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On the Subject of Focus Can it be learned?

#1 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-August-26, 15:58

In another thread the discussion got around to focus and the ability of world class players to identify problems and find solutions. I have always identified this mysterious something that the greatest players I have had the good fortune to play against always showed and I always wondered why I seemingly was incapable. The best I ever played against in this regard was Bob Hamman. Being from Oklahoma City, I had the good fortune to play a lot of regionals in Texas and found myself against Wolff-Hamman a number of times. The thing I most recall about Hamman is what I call a clarity of mind - a seeming inhuman ability to block out everything but the problem at hand and thus reduce it to a solvable size.

This seems the one trait that crosses all barriers of great play worldwide. Hence, this post presents a hand played in Paris by Wobbo de Boer. I think it exemplifies this clarity of thought which I struggle to first get to and secondly to maintain for a session.

Both Vul.
Lead Club 9
Hands rotated for convenience.


How do you play from here? (Click on Next to follow the play)

Spoiler

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Black Lives Matter.
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#2 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2021-August-26, 16:21

The hand is pretty easy to play at this stage.

Hearts are known to be 3=2 or 2=3. Spades are surely 3=2 or 2=3….and we can’t make anyway if they’re 4-1.

Cash the heart king, ruff a heart with the spade king. If east overruffs, we’ve tapped him. If he doesn’t, we lead a trump off dummy.

I’m not at all sure why declarer ran the heart 10. East shouldn’t have Axx Jx Axx AKJxx or equivalent, since he might/should upgrade out of 1N, but I don’t see the point of risking losing 2 heart tricks.

Win the first trick, Heart to the Queen, ruff the club, heart king, heart, ruffing with the king, as above.

As to whether focus can be learned, I think that that depends. Everyone who can play bridge with any degree of competence almost surely has the capability of improving focus, if they are not already functioning optimally.

The BM hands on BBO are, imo, an excellent way to practice the mindset needed…so long as one doesn’t take the lazy way of checking for the solution if one fails to solve a hand on a couple of tries.

In terms of translating that into real life….stop socializing at the table. Say hello. Be courteous. But you’re there to win. You’re there to take boards from those opps with whom you may be tempted to chat.

Allan Graves, who is a friend and a partner for a year a long time ago (and a teammate on several occasions) told me, when we played, that I needed to understand that the table where I was playing ‘belonged to me’. No matter who the opps were, this was my table and these boards belonged to me,

Add to that that once a board was over, regardless of the result, it was ancient history.

We NEVER discussed a hand during the session. We never said anything at all when laying down dummy. We never complimented partner at the table, nor commiserated with partner.

Serious bridge is a job, not a hobby or a pastime…when one is playing.

Do I play with that mindset all the time? Not even close.

But I’ve been fortunate enough to play some serious bridge a few times, and then I do try to bear all of this in mind.

My favourite example of this was in the 1998 Rosenblum.

In the round-robin, we had a relay auction, with every call after the natural 1C opening being artificial, until I placed the contract in 6S, knowing partner held 3=3=1=6, and that he has to have the spade Ace and all relevant missing cards (other than our being off a side Ace).

I forget the full hand, but my spades were KQ108x.

Dummy hit with 0=3=3=7.

6S did not play well.

Neither of us said a word.

We played, iirc, two more matches before the break, and not one word was said.

Then during the break, my partner said…we should discuss that 6S. I showed you 0=3=3=7. He pulled out his notes as I said, no, you showed 3=3=1=6 and I pulled out my notes

I’d left for France a week early, having business in Holland. He’d updated the notes, changing this one relay, two days after I’d left…this was before global internet, so I hadn’t got the update. We were both right��

But my point is that we were both extremely focussed during that stage of the event, and qualified for the knockout round (where we lost to one of the teams that made the finals)

This can definitely be learned. But it may require rethinking how you interact with others while playing.
'one of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God' Johann Hari
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#3 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-August-26, 17:41

View Postmikeh, on 2021-August-26, 16:21, said:

The hand is pretty easy to play at this stage.

Hearts are known to be 3=2 or 2=3. Spades are surely 3=2 or 2=3….and we can’t make anyway if they’re 4-1.

Cash the heart king, ruff a heart with the spade king. If east overruffs, we’ve tapped him. If he doesn’t, we lead a trump off dummy.

