At the end of each session then on, I started mentally recreating my thought processes at the table. It was easy to assess whether or not I was really clued into the hand at trick 2. I discovered that my hit-rate varied between 60 and 90 percent or so. There were a vast number of reasons for failing to crunch the numbers : from wondering about the previous hand to thinking about getting lunch; from a sense of being in a daze to semi-consciously skipping counting.
Intrigued about similar mechanisms employed by others, I quizzed some of the top technicians around. Not only did they count every hand, but they counted all the time. They started during the bidding, made the lead with a shape in mind, quickly reassessed at trick one and stayed on the ball all the way.
I found this strategy a lot easier to emulate. Some of the reasons are
- The mental burden is lesser as the effort is distributed over a period of time.
- It is easier to incrementally adjust previous beliefs than to start an exercise from scratch.
- The whole playing experience is smooth as one is continuously "thinking" .
- The is a diminished need to identify the key moment in a hand (to stop, think and count).
Inculcating this approach takes a fair amount of mental discipline but improving efficiency using this method is probably easier.The demands on the energy are greater but somehow our attitude and resolve drive the outcome a lot more than our perception of our own energy reserves. Reminds me of Rodwell.
Here is an example of counting-in-action :
We pick up
LHO opens a strong no-trump.
I find giving 4333 shapes to no-trump bidders to be the most flexible. Since we are short in clubs, we expect length in declarer's hand there.
RHO bids stayman.LHO bids 2H.
RHO bids 3NT.
10 points in dummy, 15 in declarer's hand plus 13 in mine. Partner has two
No four spades
Partner leads the club 2.
Dummy has 9 points. Good. Partner can have 3.Since partner has four clubs (C2 lead),so does declarer.
"2434" or "3424".
I can see more spades between me and dummy (seven) than diamonds (six). So its more likely that declarer has fewer spades.
Club - 2- x- Ace - x.
Declarer seems to be in good luck in the club and heart suits. Looks like a time to be active.
2434 declarer. Q10xx in spades in partner's hand should be enough to do the job. If I switch to a spade, that gives declarer 4 hearts, 3 clubs and 1 spade for eight tricks. I can rise diamond ace to get our 5 winners ( 3 spades and two aces) before he gets his ninth.
Here, it is important to control the impulse as chesss adage goes "If you find a good move, look for a better one".
What about the diamond switch ?
Partner needs to have only the diamond queen. If declarer's shape is 3424, we do not even need the diamond ten to beat this contract ! Our diamond switch would give declarer 4 hearts, 3 clubs and 1 diamond. We can hop in with the spade ace and get our 5 winners (3 diamonds and two aces) before he gets his ninth.
Are we really at the crossroads ?
There is a (relatively) simple answer to this problem which is......?