I can’t believe I’m planning to write a book about conventions. I’m possibly the most anti-convention player/teacher/writer in the world.
In this article, I’ve excerpted and paraphrased (is it plagiarizing when you take from your own work?) some of what I plan to say in my Introduction to the book.
The “Big 4” (Blackwood, Jacoby Transfers, Negative Doubles and Stayman) need to be understood inside and out. But there are many conventions that should be avoided.
To succeed at bridge, you need to be good at logic and concentration. Avoiding dumb mistakes is the key to success. Conventions introduce the chance to really screw up the bidding. My estimate is that players make mistakes with new/complicated conventions more often than they use them properly. They don’t know if the convention is on by a passed hand or when the opponents interfere. They haven’t discussed all the variations and follow-ups.
Most of my students and readers don’t like to study and memorize. Even in college with our sharper, younger brains, we didn’t enjoy memorizing material to then spit it out on an exam, only to forget most of it two weeks later.
Unless you’re trying to win major championships, bridge should be for fun. Sure, you want to do well, but memorizing dozens of conventions is not the formula. Less is more. If your head isn’t clogged with artificiality and code, it is easier to focus on basics. Keep it really simple (knowing the necessary conventions thoroughly) and avoid the inverted spiral asks that come up once a year. It is much more important to know biding basics and your partner’s style than to work on fancy stuff.
How often have you had a 40% game and attributed it to the fact that you didn’t have enough conventions? Was your 60% game because you played lots of conventions? Usually, 40% means lots of mistakes (and bad luck) and 60% means not many mistakes (and good luck). Did you ever finish second and lament the fact that if you had only been playing reverse-caterpillar relays on Board 7, you would have finished first?
My friend and colleague Barbara Seagram wrote a very successful book: “25 Conventions You Should (emphasis mine—not hers) Know.” I’d say that’s about 15-20 too many.
For my Convention book, I’m focusing on the “Big 4” named above. I’ll begrudgingly give the pros and cons of a few others and then a long list of conventions you can live without. In the introduction, I’ll essentially be saying: “This is a book on conventions, and by the way, most of them are a bad idea.” Possibly the most contrite book introduction ever written.
I know some of you just LOVE conventions. I hope you're not offended. Go ahead, have a ball, play as many as you want (and think of me when you have accidents). Happy to hear comments and see what your favorites are in the poll below.
Larry is widely regarded as one of the world's best bridge teachers and is as close to a household name as you can probably get in the world of bridge. He has been named ACBL Player of the Year, ACBL Honorary Member of the Year, 2020 Hall of Famer, and has won a total of 25 National Bridge Tournaments. He’s also a regular contributor to bridge magazines and has written and produced many best-selling, award winning bridge books, cd’s/computer software, videos and webinars.
Find out more about Larry on his website, larryco.com
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