I’m not at all sure why declarer ran the heart 10. East shouldn’t have Axx Jx Axx AKJxx or equivalent, since he might/should upgrade out of 1N, but I don’t see the point of risking losing 2 heart tricks.

Win the first trick, Heart to the Queen, ruff the club, heart king, heart, ruffing with the king, as above.

As to whether focus can be learned, I think that that depends. Everyone who can play bridge with any degree of competence almost surely has the capability of improving focus, if they are not already functioning optimally.

The BM hands on BBO are, imo, an excellent way to practice the mindset needed…so long as one doesn’t take the lazy way of checking for the solution if one fails to solve a hand on a couple of tries.

In terms of translating that into real life….stop socializing at the table. Say hello. Be courteous. But you’re there to win. You’re there to take boards from those opps with whom you may be tempted to chat.

Allan Graves, who is a friend and a partner for a year a long time ago (and a teammate on several occasions) told me, when we played, that I needed to understand that the table where I was playing ‘belonged to me’. No matter who the opps were, this was my table and these boards belonged to me,

Add to that that once a board was over, regardless of the result, it was ancient history.

We NEVER discussed a hand during the session. We never said anything at all when laying down dummy. We never complimented partner at the table, nor commiserated with partner.

Serious bridge is a job, not a hobby or a pastime…when one is playing.

Do I play with that mindset all the time? Not even close.

But I’ve been fortunate enough to play some serious bridge a few times, and then I do try to bear all of this in mind.

My favourite example of this was in the 1998 Rosenblum.

In the round-robin, we had a relay auction, with every call after the natural 1C opening being artificial, until I placed the contract in 6S, knowing partner held 3=3=1=6, and that he has to have the spade Ace and all relevant missing cards (other than our being off a side Ace).

I forget the full hand, but my spades were KQ108x.

Dummy hit with 0=3=3=7.

6S did not play well.

Neither of us said a word.

We played, iirc, two more matches before the break, and not one word was said.

Then during the break, my partner said…we should discuss that 6S. I showed you 0=3=3=7. He pulled out his notes as I said, no, you showed 3=3=1=6 and I pulled out my notes

I’d left for France a week early, having business in Holland. He’d updated the notes, changing this one relay, two days after I’d left…this was before global internet, so I hadn’t got the update. We were both right��

But my point is that we were both extremely focussed during that stage of the event, and qualified for the knockout round (where we lost to one of the teams that made the finals)

This can definitely be learned. But it may require rethinking how you interact with others while playing.


I put the heart finesse in the fortuitous guess category.

On a separate note, I have long thought that the rigors of the law tended to attract the type of mind well-suited to bridge. Your profession has contributed an inordinate number of high caliber players to the game seems to me.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Black Lives Matter.
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#4 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2021-August-26, 18:29

View PostWinstonm, on 2021-August-26, 17:41, said:

I put the heart finesse in the fortuitous guess category.

On a separate note, I have long thought that the rigors of the law tended to attract the type of mind well-suited to bridge. Your profession has contributed an inordinate number of high caliber players to the game seems to me.

I think my training as an engineer has been more useful
'one of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God' Johann Hari
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#5 User is online   johnu 

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Posted 2021-August-26, 19:27

View Postmikeh, on 2021-August-26, 16:21, said:

I’m not at all sure why declarer ran the heart 10. East shouldn’t have Axx Jx Axx AKJxx or equivalent, since he might/should upgrade out of 1N, but I don’t see the point of risking losing 2 heart tricks.

Win the first trick, Heart to the Queen, ruff the club, heart king, heart, ruffing with the king, as above.


On the actual hand, East doesn't return a club after winning the queen with A. East plays A and a trump. There are 2 heart losers, A and A for down 1. Declarer has to make a decision on who has J.
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#6 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2021-August-26, 20:34

View Postjohnu, on 2021-August-26, 19:27, said:

On the actual hand, East doesn't return a club after winning the queen with A. East plays A and a trump. There are 2 heart losers, A and A for down 1. Declarer has to make a decision on who has J.

Good catch, so the heart hook was correct

In fact, I think the auction indicates that running the heart 10 was more than a guess.

I assume the double of 2S was negative, which pretty much guarantees 3 hearts in west. Therefore even if the location of the red aces is unknown…each defender is sure to have one, so long as we place the AKJ of clubs in east’s hand (likely for the 3N bid)….west is likely to hold the heart Jack.
'one of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God' Johann Hari
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