It’s so much easier to play bridge well when luck is on your side. You’ve just doubled your opponents and collected a huge penalty, or made a grand slam on a finesse — and suddenly you start playing like Helgemo, with sharpened wits and perfect judgment. Luck breeds luck, and you don’t have to be a neuroscientist to figure it out: the brain works significantly better when you’re feeling positive. The converse is also true, of course. Once you’ve had some bad luck or made a silly mistake, everything starts going downhill. Why? Because being demoralised impairs your memory and decision-making skills.
The great challenge is to stay positive whatever happens — and that is the mindset of all top players. They approach every hand not with lowered spirits but single-minded determination — even when prospects look dire. Here’s a favourite example, played by Phil King during a Rosunblum Cup some years ago (see diagram).
Phil bid a brave 3NT. Maybe his partner had a stop; maybe West wouldn’t lead hearts… West kicked off with the ♠8. Phil won and cashed the ♣AK — West’s ♣Q was a welcome sight. Next he crossed to dummy’s ♣J and played the ◆9. East covered with the ◆10 (not best). He won with the ◆Q, crossed back to the ♣8 (East pitching a spade) and finessed again. Were diamonds 3-3? That would make West’s ♠8 a singleton, which Phil thought unlikely. Why didn’t West lead a heart? Because he was missing an honour — surely the ♥K. So Phil made the bold play of a low heart from hand! West played the ♥J — and East had to overtake with the ♥K. East cashed two spades, but then either had to lead a spade to dummy, or away from his ◆K6 into declarer’s ◆A8.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10