Mark Blumenthal

Bridge Tip # 28

The game of Contract Bridge is not all percentages and technical ability. It also involves the interaction of two personalities.  The type of rapport you have with your partner is important also. Be  especially wary if you and your partner are romantically involved. I have  seen experts who are considered unflappable no matter how badly their  partner plays, become enraged if that partner is their spouse or significant other. I think it is  especially likely to happen if there is a great difference  in skill between the two players. My  theory is that the better partner feels betrayed and thinks  ‘How could he/she do this when I have taught him/her better?’   People to whom this description could  apply  should discuss the possibility  this occurring   before they begin to play with each other. Often it will require the better  player to reduce his/  her expectations  to ensure  and  neither  individual will view the other’s mistakes as a  threat to  either person’s ego.


Judy Kay-WolffJune 14th, 2009 at 3:49 pm


It all depends on the magnitude of the disparity in ability. No one can challenge my position being married to not only experts — but Hall of Famers. Besides being blessed by marriages to both Norman and Bobby, it has been a phenomenal privilege and learning experience (with no monetary obligations as the sponsors of today). Great for learning — though one’s ego takes a massive shellacking.

The only demand I made was – nothing was to discussed until we reached the privacy of our suite or home. I found with a glass of white zinfandel in hand, I had a more open mind and was much more receptive to understanding the errors of my ways and his criticisms were softened with each ensuing sip.

Norman did have one failing — though he never uttered a word at the table. When he bit down

on his right lip — I knew I had committed some egregious error — but until we returned home,

my sin was not revealed.

Bobby’s manner has improved in our nearly six years together. Since I just reached the three-quarter century mark, I can blame my stupidity on senility. However, Bobby Wolff always has an answer for everything: “If you’re still so good with words, why can’t you count????”

Can’t win ’em all!

Mark BlumenthalJune 14th, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Judy – I wrote “a great difference in ability.” It’s dificult to include differing disparities in a general essay.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 15th, 2009 at 5:36 am

I understand Mark. I was trying to make a point that I was so outrageously outclassed, it was

ludicrous. Many married couples and significant others are close in ability. Perhaps they fall within your classificatiion I did not.

Realistically, I was practically a rank beginner when I met Norman. To me it was a good session

if I did’t renege or double the opponents into a game. My early exposure to the gurus made me cognizant immediately that there are BRIDGE PLAYERS and bridge players (a fact of life that some people will never be able to fathom). I respected the glory and magnificence of the game but also accepted the realism that hitching my wagon to a star was not going to achieve miracles. I never had unrealistic goals, am not by nature a ‘natural player’ but gave it my ‘all’; and on a few occasions enjoyed some limited moments of basking in the sun. I gleaned what I could from kibitizing an international coterie of superstars and did the best with whatever limited talents I was blessed in other games such as Scrabble, Boggle, cryptograms and other word challenges. I am a competitor by nature and do the best I can. However, I was never harrrassed or upset by criticism of others who were hardly in a position to critique my game. Life is too short to take it too seriously — so I never let it get to me.

From the first day I entered the bridge arena, I realized (even as a novice) that most people

have exaggerated opinions of their allleged talents so I always did (and still do) take them

with a grain of salt. In fact, Norman once said, he thought he was he only person who lived in

Penn Valley who was not a bridge teacher (lecturer, analyst or commentator). Norman was

very soft spoken with a great sense of humor — and I think he was trying to get across a

message in a gentlemanly-like manner.

Kate BlumenthalJune 22nd, 2009 at 12:54 pm

I recall hearing one expert tell his wife, “If I have to waste an afternoon of my life playing bridge with you, you could at least try to follow suit.” It’s generally best if the less experienced player is not taking it all too seriously.

Mark BlumenthalJune 22nd, 2009 at 11:05 pm

I plead guilty to saying something like that when you managed to be stuck in the wrong hand and had to lead away from KJxx rather than lead up to it. I expected more out of you. I have learned. With my first wife I didn’t even keep score though we did pretty well. I did manage to say nothing when you opened a weak two with only two cards in the suit against the Hog. You did entertain Ron, though

Kate BlumenthalJune 24th, 2009 at 9:48 pm

I remember that hand. I actually had the singleton Q of spades and six pretty good hearts. I meant to open 2 hearts but somehow I said 2 spades (before bidding boxes). I don’t think I even realized what I had done until you raised to four with your AT98xx. As it turns out, with Kxx of spades onside, I can make 4 spades but of course I was so rattled at the time that I didn’t.

Keith ZennerOctober 13th, 2009 at 7:42 pm

I was 12 years old when I went off on my mother about her poor play. I have still not learned how to control myself at the table.

Cam FrenchJanuary 4th, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Hey Mark,

I don’t want to cost you many husband points – but rather add to romantically linked (and all) partnerships.

You may recall a code of sorts called R*A*T*S* that was created by a woman expert when playing with her husband. She said she would explain it to the guys because the women already knew.

Her name was Betty Kaplan, and her husband was a world champion and editor of The Bridge World Magazine. Her goal was simple, to allow her husband to express himself in a positive fashion. So she came up with this:

Reasonable: A minor infraction.

Attractive: A more serious faux-pas.

Thoughtful: A more egregious play or defense.

Scintillating: (he wanted something he could hiss) A wonderful play that he missed and she had gotten right.

RATS. As in – “that was a thoughtful switch my partner”

or “you chose an attractive line of play.”

Now if you and your partner can employ these code words, you can keep civility at the table, and smile – especially when the opponents are oblivious to your secret.

Years ago, I was in a partnership with a close friend, and it was becoming apparent that he was the superior player, and that he kept pointing out my bidding/play/defensive lapses at the table, which served no purpose except to allow him to vent and humiliate me. And no -we were not romantically involved. The decorum at the table is at jeapardy (typically by the better player) and that was the case here.

I was at my wit’s end as the game was losing its pleasure for me. I discussed with him my strong preference that he save his criticisms for the post-game refreshments. He tried, but to little avail.

Then I came up with the “Miller” rule. The idea was, if one partner critiqued the other at the table then the non-offending person could state “Miller” which meant the critical one owed one refreshment after the game. You might state “Miller Lite” which was a warning, but one was not obliged to do so. On one hand I cited “Miller” three times, and after that, we had a thoroughly enjoyable session. I enjoyed the post game festivities even more than usual.

May these thoughts serve many partnerships – romantically or just plain bridge.


Leave a comment

Your comment