Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Who is a bridge expert?

How would you define an expert at bridge? I think I'm a good player, but I know I still make too many mistakes. Are experts the top 2%? The top 1% or even less?

On Bridge Base Online, players rate themselves. There are tons of experts in the world, according to what I see there.

Playing last Saturday night in a 12-board speedball Swiss IMP Pairs, we played the last round (three deals) against one of these so-called experts. Let's watch him in action.

Deal #10 is this exhibit:

Q 7
8 7
Q 10 7 5
A Q J 7 5
K J 8 5 9 6 4 3 2
A 9 2 Q J 10 6
K 3 9 8
8 5 3 2 10 9
A 10
K 5 4 3
A J 6 4 2
K 6

South opened a 13 to 15 point 1NT, the expert doubled. His partner passed, as he is supposed to do. The expert led a spade won by North's queen. The diamond finesse lost and the expert shifted to a low heart. South took the king and ran the rest of the tricks. Making six was plus 1180 and good for 11.41 IMPs for our side. Nice double, sir.

After this dazzling performance, I couldn't wait to see what he would do next. I was not disappointed:

K 4
J 5
K Q 10 9 8 7 6
A 4
Q 5 2 J 9 8 3
A Q 10 7 4 3 K 9 5 2
J 4 A 2
10 8 K J 6
A 10 7 6
5 3
Q 9 7 5 3 2

The expert opened 2 and North overcalled 3. East bid 4. It passed back to North who bid 5. Then East and South passed.

What is one of the cardinal rules of bridge? Don't tell the same story twice. The expert had not heard about that and unilaterally bid 5. Guess what? That was down two, and, in fact, was a phantom save -- North-South can't make 5.

The expert was lucky. This was only 2.89 IMPs to North-South. It could have been worse if they had doubled.

Had the expert done enough? Oh, no, not even close. This was the third board of the round:

K 2
9 6
K 10 7 4
A J 7 6 2
9 8 7 6 A 4 3
Q 10 8 4 3 K J 5
A 6 Q J 9 8 2
10 4 8 5
Q J 10 5
A 7 2
5 3
K Q 9 3

After two passes, East opened 1 and South passed. The expert bid 1, so far, so good.

North bid 2 and East made a support double. South raised to 3 and the expert doubled! His partner ran to 3 and the expert bid 3. He's bidding like he has two extra aces -- maybe he needs new glasses?

That passed out and was down three, losing 1.05 IMPs. Again, it could have been worse, but by now North-South were feeling sorry for the poor expert and gave him a break by not doubling.

If this is an expert, I don't wanna be one.

If you think I made these deals up, I wouldn't blame you, but here's a link: Click here, or here or here.


  1. You pose a very interesting and provocative question. A smile comes to my lips every time I recall Arthur Robinson's comment on the topic. He said, "The only difference between a novice and an expert is usually one lesson."

    Seriously, most people profess to be better than they really are. Being married to and playing with two Hall of Famers, it helps one's game but doesn't do much for the ego. I may be the only person in existence who plays better than she realizes.


    Judy Kay-Wolff

  2. On BBO: An expert is someone that logged in more then 5 hours per day.

    On planet Earth: An Expert is someone who makes the right play, most of the time.

    One that makes the right play all the time is call a machine!


  3. Stick with the Brits in BBO because we seem to be one of the nations that exagerrate our abilty levels by less. Whereas players from certain other countries, particularly Turkey seem to exagerrate by 2 or even more levels! Why is it too that in BBO individuals even with loads of players that I seem to get to play with the same complete idiot on several occasions??

  4. OKBridge once defined an expert as someone who could see an endplay such as a squeeze coming and break it up (if possible) as a defender. An advanced player was defined as someone who could find and execute enplays if they were available. That's why I classify myself as an advanced intermediate player. I sometimes can't even find my cards!