Many year ago when I was in my twenties, I was sitting with three other men in a dirt floor hut that consisted of stick walls, which kept out wild animals and the occasional Kasawari chick, and a roof made from banana leaves, whose purpose was primarily to keep out the daily tropical downpour.
It was evening and the crickets were making a din as we sat there in the dim lantern light having feasted on boiled rice mixed with tinned sadines and Tabasco sauce… (my dad was the cook so he was treating us to rice without bugs for a change and had cracked open his vintage bottle of hot spice with a knowing smile).
After ‘dinner’ and following a period of silent rubbing of sore feet and aching limbs, Kevin said out of blue, “I’m beginning to forget what my wife looks like”. There was a long silence. Being the only single man in the group, I lost my way in thought as they finally struck up a somber conversation about their wives and about forgetting them…
Instead, I began to contemplate the fact that having not looked in a mirror for 4 weeks, I was forgetting what I looked like! I tried to think of the features on my own face and found to my surprise that I didn’t know them. And, were I given a blank sheet of paper, I couldn’t imagine how I might begin to draw a picture of it because I had only merely come to recognise it passively rather than to commit its landscape purposefully to memory.
When, finally, we were rescued… (from the hazards of my dad’s cooking) and a week later sat in our luxurious hotel rooms in Hong Kong, I had a good long look at the bearded stranger in the mirror before me. I had never properly looked before. I looked somewhat boney too!
So what has this got to do with Bridge?
I’d hazard a guess, that after you have sorted through your cards at the start of a deal, your knowledge of your own holding goes something like this:
King and queen of spades, ace of hearts, jack of diamonds, queen of clubs!
Note, knowing the latter does not preclude you from knowing the former. The same is not true the other way round.
Furthermore, when you have finished playing the deal, think back.
Do you remember the suit distribution of your own hand? Many players do not.
Before the bidding commences, close your eyes and picture the suit distribution of your own hand. Commit it to memory.
Why do this simple exercise?
Five tricks into the play you may be thinking,
‘Drat… I forgot how many trumps are left.’
But this is no problem if you committed your hand suit distribution to memory.
You had 5,4,1,3
You now have 3,3,0,3
That’s two rounds of spades (trumps) to which everyone followed. Therefore the west has one left… or whatever.
Furthermore, if you get in the habit of noting suit distributions, you will get in the habit of knowing opponents distribution possibilities too:
I have 4 hearts with dummy’s 5. Opponents are 4,0; 3,1; or 2,2… Hmm – ruffing threat?
When you finish playing a deal, you may be surprised just how poor your knowledge of your own hand’s suit and point distribution was. Yes, you would recognise it if you saw it again, but do you make a concerted effort to memorise it after sorting through the cards.
Don’t be a player who simply recognises their own hand. Be someone that studies its features. Know your own hand.