I’m 86 years old. My NY resolution was to go on a bridge break each month in 2022.
    I may be on a holiday with BME bridge in Croatia in May.
    How do I find partners who play acol, to join me on line on Moore BBO sessions besides my Tunbridge Wells twice weekly sessions?

    1. I am so sorry for your loss, Michael.
      It is remarkable and inspiring that you made this rather challenging resolution. I wish you all the best during your bridge breaks and hope we will hear some interesting stories from you! You can contact me if you wish a tip on what to do/see in Croatia.

  6. It would be nice to be an advanced bridge player, but I truly doubt I will ever achieve that goal. Plans? As with diets - starting next Monday....

    1. I know exactly what you mean, Ana 🙂 It is a good thing that the best way to improve in bridge is to play, and it is something we all love.

  7. About 18 months ago I made an extensive plan to restore my level of play to previous decades when I played more. I have found that bridge has changed considerably in the last 10+ years.

    I read or re-read at least 10 top bridge books:
    The Rodwell Files is superb and gives an inside view of that great player's mind with emphasis on pre-planning declarer play. It has probably improved me in that regard by 15%.
    Next came Kit Woolsey on matchpoints. Simply the best exposition of the difference between IMP and matchpoints play.
    The latest generation of play features some form of forcing club systems- I have previously played several, but Meckwell Light is popular so I read Santa Fe Precision. Dennis Dawson.

    I happen to love The Polish Club in its many forms although I now mostly use a version of
    2/1 for convenience. I have read three versions including Krzysztof Jassem's 2020 Expert.
    Some items as useful even if not playing Polish.

    Re-re read the wonderful Jeff Ruben's The Secrets of Winning Bridge- simply a unique and valuable addition to any player's library.
    For new ideas, I found Boye Broggeland to be outstanding and his book is lucid in explaining what works as well as what can go wrong.

    Bidding is always my number 1 issue and I recently read Danny Roth's clever and lucid book Avoid Bidding Disasters (win by steering clear of trouble) after which I have found Pass to be often the best choice where previously I was tempted through faulty logic!

    lastly a special note for Dave Caprera's nifty and thought provoking little book
    Sleeping on the Couch that takes a unique in depth look at bridge problems and the necessary skills of partnership dynamics so vital to high level success. As a member of the USBF I am pleased that his profits are donated to the Junior Program, our future of bridge.
    A half dozen other books were reviewed during this ongoing effort too.

    1. Wow, his is truly an extensive plan, David! We are so lucky that there are so many brilliant bridge books available, aren't we? There is something for everyone, from light funny stories to comprehensive and complex textbooks.
      Thanks for sharing this review, I am sure readers will find it useful and interesting, and I am looking forward to (read) Sleeping on the Couch as I am preparing for the Mixeds with my boyfriend 🙂

    1. Oho! That's a lot of percentages, George! Still, I am sure you will catch this big fish if you play regularly!

  8. BBO has made all the difference since F2F bridge has not been an option.
    I don't make New Year Resolutions about bridge or my life. Doing so could set me up for failure. I privately plan not to keep making the same mistakes. I compliment opponents for good play. I don't compliment my partner publicly since I was told it could appear as gloating. I am grateful that BBO has made it possible for so many of us to continue bridge. Thx.

    1. Hey,
      Indeed, bridge community can be difficult sometimes, as you point it out, Jacqualyn. Even a honest remark intended with best intentions can be understood as rude, since tensions at the table are often high, especially after a bad board. Some of us play online bridge mostly for entertainment, but very competitive people will always focus on result and this may ruin social aspect of the game. In a virtual world when you don’t know who your opponents (or even partner) are it is even more difficult. It may be a good idea to organize an online match with friends (maybe even with Zoom video call) to make it more social and entertaining and to avoid being misunderstood. I fully understand your decision not to make New Year Resolutions. You are the one who knows what is the best for you, and I don’t see any problem in simply enjoying the game. Just stay yourself 🙂

  9. Yes, I too find that my robot tends to overbid sometimes; and also sometimes underbid when "it" has 7 diamonds but didn't bid at the 3 level (not vul) after I opened 1S, opp bid 2H - had about 9 points.

  10. I play solitaire on BBO. I would swear that the BBO programs that play the game know when I am going to finesse. Sometimes, they switch cards, and my finesse fails. I would swear that around 85-90% of the time my finesse will fail. I guess that I am a gluten for punishment. Oh well!!!!

    1. Oh, Bob, that must be frustrating! But --- maybe you just remember better the finesses that failed… I know I remember better all the boards with bad breaks, and those I misplayed sometimes haunt me for weeks.
      Maybe you can go through, for example, the last ten tournaments you played at BBO (see bridgebase.com/myhands) and check if your hypothesis is really true.
      And even if it is, you know what they say, unlucky at cards – lucky in love!

  11. I play a lot of instant tournaments-I would like to know how to get better robots-I find sometimes that their bidding in not up to par. Especially in you go to 5 of a minor you are always in 6 down one

  12. BBO bridge is most entertaining and stimulating, and I use the memo line to congratulate my stranger partners and opponents when I play Take A Seat Casual, as I often do. BBO regional tourney play has been less gratifying simply because some of the opponents whom I regularly topped with my partners in live play are regularly topping us on BBO, and I suspect cheating.

    1. You are not alone there, Thor. I believe most of us experienced some sort of online bridge cheating from the start of the pandemic. I know how frustrating this can be. Still, try not to let cheaters ruin your pleasure, just imagine how miserable their worlds must be when they have to find joy in cheating at online bridge. I hope you will continue to enjoy the game.

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