Passion of The Game of Bridge

“Common Sense” In Bridge: It Could Be Dangerous…

I often overheard discussion between partners that they will just continue with “common-sense” after certain bidding – in other word they actually feeling lazy to discuss the rest of the sequence. Some “common-sense” also often being asked to be used in the matter of defense. Well, without the hindsight, you will find the “common sense” is no longer that common and make sense. It actually could lead you to a disastrous situation.

Not enough time

Things that people tends to forget when discussing a hand post-mortem is that during the actual bidding or defense you don’t really have much time to think the logic and whatever make sense.

By the time the dummy lay on the table and the first card you lay on the table, there are hardly 30 seconds. Beyond that, you could be penalized for “slow play”. If you are in defense, you are expected to have the ultimate plans to defeat the declarer and the contract – of course, with all the assumption and “what if”. If you are the declarer,  you are expected to have the ultimate plans to make the contract with all the “what ifs” as well.

And it even got shorter for bidding. If partner or opponent bid something unusual, there will be hardly 10 seconds to re-think and try to make sense everything. Longer than that you can be charged with “hesitation” and got penalty for it. (“Hesitation” is assumed to be able to alert the partner that something is wrong or implying unsure bidding or even “may contain secret meaning”).

So, that’s the first reason why common sense approach will not work. You simply don’t get enough time to analyze.

Could be both ways…

If “Common Sense” will have more than 1 solutions than how to differentiate which one is which. For example: you make an opening lead from under a King. Only small ones at dummy and partner product a “9” and declarer show the Queen. Who has the A, J and T ? (The Ace will be most likely be with declarer as if partner has AJT109, he will produce the Ace and continue with J. But how about if he holds: JT9x – common sense of “Third Hand high” will tell you that producing 9 and J will have the same result, or not !.

So, convention will remove ambiguity of common sense. Say the convention is to put the lowest of identical value. Meaning putting “9” denies having an “8”, but “could have  J and/or T”. On the other hand, if the convention is to put the highest value, then putting “9” will denied that partner has  “T” or “J”, but could have “8”. It’s completely opposite expectation from the same “common sense matter”. The same thing apply on opening lead, “KQJxx”, lead J or K? They are common-sensely identical, but not by convention.

This is another point, the fact that a convention is popular, it doesn’t means it makes sense. Holding KQJxx, usually people lead “K” to indicates Q. But this is only valid if a convention is agreed, because leading K or Q or J when you have KQJxx are equal in value.

The same thing with bidding. Considers 3 biddings below, which double is penalty ?

South West North East
1 Dbl 1 Dbl

And this:

South West North East
3 Dbl 3 Dbl

How about this:

South West North East
4 Dbl 4 Dbl

All South’s bid is natural – has Heart suit. Therefore, by common sense, all West bid will all be the same meaning, or not ? I mean if you play takeout double, then all of West’s bid will be take out, but if you play penalty, all the bid will mean penalty. Not really, isn’t it ? How about East’s bid, which one is penalty ?

Well, the fact is, convention will override common sense. Some partnership play take out double up to 4H, then all West’s bid above are take out double. Some play take out double only up to level 2, meaning the last 2 of West’s bid were penalty. The same thing with East, the way I used to play, all East’s bid are penalty. But some people will use it as “choose your best minors”. Again, it’s up to convention.

Imagine if you found this situation on the table and you have not really discuss it with partner. The “common sense” will not help you at all and it could lead into disastrous result.

Final Words

Uncharted territory or “discussed matter” cannot really be judged by common sense as any convention will override any what it looks like “common sense”. What you think as “common sense” could be different with the one thought by other people (including your partner). And more importantly, often we “tweak” our common sense/reasoning with the benefit of hindsight that you don’t have when you really sit there on the table playing.

Therefore, I would suggest to avoid “common sense” approach on your bidding or defense. Use written convention that easy to be refered. And your partnership will last longer and better than you expected.

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