Bridge Ego's




            In any sport you need an ego i.e self confidence to play at a high level. Sports reporters quite often report that athletes are self-centered or egotistical . This is not by accident . They are the best in their sport and if they did not have a high opinion of their abilities they would not play as well . Simple as that . You need to feel that you are better than the opponents or at least just as good to be in the right psychological frame of mind for success . I am not sure but I think sports psychologists work on “pumping up” an athletes confidence so that they can perform at a high level.


            The corollary to this is that professional athletes never criticize their team mates when they make an error . If they did the athlete would probably slug the other guy in the mouth . They do not want their self confidence shaken by anyone – let alone a team mate . I quite sure hockey players can discuss the play in question in the dressing room later if it might effect future plays . This should be done carefully and with respect . Anger , put downs and otherwise ego damaging remarks again would result in let me say a “facial dearrangement” with a fist.


            Bridge is a sport , a game where at the higher levels we have to perform at our best. In Bridge at a high level we have to borrow a page from professional sports . Preserve a team mates or partners ego and self confidence virtually at any cost . It is a human reaction to strike back when an ego has been attacked . It is also a human reaction to extract revenge and hurt the person who has hurt you. In bridge we consider ourselves too civilized to physically strike anyone . To get our revenge we attack verbally and we aim at the ego of the attacker . This is such a lose – lose proposition . Some bidding disagreements have to be brought to a conclusion because it may be systemic and you want to prevent it from happening again . It might be a judgment situation where in order to trust your partner in future situations you want to know the thought process’s or rationale she went through on the bidding .


          Being 90 % ego & 10 % water to define a Bridge player at the table is fine with me. Insecurity has no place at the Bridge table. As professional athletes know , insecurity hampers your performance. Away from the table , this inflated ego makes you a social boor. At the table , bring it on. The strong ego prevents the intimidation disease which is 100% effective in reducing your ability to perform.


            Trust is a key concept in any team sport . If you do not trust partner in Bridge ,  a number of bad thinks will happen . You will not play forcing passes . You will trust the opponents rather than your partner . You start to “master mind” because partner is incapable of making the correct decision . However worse than all that , this lack of trust will destroy partners ability to compete. Why ,  because partner needs her ego to perform well . There is room for two egos at the Bridge table !  You do not need an abusive relationship where one is always right at the expense of the other .


            As Klimo pointed out , Bridge is a religion to some players.  Without offending religious people , I have observed that religious people are very dogmatic and inflexible. They will not and can not change their religious beliefs no matter what argument is presented. Also in general they will be rigid and inflexible in seeing other peoples point of view .  In Bridge this attitude is very frustrating to a partnership . If no matter what reams of logic you use to get partner to see the light and she refuses to listen to any logic because it is against her Bridge religion .  Dogma like you never pull penalty doubles , 4NT is always Blackwood , always need a trump stack to double etc.  Good rules to live by but to totally be inflexible like a religious fanatic is dangerous . There are some instance where a rote rule will not apply at the Bridge table . Like a security blanket it would be nice if these rules were always true, but in reality they are not . If partner does not comply to these rules there might be a valid reason . Do not burn her at the stake . Later ask her for her thought processes . You may be amazed that you have a thinking partner with whom you should not be upset .


          Mentoring is hard on the ego . Even though mentoring is designed to help and improve ones Bridge the realization that you could have done better on many hands affects your self confidence and therefore your play deteriorates . In a non mentoring situations , you will play better because your ego is preserved by partner not pointing out your Bridge shortcomings at the table. Performance and a strong ego go hand in hand. Even if you are not all that skillful if you think you are it helps . Young males are superb at thinking that they are better than they really are !


Teammates , like partner  , are not fair game either. Criticizing their performance is a no no. Anybody involved in team sports knows this simple law. Silence is golden when things go wrong. Do not make matters worse . Compete with the opponents not your partner or teammates. Deportment is far more important than any Bridge results.


Away from the table after the match it is a different matter.  Alibing, rationalizing and outright lying to preserve your Bridge ego is a silly game to play. It is impossible to learn if you are in a state of denial and in your own mind you do not admit mistakes. Constructive criticism is just that constructive with a goal to improve Bridge skills. Destructive criticism is a waste of time & a serious social blunder. Why would you ever want to criticize somebody’s Bridge that you do not like or care about ? What a horrible waste of time and effort.


            We are not Bridge professionals . We play the sport for enjoyment and we actually pay card fees . We get our enjoyment out of Bridge by competing in a very cerebral game and re-enforcing our egos when we do well. To watch a partner destroy that ego with comments behind their back or at the table,  ridicule , anger and gestures is nonsensical . You do not compete with partner ego vrs ego like two rams butting heads . You have to let reason dictate . Let partner enjoy the game and perform at her best . You have no right to do anything else …