OK… my Bridge blog is nearly 2 months old and has had about 2,200 hits. Today, its on and upwards because I am publishing the first ever iBridge Player guest-blog. In the future, I am hoping to publish a regular midweek guest-blog slot. If you want to write one yourself, send me a line. So here it is… a warm welcome to John Gillespie: (clap clap clap!!)
Hi, I am John Gillespie and along with Carole Berry have been teaching Bridge to youngsters in Canada’s capital since 2002.
We are a part of the School Bridge League family (www.schoolbridgeleague.org) and road tested a simple change to the game of Mini-Bridge last fall. It showed enough promise that The School Bridge League has adopted it for the coming term.
Our New Approach to Mini-Bridge
At present each player announces their high card points to determine the declarer and dummy. The dummy hand is then laid out and declarer picks a trump suit and contract of game or part-score.
With our new approach, instead of exposing the dummy hand, we have them chant “spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs” followed by the 4 numbers of their “shape”, i.e. the number of cards in each of their suits. Then declarer picks the trump suit and contract i.e. before the opening lead and before the dummy hand is exposed, in a manner more consistent with the full game of Contract Bridge following bidding.
The Benefits of this Approach
- I have not yet seen a declarer pick the wrong trump suit based on quality instead of quantity!
- When students first start learning bidding, it’s crazy tough for many to remember to keep the dummy hand hidden until after the opening lead – Unlike the old Mini-Bridge method, our new approach does not create a habit that is hard to unlearn.
- We used to tell them that the most important number in Bridge is 13 but now we say that most important thing is counting UP to 13 and in chunks of 4 numbers.
Our typical lesson starts with a couple of minutes on a pre-dealt hand or concept, followed by hands on the cards. We interrupt every 15 minutes for a quick pointer and work the room in between. As we work the room, we pepper any or all of the 4 players with “What’s your shape? How many points do you have?” – We get those 4 numbers rolling.
We can illustrate another use of the 4 sets of numbers on the blackboard with the example, AKQxx opposite xxx. How are the remaining hands distributed between the two hands?
- 5-0, 4-1 or 3-2?
And what’s most likely?
Add another small card to the example and what are the possible hidden hand distributions?
- 4-0, 3-1 or 2-2.
And what’s most likely?
Maths, Odds and the Big Picture
Like most Bridge players, I can tell you the odds of 5 missing trumps dividing 4-1 but I only know this because I read it somewhere. Our next mission is to uncover a natural progression in teaching how to calculate odds, from the 50-50 finesse to the 75% double finesse and beyond, in a manner suitable for quick hitting classroom instruction. The mathematically inclined amongst you may be able to can help us in this regard.
Have you any ideas that we could implement that will keep the kids on the learning curve for years to come?
- John Gillespie is a diamond life master and along with his partner, Carole Berry are thrilled to be a part of the School Bridge League family. Together, Carole and John have been active in youth Bridge since 2002 and have taught over 3,000 elementary school students in Ottawa, Canada over that period.