For those of us who are prone to anxiety before playing in big tournaments, there are plenty of self-help books to turn to. They don’t specifically address bridge, of course, but the lessons have universal application. Among my favourite authors is Martin Seligman, the celebrated ‘father of Positive Psychology’. Whenever I sit down to play, I try to remember his words on the importance of optimism and positive thinking. Yet there’s one piece of advice nowhere to be found in any of his books: what do I do when my opponent turns out to be… Martin Seligman?
Let me tell you, the man shows no mercy at the bridge table. Not only is he very good, but he hires a team of world-class professionals to compete at the top level. So perhaps it’s forgivable that when I played an online match against him a couple of weeks ago, my efforts to visualise a positive outcome came to nothing.
On this deal, he played with admirable caution to bring home a vulnerable game:
Sitting West, I cashed the ♠AK, then switched to a club. Had Seligman now cashed three top trumps and then played on diamonds, the contract would fail: East would ruff the fourth and play a spade, stranding him from dummy and leaving him with a club loser. To cater for a 4-2 trump break, Seligman’s neat solution at trick 4 was to play the ♥2 from hand. I won and played another club, but Seligman was now able to draw the remaining trumps and claim.
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