Six Steps to Fixing a Slump

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 01/23/2017
Level: Intermediate

At golf, I usually shoot in the mid 80's.  Occasionally, I go into a funk/slump and can't hit the ball. I hit ground balls, I hit it out of bounds. Ugh.  I know I am better than that.

How do I get out of it?  I used to do it with lessons.  They worked for a while, but then, inevitably, I'd be back in the same slump.

Eventually, I decided to write down a few key thoughts. Whenever I am slumping, I take out the printed list and read it. Usually one or two of the items listed do the trick for me. Typically, I have forgotten my basics. Something as simple/basic as: "Slow down the tempo" or "Make sure you follow through" or "Make sure you have your eyes on the ball as you hit it" will get me back in form.

In bridge, players also go into slumps. Sometimes, it is just a matter of bad luck--not much you can do about that. The luck will even out. Really. But, most slumps are caused by losing track of the basics. Here is my little "checklist" for things you might try to get back in form. Maybe one or two of these will do the job for you.

1) As declarer, make sure you are planning at trick one before playing. Are you playing too quickly to the first trick? Here is my formulaic thinking (do it every single time dummy comes down) for both notrump and suit play:

  A) NOTRUMP -- Count your sure winners. Identify the suit(s) you will set up to create more tricks. Ask what will happen when you lose the lead. "When I knock out their ♠A to set up my diamonds, what damage will they do--what is my stopper situation in their suit(s)?"

  B) SUIT CONTRACTS -- Look at the tricks you have to lose. You are in 4♠ and they have led clubs. You have ♠Jx in dummy and ♠10x in hand. You will lose 2 club tricks. You are also missing the ♠A. You can't lose any other tricks or you will go down. In hearts, you have ♠AKx opposite ♠Jxx. If you don't figure out some plan for that likely third-round heart loser, you will go down. Ask yourself what you can do to get rid of losers. Can I set up a side suit? Can I trump a loser in dummy? Will I need a finesse? Can I put the opponents in to break a suit for me? Lastly, you must always ask yourself: "Should I draw trump now--or postpone it to do something else first."

2) As defender, make sure you aren't dangerously breaking suits and helping declarer. Unless there is something about the bidding or in dummy which suggests you need to make a dangerous/attacking/risky/aggressive play, don't do it!  Are you prematurely grabbing aces?  Aces are meant to capture kings.

3) In the bidding, make sure you don't stop in a partscore when you know you belong in game. Your partner shows opening-bid values and you have opening-bid values--you must not stop in a partscore! Make sure every bid you make is forcing (until game is reached).

4) Doubles. Review the basics of negative doubles and takeout doubles (and responses). Auctions involving doubles come up many times a session. Getting those right is much more important than studying the latest fancy upside-down dragon convention.

5) Come to the table with a clear head. No big meals (or alcohol!) before playing. Be aware that if you are sleeping poorly or over-medicated, you can't expect to play at your best level. Go easy on yourself.

6) Cut down on the conventions/methods. Try to play a very basic convention card with just the essential agreements. Filling your head with uncomfortable clutter and memory makes it hard to take tricks and remember what the contract is. Click here for my list of essentials.

I could go on and on, but part of slump-busting is to try to keep it simple/basic. This list of 6 should be enough. Maybe one or two will do the job for you. Good luck!