Two weeks ago I started a class of bridge at Ascoli Piceno’s Circolo Cittadino (City Club); my three pupils, Cinzia, Giampaolo and Valentina didn’t know anything of the game, it was their very first time at the table. I dealt a deck, turning up the last card, and I started to explain the Whist. I pointed out that it needed to carefully watch and remember any card. Later, at home, I received an email from Giampaolo; he wrote about card memorizing and asked me:
…Are there techniques to develop some specific memory?… Could be possible to make a choice of what might be more useful to memorize?
In my opinion, Giampaolo’s asking dealt with a main key of bridge thinking, and it deserved many responses, not one only; therefore I forwarded it to others, and here are the first responses.
Sabine Auken – I believe that some people have more talent memorizing things than others. Roy for example is incredible with numbers. He knows every single one of his credit card numbers by heart, his passport number, frequent flyer numbers, telephone numbers. If it’s a number, he knows it. I am pretty good with numbers also, but I am totally hopeless with e.g. remembering names or faces, embarrassingly hopeless.
Presumably it is a certain part of one’s brain that determines how good or bad one is at memorizing. There are techniques to improve one’s ability. One technique would be making a story out of things to remember. It is easier to remember a coherent story than single items.
I believe for bridge that translate into remembering tricks instead of single cards is better. A trick tells a story. Somebody leads, the others play a card that often has a meaning, somebody wins the trick. Ask about your opponents’ carding methods and try to imagine what story the card they are playing tells in that context. That will definitely help remembering which cards have been played.
[The title of the article was inspired by a sentence in this response.]
Mike Lawrence – Your question is not so easy. Those of us who have had years of experience occasionally miss a card. Telling a new player how to count cards is so hard that I know of no correct technique to suggest.
Perhaps you might try this. Take an entire suit. Shuffle them. Turn the cards one at a time and then turn them upside down. After three cards are removed, ask the student which three cards were turned. Then do it with four cards. Later shuffle all 52 cards. Turn three of them. This time they will include different suits. As the student gets better at this, turn up more cards.
This is not proven. It is an idea that I have considered in the past. It relies on the adage that practice makes perfect. You might, when doing this, play bridge with the student and at the end of trick two, ask the student what the four cards were in trick one and the four cards in trick two.
Then move on to other questions such as asking the student what hearts his partner played earlier. Then ask the student if he can see a message in partner’s cards. For instance, if partner leads the two of hearts (fourth best) ask partner at trick five or so what the heart distribution is around the table. Ask how he knows.
If this all works, let me know. I do know that this is how I learned myself, one trick at a time.
Rhoda Walsh – When it’s a suit contract, I teach my students to start by simply counting trumps. When it’s a notrump contract, I teach them to decide on one suit that seems important (typically, the suit they are going to try and develop tricks in) and to count that suit. After they master that, then I suggest they one by one move onto additional suits to count, starting with spades, and working their way down to clubs… eventually.
The most important trick I teach is that when the hand’s over, IT’S OVER! If they are thinking about the last hand when they are on to the next hand, they are going to have a hard time counting anything.
Memorizing at Bridge – by Paolo Enrico Garrisi
Part 1: “A trick tells a story”