Saturday, December 11, 2004 7:22 AM

Thinking in Patterns




          Thinking in patterns is more than Important to reach another level in Bridge . One of the greatest mysteries to me is that I know a number of local experts who apply patterns as a matter of course when they are playing the hands. They play the hand “double dummy” because they have everybody’s distribution “read” . Squeezes , endplays , finding cards all stem from thinking in patterns in the first instance. You know LHO is 4-4-3-2 so he will be squeezed in the two 4 card suits he is holding. RHO has pre-empted & shown up with 3 clubs so along with his 7 card suit he is 7-3-2-1 so you strip him of the two cards & the one card & throw him in with his suit so he is endplayed . He must give you a ruff &  discard. You know that a finesse is twice as likely to succeed as RHO has twice as many cards in that suit as  his partner and on & on.


          These same experts have not trained themselves to think in patterns on defense . Translating bidding into patterns is a must have skill. Partner  bid 2 , you KQxx and are on lead . Your mind can come up with imaginary demons if you do not translate bidding in patterns automatically. You lead the heart K against 3NT & a stiff jack appears on the dummy & declarer wins the Ace. You get in with a side suit so now you start to worry. Maybe declarer started with A10x so I can not lead a heart. Maybe I must switch to a spade to come through the heart. This is silly paranoia. Applying patterns the hearts are 6-4-2-1 or may even be 7-4-1-1 . You cash the heart queen and take all your heart winners. A diamond life master switched & they made the contract. He has not trained himself to “think in patterns”.


          In the bidding , when partner and the opponents are bidding , get in the habit of translating their  bids into patterns . Partner opens 1♣ and bids and rebids diamonds. You know he is at last 6-5-1-1 so you rebidding your spade suit loses its significance. If the opponents overcall a suit & raise it with you having  3 ,  apply a pattern like 5-4-3-1 or 6-3-3-1 . Is it not nice to know that partner has a singleton there during the auction ??


          Anyway going back to your high school mathematics . You studied permutations & combinations . A pattern of suits is a combination as order of the suits is not important. Permutation of suits are combinations where order is taken into consideration. However ,it is so important to have these combinations memorized that I recommend treating them as permutations . In other words memorize them in every order possible . 5-3-3-2 , 2-3-5-2 , 3-2-2-5 . When I was teaching my wife this concept ,  we had a pile of flash cards with 3 suits on them and she had to “fill in the blanks” with the 4th suit. This is the best way because that’s how it occurs in real life. Partner shows you a doubleton . You look on the board and there are 3 and in your hand is 3. I can spit out 5 for the cards in declarers hand in a milli-second. It’s the 5-3-3-2 pattern but looking it from the 2-3-3-5 angle.


          Vince Lambert has written a computer program which emulates the flash cards. The computer goes 6-3-1  and you must answer 3 quickly. Lorna says she uses at and it has helped her game . Susan said her declarer play and defense went up a notch when she takes the time to translate bidding into patterns. Susan was playing with Kiz with myself & my partner. My partner  Steve Bates opened a suit and bid & rebid the 2nd suit showing at least a 5-5 .  Both tables got to 6 and played the slam identically . With a doubleton on the board they took a finesse in the side suit  losing to Susan’s King. Susan had 5 of them so she said to herself 5-5-2-1 and led back a club for +100 when partner ruffed. At the other table they were not trained in applying patterns & returned a spade. Result +1370 and 17 IMPS.


          If you have troubling sleeping or during commercials train yourself in patterns . 5-4-3-1 , 6-4-2-1 , 7-2-2-2 , 4-4-3-2 , 5-4-2-2 . There are not that many. The next step is remembering to actually apply them at the table. It may take you years to perfect the habit but believe me your game will jump at least one level.  When an expert does not do it all the time on defense , it is just plain laziness as they have the patterns memorized for declarer play.


          A decent player went down in a 4♠ game last night when unbelievably he did not count trump using patterns. He was trying to “count trump” which is unheard of for an expert player. He had 7 spades to the ♠AQxxxxx opposite ♠Kx  so he drew one round of trump with every body following. The patterns now can only be 7-3-2-1 or 7-2-2-2. Leaving trump out , he led a side suit which got ruffed . They got in with another suit and came back a suit which both players had no more of that suit. He now counts trumps the “hard way” and forgot that he ruffed already. Imagining two trump instead of one, he ruffs small and they over ruff. Thinking in patterns is supoose to prevent such stuff. However it is more than that. Thinking in patterns helps your opening leads , defensive play , bidding & declarer play. If you do not think in patterns give up all aspirations to becoming an expert Bridge player . It is not going to happen.




  4441  2.993219

  4432  21.551176

  4333  10.536130


  5530   0.895203

  5521   3.173900

  5440   1.243337

  5431  12.930705

  5422  10.579668

  5332  15.516846

6610       0.072340

6520       0.651056

6511       0.705311

6430       1.326226

6421       4.702075

6331       3.448188

6322       5.642490

7600       0.005565

7510       0.108509

7420       0.361698

7411       0.391840

7330       0.265245

7321       1.880830

7222       0.512954