A bridge player aiming to improve needs to grow on three planes : understanding, application and psychology.
Improving understanding relates to concept while improving application and psychology relate to delivery (terms originally defined here).
Today, lets look at one aspect of improving application : Count.
Once our bridge growth takes us to the stage of being advanced, we realise that counting shapes and counting points is not that hard. However, we tend to use this process only when we feel it is worthwhile. Some days, we diligently count away every hand while on others we get into the auto-pilot mode. Most days, our approach is a mix of the two ; stopping to fully count only when we feel either unsure or lost or sense that the critical point in the hand has been reached.
Let me quote Bobby Wolff from his book The Lone Wolff
"Much is gleaned about the other hands once dummy is tabled. I am not always exactly correct but I can approximate the distribution of the other hands at that stage and have a better idea than most players about where the high cards lie.Then, after the next few tricks, the distribution becomes a virtual certainty and the high card information falls into place.Is this unusual? No ! Not only is it not unusual, but there would be no way you could be among the top one hundred players in the country if you didn't do this on every deal. You must count each deal, which requires concentration, work and more work, and then you must possess the discipline to work some more after that. Envisioning the unseen hands is second nature to an expert."
And quote Bob Hamman from his Bols Bridge Tip
"If you are ever to amount to anything at this game, you must build up a picture of the unseen hands. The idea is to know what the problem is before you try to solve it."
True value from counting comes only we apply ourselves fully on each hand. Whether defending a slam or those overtricks in 1NT. We need to accept that a justification like saving energy is an excuse. If counting each hand tires us, we need to improve on our energy reserves.
Next post, I intend to share some thoughts and techniques on conditioning us to consistently count.
Meanwhile, am very interested in the thoughts of what works or worked for you guys.