Thursday, September 15, 2005 2:27 PM

System Building




          How complicated should your bidding system be ?  The answer to that question depends on your Bridge aspirations and how much time you spend at the game. If your Bridge goal is social which means just playing at local club games , sectionals and regionals then keep it simple. Cluttering the mind with an extensive system is just not worth the trouble. You do not need an elephant gun to shoot a mouse.


          At the other end of the spectrum is the Bridge professional. Rodwell & Mekstroth have thousands of pages  of written notes. They play virtually every day of the year so saying they have the time to learn their system is an understatement. What about Bridge experts who do not play professionally ? Coming with the territory of being an established expert partnership comes a reasonably complicated system. You play in Calcuttas , CNTC’s , GNT , nationals and travel to regionals. It’s a waste of time and money to play in these events , if you do not have a comprehensive bidding system.


          I play golf as a hobby . I spend about 33% of my golf time at the driving range practicing and the rest of the time playing. In hockey or other sports the players time is divided equally between practicing , learning & playing. In high level Bridge you can not just play all the time. You just repeat your bidding errors and you do not “grow”. A percentage of your time must be spent learning your system and innovating. Staying static in Bridge is not an option , just like in any other worthwhile endeavour.


          There is a right way and a wrong way to build your bidding system. The wrong way was attempted recently by BJ Trelford and myself. We had an artificial deadline of a GNT final in Atlanta , a Calcutta and a regional to learn our system. BJ had to learn dozens of new concepts from scratch as well as a ton of memory work with a deadline looming. That was like cramming for an exam and must have been hard on him. Our hard work paid off in Thurs nite wins , the Calcutta and a good performance in the regional . As we crammed , our system is probably partially forgotten.  The correct way to system build is slowly over time. Get acquainted with the new concepts , make mistakes . Get comfortable with the treatments or convention and then move on to something new. You build a system over time you so do not get it thrown at you all at once.


          It is unfair for a partner to do zero work on the system . Reading is required and just saying you play it but keep forgetting all the time is very counter productive. A good system not learned is worse than a bad system understood. Age is an excuse but not a good one. If I can learn something new at my age , anybody can. Attitude is important and “pride of ownership” . if the partnership has contributed to the final product , the system will be learned better than just one partner “force feeding” the other. If one partner does not like any treatment , it just will not be learned. A Bridge expert is capable of playing quite a complicated system. Years of exposure to the game , makes retention easier. As long as the system is not just a series of dreary memorizing and makes sense , a prodigious amount of information can be learned and retained by expert Bridge players.


          I have noticed over the years bright young college students playing reams of complicated understandings but lacking the judgment that goes with it. This usually leads to disaster. On the flip side there are experts who have the judgment but are just too lazy or vain to build a system. They feel since they are a Bridge expert why improve the system ? Perfection does not need to be improved !  I feel local expert partnerships should have a system as least as complicated as the Maksymetz/Jacobs system. Klimo/Campbell have binders full of notes. The Gartaginus the same level of detail. Tom Gandolfo and I have build up a complicated system over time and BJ & myself are building from that . I enjoy writing about systems and as I am retired I have the time to do it. Unfortunate people who must work for a living can not be expected to absorb everything I write nor do they have to. I write to an intended audience of my web site as a hobby. From these articles a system can emerge but the articles are not the system. The system must be learned and agreed to by the partnership.


          The latest system building attempt is found here. It is a living document and changes on an ongoing basis are made.