One of the things that makes it difficult to become a successful bridge player is the fact that bridge is a partnership game. The quest for more first-place finishes, therefore, often revolves around the search for a good partner. This is not just a matter of luck! The top-ranking players have not only good bridge skills, they also have good partnership skills. Let me suggest, then, some tips for attracting and keeping a decent partner.
1. Ask someone. Yes, you can ask to be given a partner, but keep in mind your local game organizer is not hiding Zia or Soloway in their back pocket. You will most often wind up with someone at your own level of play. If you want to play with a better player, you will do better to ask one yourself. When the organizer asks an expert to partner Player X, it is easy for the expert to say “no.” When Player X asks the expert directly, it is harder to refuse. Besides, many experts will be flattered to be singled out: everyone likes to feel that they are recognized for being a good player.
If you feel uncomfortable cornering an expert before or after the game, try calling them at home. Your bridge organizer will usually be only too happy to provide a phone number.
2. Polish your image as a ‘good partner’. Even in casual partnerships that you feel are not worth developing, it pays to do the usual things – be polite, avoid criticism of your partner’s bids or plays, try not to play slowly. Most people would rather partner an unskilled player with a reputation for good manners than an expert who is a snail or a grouch. Follow some of these tips, and you may find other players offering to partner you. You may even notice your current partner plays better when they are relaxed and comfortable around you.
•Make a point of saying to your partner at least once a session, “nicely played” or “well defended”; for extra credit, say the same to your opponents once in a while.
•Restrict post-mortem discussions to requests for clarification (“Are we playing transfers, partner?” “Was my five of spades encouraging?”). Circle more complex hands for discussion after the round ends, or at the end of the game.
•Don’t offer advice or correction to partner or opponents unless they ask, and avoid opening a discussion with “you should have…”
•Thank your partner for the game afterwards, no matter how atrocious his or her play. Offer to have a second game with them sometime.
3. Mentor a novice. If you can’t find a good partner, maybe you can make one! Start off slowly, try to play their simple conventions, be patient. You won’t win as often, but you will be able to take credit for pulling your novice player up from last place to maybe third or fourth. Perhaps you can eventually teach them enough to be a compatible and competitive partner. Meanwhile, it can be quite an ego boost to have a regular partner who respects your knowledge and experience.
And being a mentor will only enhance your reputation for patience and expertise.
4. Be keen. No matter how old you are or how long you’ve been playing, you can always learn more about the game of bridge. Consider trying a bridge class for intermediate or advanced players. Your results may improve, and better results attract better partners. Moreover, bridge classes are a good place to meet compatible players who are learning the same new techniques you are.
Also, try buying a bridge book by a
reputable author. Most experts can
recommend (or even loan you) some titles on topics that interest you. The Bridge Bulletin and
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find the perfect partner right away. A compatible partnership can be a matter of style as much as skill. Some players are adventurous bidder, others follow sound bidding rules. Some are eager to learn and improve, others just want to relax and have fun. Somewhere out there is a partner whose style perfectly complements your own.