Our club manager Noorul Malik reveals how he discovered the game, his aspirations for the club and a few tips...
I started learning bridge in 1992. The reason why is very interesting as I had never played cards before. Prior to moving to Harrow, I lived in Lymington Road in West Hampstead at the time I ran restaurants including one in Kilburn, which meant that I passed the Acol Bridge Club five or six times a day. Then one night, while driving back from my London Bridge restaurant, I was listening to LBC radio and heard an advertisement inviting people to “come and learn bridge in Wembley Bridge Club”. It felt like fate and the very next day I went to Wembley Bridge Club and met Paul Wilson who was to become my first bridge teacher.
As I was well-known for my addiction to bridge, it made sense for Neil Rosen to ask me to work with him and help him run his two clubs, an offer I was happy to accept. Since that day eighteen years ago, I have been managing the Acol.
I have met many very interesting, successful, generous and kind people during this time, especially Geoffrey Lederman with whom I have played in many competitions all over England. Nowadays, because of my responsibilities as a manager and need to take care of my members, I don’t play competitive bridge at all. During my time playing at a high level, I listened and watched intently and learnt that even very experienced and good players can get into a mess in their bidding. My philosophy is that the best system is what your partner is comfortable to play and that you shouldn’t bombard him/her with conventions.
As a bridge enthusiast, I see a very bright future for the game with more and more people learning –from the young to the not-so-young and all ages in between. I would love to host an international competition at the Acol. Let’s see what happens - hopefully we can attract bridge superstars to the club.
About my hobbies? Like most bridge players, all sports interest me. I used to play cricket and now love to watch it. I love listening to music - pop and reggae are my favourite genres. I also love going to the cinema and the last movie I thoroughly enjoyed, and which I wholeheartedly recommend to you all, is “The Man Who Knew Infinity”. I am not so keen on the theatre because I see enough drama in the bridge club, mostly very funny but sometimes sad.
I want to use this opportunity to say a big thank you to all Acol members for supporting the club. If I can do anything to make it more enjoyable and welcoming, please send your thoughts and suggestions. Have a lovely week and remember to “BE NICE TO EACH OTHER”.
Back of the Pack Part 5
Browsing the internet the other week, I chanced upon a small ancient tome snappily entitled “Why you Lose at Bridge”*. ‘Sounds relevant’, I thought, ‘perhaps I should buy it for Partner for his birthday.’ Once the brown cardboard parcel had arrived, however, curiosity overcame me and I dipped into the volume myself.
The effect was reminiscent of sitting in Church with a hellfire preacher directing a sermon right between your eyes. ‘Your bidding is merely adequate, and your defence is quite shocking,’ it opened on page 1. Er – yes, probably. ‘You have some playing ability, but you imagine it is much greater than it is.’ Squirm, shuffle, oh, OK then. ‘You tell everyone you score about 50% on average, but you lie, and you know it.’ Mumble, mumble, blush, mumble.
Having got that off his chest, the author warmed to his theme on page 2. ‘It is not the object of this book to do much about your appalling lack of technical skill. It’s probably too late to do much about it anyway. You’ve been making the same mistakes happily for years and you’re going to go on making them.’ Right. P’raps. Dunno. If you say so. Er … ‘You don’t want to know how to make a contract on a double squeeze, dummy reversal, throw-in, because you don’t believe there is such an animal.’ Come again? ‘In any case, it’s not the handling of difficult hands that makes you such a loser. There aren’t enough of them. It’s messing up the easy ones.’ Sniffle, OK Master. ‘Greed, obstinacy, refusal to believe the obvious, sheer carelessness, mathematical apathy…’ (Breaks down into uncontrolled sobbing.)
Once over this bracing existential shock, however, the book proved to be highly entertaining as well as suggestive, largely because of the author’s cast of characters found in ‘a bridge club, any bridge club, your bridge club’. These he flatteringly describes as ‘a conglomeration of over-bidders, under-bidders, natural bidders, scientific bidders, psychic bidders, dud dummy players, dud defenders, timid old ladies, deaf old men, quarrelers who play Bridge for pleasure, trancers who agonise you and masochists who play to agonise themselves.’ Not a skilled diplomat, then, that’s for sure. In particular, these include:
- The Unlucky Expert: ‘his bidding is perfect, his play flawless, but he never wins; all his partners let him down’
- Mr Smug: ‘hasty play to first trick; mismanagement of trumps; failure to throw loser on loser; failure to count hand – yet “Can’t help it, Partner, everything was wrong”’
- Futile Willie: ‘a very bad good player; theoretically almost in the expert class, but he lacks any kind of judgment’
and, last but not least:
- Mrs Guggenheim: ‘no one works harder at being good at bridge; she takes lessons and walks around with a flipper in her handbag; and she can neither bid nor play a hand and never will’.
All of which resonated uneasily with my subconscious, and had me guiltily analysing my smug, futile, unlucky and Guggenheim tendencies.
Now, there is a fair bit of technical stuff in the book. There are intriguing sections on ‘The points you lose bidding’ (lots), ‘The points you lose defending’ (even more), ‘The points you lose playing the dummy’ (oh calamity), and other topics besides. But the main interest to a low form of bridge pond life such as myself is the author’s bridge psychology.
Play with the partner you actually have, he recommends, rather than the one you think you should have or would like to have (which incidentally reminds me eerily of the advice for a successful marriage). So, ‘you must think what would be a reasonable result on your hand with your present partner, and limit your ambition to that.’ And if that partner should be Mrs Guggenheim, well, ‘let her feel pleased she is playing with you. Sympathise with her mistakes, and praise her every time she succeeds in not going down in a cast-iron contract. You will find that she plays twice as well. It will still be appalling, but it will be less appalling.’ Or, as he pithily sums it all up on page 90: go for ‘the best result possible, not the best possible result.’
All of which has certainly made me view Partner in a new light. ‘Still appalling, but less appalling.’ Yep, that sounds about right.
*Why you Lose at Bridge (1945; still in print and available from Amazon) is the masterwork of one S J “Skid” Simon, an early member of our illustrious Club and co-developer of the Acol bidding system. A colourful character, born Seca Jascha Skidelsky, in Manchuria, of Russian-Jewish merchant parents from Vladivostok, he subsequently saw no reason to become less memorable with time. Surviving by what one obituary calls “a series of miracles”, he was renowned for jumping off buses at full speed with his face buried in a book, walking inadvertently through plate glass windows, a tendency to leave crucial buttons undone, the adventurous mischief of his bidding, teasing people mercilessly, and making his team-mates laugh. ‘With him has gone half the fun of bridge’ said a contemporary on his sudden death, at the age of 44, shortly after bidding an outrageous 6 Spades.
Anecdotes concerning the exploits of S J “Skid” Simon can be found at http://www.ebu.co.uk/biographies/sj-simon and the bidding and structure of his last hand can be found in the same place.