Fred Gittleman in his series of articles on Salt Lake brought up a valid point . He said that the team he was on were all Bridge experts . Maybe not as “fine tuned” as experts as the Poles & Italians but experts nevertheless . His team consisted of players that have played Bridge for decades and have the judgment required to beat any team at any given time . Bridge is still a sport and the results are not out before you play the event . If your judgment is on and your team gets on a roll , you may become unstoppable .One thing can stop you though and that is if you are intimidated by the caliber of the opponents . As Gittleman says the difference between experts is very small . The top experts are still human and are not even close to god status . You can respect them for their abilities but do not give them an edge that might hamper your game .
Have you ever played match points with somebody who when they reach a “seeded” pair all of a sudden starts making strange plays or bids. This person is intimidated and insecurities and doubts start to creep in. It effects their play as they feel they have to “do something” as they are playing against maybe “world class” experts . All of sudden very ordinary boards turn into tops for the experts for no other reason that you are intimidated .
Your partner can also intimidate you. If she is a much better player than you are you may become too aware of your own Bridge shortcomings. You may try to keep up with your expert partner and get nervous or frustrated if you miss subtle inferences. As one Pitbull told me “you make me feel stupid” . No it is not partner that is the problem it is your own insecurities. Ignore expert opponents and expert partner for that matter and just relax and play your game. Stress is life’s greatest killer. It is also has a detrimental effect on your own performance.
Intimidation happens in all sports. The Edmonton Oilers lost to Detroit because the coach said they give them too much respect and it threw them off their game . The sports cliché is that you are just supposed to play your own game and trust your partner and team mates. Stress from intimidation just hands them imps on a silver platter . They do not deserve these gifts!
The effects of intimidation I have seen over the years are “underbidding” and not competing enough . Afraid to make penalty doubles because they are “so good” . Making fancy opening leads to impress them or have a story to tell . Over pre-empting with the wrong types of hands is another result of intimidation . Forgetting systemic bids due to nervousness or just plain “out to lunch” in judgment situations.
Playing against experts just means being disciplined and do the things you would normally do . Forget the highlight reels . Do not bid dicey slams or games you would not normally bid because you are “afraid they will be in it” . I actually find playing against experts easier than playing against Mr. & Mrs. weak player . I can draw inferences from their play , defense and bidding. You do not have that luxury against weak players who do not know what they are doing themselves . The only advice I give when playing against strong opponents is to be disciplined . This is so that if partner has to trust somebody in an auction , it is you and not them . Experts are very capable of getting into trouble also so have your bid when partner doubles . Psychic responses or opening hands that would not normally be opened is falling prey to intimidation . Partner is relying on you to do the same things the partnership has done in the past .
Another mainstay in sports is that good teams do not “beat themselves” , they get beat by the other team . If you are intimidated by the other team you are beat before you start. Relax and enjoy the level of competition but do not give them an edge . That guarantees that you will not beat yourselves due to intimidation related stress..
Another thing, we have all played bridge for a long time . What we have built up from this experience is judgment. Trust this judgment and do what you feel is right. If a hand is too difficult to bid scientifically then trot out the Gandolfo method and just bid it ! Do not think because you are playing against experts you must have some torturous auction that puts maximum pressure on partner to figure things out . Take control yourself and bid it if you think it can make . Do not retreat into a shell and just try not to lose imps. This is bad also . Just play your game and forget who you are playing against or with . Try it , you will like it !