In this interview, Jim McAvoy, Victoria, BC resident and bridge champion, shares some tips on how to play bridge.
Learning bridge: Reading about it? Or just playing?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to learning bridge. One group says that you should read about the game first, and to get tactics and techniques from the experts.
Some bridge players attest to the fact that they got introduced to the game and got hooked to playing it right after.
Jim McAvoy, Victoria BC bridge champion advocates a little bit of both. “There is no way around it, you must read and play at the same time. You can get the how-to’s in a social bridge game, but if you really want to excel, you simply must read up on bridge. The good news is that there are a lot of great resources on bridge online, so you can just check in when you have the time.”
However, McAvoy concedes that just hitting the books is not a very fun thing to do. “You would find yourself very easily bored if you just focus on the strategies. Bridge is social and it should be played. It will be very close to impossible to learn how to play bridge just by reading. You need to see the plays in an actual game. Unless you have very strong visualization skills, you will not be very successful in learning bridge by pure reading.”
Learn from the best. “Also, remember that bridge is a game wherein you can play with champions and still win the round. I always recommend playing with really good players to get a taste of how they play the game. There are simply a lot that you could learn by playing with the best. I always welcome people who would want to learn from me and play with me. I like it that they are not intimidated by playing against Jim McAvoy, Victoria BC bridge champion. I certainly would not mind teaching people the game that I love so much!”
What are the traits of a good bridge player?
“Bridge is a game that feels like chess, poker and any competitive sport combined. So aside from being competitive and being a sport, here are the characteristics that I think a great bridge player ought to have:
- Be patient. Anything worth doing is worth your patience. Bridge takes time to learn and master, so be sure that you have the commitment to learn it. And I assure you, it will be worth it!
- Have fun. Bridge is a game, so always have fun. It makes no sense to be playing something that you take no fun in.
- Be very analytical. No doubt about it, you need to keep your head on while playing bridge. You have to be on your toes and be very mentally alert. Or else, you will just lose each and every time! It will always be great to remember that bridge is primarily a game of logic and wits. You need to be very logical to be able to guess what your opponents’ hands are and how they are going to play their cards or defend it. I have an edge, I think, because before I was Jim McAvoy, Victoria BC bridge champion, I was Jim McAvoy, Victoria BC accountant! Simply said, I had the training in being very analytical and very careful. I am not saying that you need to be an accountant to win at bridge. Far from it. You just need to analyze a lot!
- Concentrate and focus. The ability to concentrate and focus is every bridge player’s best friend. From analyzing your hand to bidding, to the play or defense, you need to give it your full attention.
- Anger management. Believe it or not, bridge can become very intense for some people. There are times when a great game of bridge turns sour or, worse, turns into a disaster because of unchecked tempers. Be sure to have even temperaments. Learn to let go. If you have the best score, good, if you have the worst scores, then just let it go and move on to the next game or have tea afterward.
- Positive thinking. You simply cannot have fun with a bridge game if you keep a bleak outlook and if you consistently think that the game is not going well for you. Be positive.”
What resources could you suggest for those who are learning bridge?
“There are a lot of great bridge books out there. The great thing about these books is that they do not have an expiry date and you could keep them and lend them to friends and family. You could use these books to introduce them to bridge. It is such a sound investment!
“Check out Why Lose at Bridge by SJ Simon. It teaches you about the game in a very fun way. The writing is practical and very funny. You may be chuckling along or laughing at what you are reading, but it does teach you the finer points of the game as well as how to avoid making mistakes.
“Another book you should check out is Hugh Kelsey’s Killing Defence at Bridge. This teaches you how to become a discipline counter and how to formulate winning defenses!
“Terence Reese wrote Reese on Play: An Introduction to Good Play. The title says it all. If you want to learn more about tempo, deception and avoidance, then Terence Reese is your man! Another book from Reese is The Expert Game where he explains more about technical errors most people commit and how to avoid them.
“Lastly, you have Bridge in the Menagerie written by Victor Mollo. I think that every bridge player should read this book. The tone is casual, yet it tome is packed with stories and lessons that are both instructive and funny.”
Jim McAvoy, Victoria BC bridge champion is also an accountant. He is a CGA and co-founder of the Victoria CGA firm McAvoy, Rule and Co.