Blum on Bridge

The Problem is Recall, not Retention



Last week I began my article naming the one word that I believe separates the expert from the above-average or good bridge player. The word, "focus", reminded me of an article I wrote a the month of June, I thought it so important that I would repeat it for the many "snowbirds" who are unable to read my column during those summer months.

The question most frequently asked of me during the early stage of my classes is: "How can you remember all of the cards played in each hand?" My answer: "I can't, but..." and the "but" is what today's column is about.

It is said that everything we see or hear is retained, but the problem occurs when we try to recall what we've retained. These are the two bases that comprise memory. In his book on memory, Ron Klinger states: "Memory or remembering is concerned with the aspect of desired information, not that such information has not been retained."

An example. For years most of us have taken the same route to work. We pass the same houses every day. I challenge any one of you to recall the color of the brick or wood or even whether or not the houses in the second block of travel are brick, wood or possibly stucco.

What has happened is called a "Scotoma." The importance of what has been retained is minimized, which makes it more difficult to recall. So although we look at it, we don't really see it. Thus, our first lesson must be to recognize what is and what is not of consequence.

I teach that one must remember a hand for only between five and seven minutes. After the game, if someone wants to discuss it and you become upset because you can't recall it, don't fret. The hand's over and there's nothing that can be done about it anyway.

Now let's talk about that five to seven minutes. A typical bidding sequence has gone 1 diamond by you, 1 spade by 'pard', 1NT by you, and 3NT by pard. You're declarer and LHO makes the opening lead of the heart 4. Stop! Recall the bidding. Neither opponent has bid; so assume neither has 12 points. The opening lead is probably fourth best. Could LHO have a
fifth heart? Probably not, as he could have overcalled your opening 1 diamond bid. Forget the bidding. Keep in recall that neither opponent has 12 points plus LHO has "four" hearts. This also can be verified by the "Rule of 11."

As to which cards are to be remembered, if the opening lead is below a 10 say to yourself, "spot card opening lead." If the opening is a 10 or above say to yourself the denomination. Assume the queen is the opener. Say "queen" and strangely enough you will also remember that the opener probably has the jack. By the same token if that opening lead was a spot card and you repeat it to yourself - "spot card" - later in the hand you can recall it and possibly
identify the location of a missing honor.

I want to stress one other point: Memory improves with age. Increasing age brings on physiological handicaps, but with rare exceptions you will retain your mental capacity. This is the great advantage bridge has over other competitive sports. I'm over 70 and most of what I write comes from remembering what I have seen and heard in the bridge world. You laugh - George Burns was winning money at his club playing bridge at 100 years old.

Paraphrasing Klinger, the mistaken beliefs that you can't teach an old dog new tricks - or, as Charlie Brown states: "How can I learn the new math with an old math mind?" - is refuted by modern research. No matter at what age the brain is stimulated it will physically grow more protuberances on each brain cell's tentacles, and that these protuberances will increase the total number of connections within the human brain.

A duplicate player tip: Always ask the director for a private score after the game. Good reasons include that no one is infallible, including our area's fine directors, so you should check for any errors in the scoring. Some years ago in Orlando, my 'pard' and I won two consecutive Regional events. In both events Glen Lublin, an experienced professional, checked the scoring and found an error in each that placed him first in both. "Alas poor Yorick." Secondly, with
your private score you can better analyze each of the hands you've played.