Monday, March 30, 2009

The Elements of a Bridge Match

Before the match starts
When two teams sit down to play each other in a match, there are three key battles :

a) Our Concept versus Their Concept
b) Our Delivery versus Their Delivery
c) Our Luck versus Their Luck

Concept : Bidding system. Bidding style. Bidding philosophy. Play technique. Play understanding. Play psychology. Concept is a theoretical entity.

Delivery : Being able to demonstrate the concept at the table. Mental toughness. Honesty. Integrity. Delivery is a practical entity.

Luck : Finesses. Percentages. The type of hands that come up. Luck is a random entity.

In a vacuum, the team with the better concept should win.
In practice, the team with the better delivery wins.
The closer the two teams are in the concept/delivery spectrum, the higher the role of luck.

After the match is over
Combination of factors above creates a result. The result is a function of the fundamental truth (concept), the peculiarities of the day (delivery) and the randomness of luck.

How valid is the result
The less the element of luck, the more valid the result.

A team that plays badly (low delivery) has no genuine cause for grievance even if their concept is far superior than the other team.


  1. I'm going blind reading this mate, change the bloody colours.

  2. Hmm, Facebook Blue for you. Until i find something kooler.

  3. What's wrong with the colour, isn't it black on white? I approve so far!

  4. Good luck with your blog.
    I can tell you after four years of mine alive it's not easy.

    There is a lot of help available regarding raising your 'concept' level, but very little regarding 'delivery'. Will you focus on delivery concept on blog?

  5. Aren't technique & psychology more in the delivery than the concept arena?

    Bridge is NOT a game where luck can be expected to even out in the time frame of any match normally played. And even if it could, stamina, one of the key elements of delivery - think you've been watching too much cricket, this should be the execution - would assume overwhelming importance so that you can be around to exploit the notional superiority of everything/anything else.

    I think delivery is SO much more important than concept. I don't necessarily believe that the Italian systems of the 60's were much better in concept, but I do think they were hugely better in execution. This was because of the superiority of the Blue team conception of partnership, and also their excellence at implementing that conception. You may say, "aha, it was the conception after all", but the conception, "teamwork" is pretty small (maybe less small in bridge) - it was ultimately their execution that made them big winners.

    This is Edison's cliche again - 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.

    I would vote delivery 65%, luck 25%, concept 10%.

  6. Above post is from me, having some problems with the signature delivery.

  7. relevant to expert "delivery" is not only discipline of execution and mental stamina, as mentioned above, but also the realm of sports psychology. the capacity to stay focussed, the flexibility to regroup after a bad board, the confidence and competence to break back when down triple match point, and the ego- compromising ability to compete together with, rather than against one's partner. These topics are not covered in most bridge books or lessons. the top football teams employ sports psychologists. there would seem to be a role for this type of adjunctive support in bridge training as well. and i dont mean lying on a couch analysing one's childhood -- rather looking at how not to sabotauge the partnership's delivery.

    ps not sure how to spell sabotauge:)

  8. Hmm....I do intend to build more on the delivery front. That should be posts under "improvement".

  9. My bridge delivery has been off the boil for the last seven days, so I look forward to finding out more about the whys and wherefores of delivery.

  10. I've been musing on this some more; how to analyse each of the sub-areas?

    With delivery, we could perhaps think about making imps and avoiding errors as 2 distinct subcategories. There is no doubt that just avoiding errors, in either bidding, play or defence can significantly improve most players' results. That strategy presumably maps both a curve of diminishing returns - ie the better you get the harder it is to both identify errors and eliminate them, but also a fractal curve, in that no matter what level you are at, it will still be possible to implement it. Possibly this is the main value (to an expert) of a coach, to help with the identification of the errors of a good player.

    But is it enough simply to eliminate errors? Is doing good things simply the implementation of a range of pre-determined good strategies, as far as possible without error? That would blur the 2 subcategories?

    Good: Put opponents under pressure
    Error: Fail to put opponents under pressure

    Actually, splitting it like this is useful. One we can list (and analyse) the techniques for putting the opponents under pressure (pre-empting, maximal defence, going after all tricks all the time, bid a lot, early guesses etc. etc.), and one can can separately identify the reasons why it didn't happen (lack of concentration, lack of knowledge, unaccountable lapse) and then drill into those (fatigue, over- or under-preparation &c). I'm sure there's lots more.

    Delivery rests on Concept, I guess, in that concept tells us what to deliver. We need to analyse the concept in terms of the delivery (because, at the very least, there is no point in an undeliverable concept), and also analyse the delivery in terms of the concept.

    I think this analysis phase is more challenging. Deciding what constitutes evidence and then gathering it are both difficult. I would say that the standard of evidence in bridge is pretty low - either that or the construction of evidence is hugely more complex than generally recognised.

    Bridge evidence is largely socially constructed - people talk about stuff and eventually the stuff becomes true. That doesn't mean it wasn't true when people started talking about it, but it also doesn't mean that just because people are talking about it, it's necessarily true. (Thinks - where do Rubens Advances fit into this paradigm?)

    The creation of evidence - I think this is what interests me the most.

  11. "people talk about stuff and eventually the stuff becomes true."
    For the top players of any country, I think the culture of the country makes a big impact. The views held by the succesful players in that country become the "truth".

    This links in quite well i think to the discussion on preemption. As you point out, evidence is hard to gather. And the views eventually solidify into perception of truth.

    On the subject of evidence, in Ozone days, we had a database where we calibrated the effectiveness of our openings. Opening bid vs. imps won etc.

    The cute thing though is that all the pairs were plus a big amount on hands they opened a preempt. We all probably thought it was a vindication of our styles.

    Whereas if you really think about it, the efficiency of one's preempts is inversely related to the calibre of the opposition.

    The weaker the field, the more you rate to win with a volatile appraoch, whether in the base system or in the preemptive strategy.

  12. Yep, collecting evidence is hard. There's always reasons to second/third/fourth guess yourself. Was I collecting the right data? Did I analyse it the right way?

    Can the data you cite be broken down by opponent and tournament? Does it, for example, show that pre-empting was an imp loser against top third teams in international events?