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The Trappist rule

Kitty Munson  

Kitty Munson now works as a computer systems analyst in New York City . When she was well-established as a hopeful for international representation in the USA her then husband, Henry Bethe, moved to London for a few years because of his job. Kitty then represented Great Britain , winning the 1987 Common Market Mixed Teams and finishing third in the 1987 European Championship. Shortly thereafter her husband was recalled to the USA and, after a special appeal to the WBF that she should be allowed to represent her native country so soon after representing another, she was part of the American team that won the Venice Cup in 1989.

The hand is over and it went badly. Do you find yourself asking your bridge partner 'Why did you...?', to which the only correct answer is, 'Because I lost my mind.' Is she going to say, 'Sorry, I guess I lost concentration there.' Of course not, either she tries to justify her error 'Well, if declarer had had ... (fourteen cards)', or she defends herself by attacking you 'If you'd played the seven instead of the six, I couldn't have gone wrong.' Now tempers start to rise, some nasty words get said, and how well does the next deal go?

Or how many times have you put down dummy saying, 'If I had bid Three Clubs instead of Two Spades, would it have shown extras?' or some similar query that the bidding has brought up. The fact that this sometimes has a distracting effect on partner, resulting in an inferior line of play, may have escaped your notice.

Well, I have an answer for you, my BOLS bridge tip is:

Don't discuss bridge with your partner while you're playing.

Taking the Trappist vow of silence will eliminate the above two problems before they start; saving the analyses and arguments for later will improve concentration and reduce the error rate. It is best not to allow any exceptions, other than brief compliments like 'well played'. When partner uses a convention in an unexpected fashion, play it the way it was used or explained until there is a long enough break to make a new agreement.

If remembering hands for later discussion is a problem, write them down. Playing rubber bridge, keep a small notebook handy. In a tournament, there's room on the scorecard; make a note next to the board number.

Margie Gwodzinsky and I were strict Trappists while playing together in the 1989 World Championship. Our resolve was severely tested in the final by a major accident which swung 32 IMPs to our Dutch opponents (lose 15 instead of win 17), but not a word was said. This was the next board at our table:

  North Dealer K 6    

 

Neither Vulnerable

A J

 

 

 

 

A 9 5

 

 

 

 

K J 10 4 3 2

 

 

 

 

 

N

 

 

A Q 10 8     2

 K 4 3 2

 

W                          E

 10 7 6 5

 Q J 8 6

 

 

 K 10 7 4 2

 9

 

 

 Q 7 5

 

 

 

S

 

 

 

 

 J 9 7 5 4 3

 

 

 

 

 Q 9 8

 

 

 

 

 3

 

 

 

 

 A 8 6

 

 

                           

W

N

E

S

 

 

 

Pass

1

2♣

31

3

 Pass

4♠

Pass

Pass

Dbl

Pass

Pass 

Pass

 1 pre-emptive

 Hurdle number one, I almost passed as West (look at the rebid problem if partner responds Two Clubs). Margie stuck with our style and bid Three Diamonds, pre-emptive. Both these actions made it hard for our opponents to stop in a partscore. The last hurdle in the bidding was remembering to say double. All Wests offered this opportunity were equally greedy, and no North-South pair ran to the cold Five Club contract.

Next, a diamond honour was led and it was my opponent's turn. She played a club to the ace and a club; is it right to discard or to ruff and shift to a heart? I took some time here, but the hand was over; either play gets +200.

Gabriel Chagas, playing in the Bermuda Bowl, was the only South to make Four Spades doubled. He won the diamond honour lead, ruffed a diamond back to hand, led a spade to the king, cashed the king of clubs, noting the fall of the nine, and played a club to the eight. The defence ruffed and played a heart back. When the jack of hearts held, Chagas led another club and claimed; the defence could get only their three trump tricks.

My final hurdle could have been to find the winning defence if my opponent had played like Chagas. West must rise with the ace of spades at trick three and play a heart to North's jack. After ruffing the second round of clubs, another heart removes the ace from dummy. Now when West ruffs the third round of clubs, the king of hearts forces declarer to ruff with the king of spades, promoting a fourth trump trick for the defence.

What an interesting hand! Our calm and quiet after the disaster had paid off; we avoided making the available errors and not a single IMP was lost on this, or the remaining eight boards of the set. One of the interesting effects of staying cool, calm, and silent is that your opponents have more opportunities to go wrong. Try it yourself. I promise you that the Trappist rule will improve your game overnight.

Well, I have an answer for you, my BOLS bridge tip is:

Don't discuss bridge with your partner while you're playing.

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