Saturday, December 11, 2004 7:22 AM

Hand Evaluation – Visualization ( Thinking in Patterns II )




            Thinking in patterns is more than important to reach another level in Bridge . Thinking in patterns is Bridge. Applying patterns is the Sherlock Holmes way of solving the case from examining the clues from the hand patterns. One of the greatest mysteries to me is that I know a number of local experts who apply patterns as a matter of course when they are playing the hands. They play the hand “double dummy” because they have everybody’s distribution “read” . Squeezes , endplays , finding cards all stem from thinking in patterns in the first instance. You know LHO is 4-4-3-2 so he will be squeezed in the two 4 card suits he is holding. RHO has pre-empted & shown up with 3 clubs so along with his 7 card suit he is 7-3-2-1 so you strip him of the two cards & the one card & throw him in with his suit so he is end played . He must give you a ruff & discard. You know that a finesse is twice as likely to succeed as RHO has twice as many cards in that suit as his partner and on & on.


            Playing with a partner that does not have his patterns memorized yet or fails to apply them is just playing Bridge at a very mediocre level. You are just guessing all the time when the clues are right before your eyes by applying patterns . Recently in the Edmonton regional , declarer was in a 3 partial with K109xx on the board & now more entries. Declarer leads the J and lets it ride with me showing 3 hearts. You have AQx so you now apply a pattern 5-3-3-2 so you win the queen . You return another suit declarer wins & leads another . You win the A so the board is dead or is it ? You now lead another heart in a vain hope that partner ruffs it . Of course partner fallows suit so declarer happily makes his contract.


            You are defending a 2♠ partial with ♠J9xx with ♠K8x on the board . Declarer overcalled spades showing 5 of them . The pattern in which you are working with is 5-4-3-1 . Declarer leads a spade so as you have no idea what’s going on the spade suit due to not applying patterns you insert the ♠9 . The declarer plays the ♠K & I play my stiff Ace. You have just cost yourself a vulnerable down trick. +200 instead of +100 blows 3 IMPS for being lazy.


            So far not applying patterns has cost you a mere 6 IMPS & 3 IMPS thus far. How about 17 IMPS for not realizing the trump are 4-4-3-2 in a vulnerable slam ?  Declarer is in 6 with the dummy AQxx Axxx Axxxx . Partner leads the ♠J & declarer wins the ♠K . He plays a heart to the Ace &   finesses the heart losing to the Q. Declarer now cashes the K goes to the A . Declarer plays the AQ of spades & pitches a . He now ruffs a diamond so you know declarer is 1-4-3-5 . Declarer leads a ♣ ruffs it on the board so now declarer  announces that he cannot make it. He knows this as he cannot get back to his hand for the good ♣’s  as the pattern is 4-4-3-2 so he must promote a trump trick for you. However having no idea what the trump hand pattern is you ruff the spade & declarer overuffs to make his +1430. You offer the alibi that you forgot the spade was not good but that hardly matters . You discard on the spade & let him “win” it but he still must ruff a with his last trump promoting your trump anyway. You were just too much of a novice Bridge player to say 4-4-3-2 as the trump hand pattern & following what is going on.



            Applying patterns is a must have skill in Bridge . All Bridge thinking depends on this visualization skill. When you have troubling sleeping or during commercials train yourself in patterns . 5-4-3-1 , 6-4-2-1 , 7-2-2-2 , 4-4-3-2 , 5-4-2-2 . There are not that many. The next step is remembering to actually apply them at the table. It may take you years to perfect the habit but believe me your game will jump at least one level.  When an expert does not do it all the time on defense , it is just plain laziness as they have the patterns memorized for declarer play.


            Applying patterns is invaluable for Bridge bidding also . Partner opens 1 & you bid 1NT with opener rebidding 2. You bid 3 on ♠xx Q AJ98x J109xx . Partner now bids 3♠ so what hand pattern is he showing  ? 3-5-4-1 so partner has a stiff ♣. This is invaluable as you have no wasted HCP’s in clubs. Openers 16 HCP are all working with your hand. You now leap to 5 but the finesse fails so you only make 5 instead of 6. However not being trained in “thinking patterns  you bid 3NT & go two down. You cannot play Bridge properly without thinking in patterns , period.


            The auction goes 1♣-P-1-P




You are on lead with AQxxx so with the auction screaming for a diamond lead , you lay down the Ace. Partner encourages  so you continue with 4th best  with partner winning the K . You have Kxxx & the board & declarer two each so what is the diamond distribution ? You know declarer is minimum 5-4 in the blacks from the bidding so giving declarer the rest of the diamonds means there are 14 cards in declarer’s hand as well as a void ! You do not translate the bidding into a pattern so you return a diamond , giving declarer a sluff & a ruff  to make a vulnerable game.


            Thinking in patterns helps you avoid bidding errors. Qxx KQxx xx ♣KQxx you hear the bidding go 3♣-P-P-4  by partner. You bid 4 so partner bids 4which is the standard way of showing a huge two suiter after the opponents pre-empt. You now apply patterns to visualize partner’s hand & she could be 6-6 in spades & diamonds or 7-5 in spades & diamonds or minimum  6-5 in spades & diamonds. Knowing all this , how valuable are your two KQ combinations in partners known singletons or voids ?  Accordingly , you pass 4 & pick up +650 as partner was ♠KJ10987x x AKQJ10 ♣void. 



Thinking in patterns is supposed to prevent such baby errors. However , it is more than that. Thinking in patterns helps your opening leads , defensive play , bidding & declarer play. Thinking in patterns is how you play Bridge , period. If you do not think in patterns , give up all aspirations of becoming an expert or good Bridge player . It is not going to happen.




  4441  2.993219

  4432  21.551176

  4333  10.536130


  5530   0.895203

  5521   3.173900

  5440   1.243337

  5431  12.930705

  5422  10.579668

  5332  15.516846

6610       0.072340

6520       0.651056

6511       0.705311

6430       1.326226

6421       4.702075

6331       3.448188

6322       5.642490

7600       0.005565

7510       0.108509

7420       0.361698

7411       0.391840

7330       0.265245

7321       1.880830

7222       0.512954


            My latest attempt to get partners & team mates to think in patterns is to use golf as an analogy to memorize the 13 most common patterns. Ask your caddy for a 4 iron. This means the patterns with a 4 card suit as the longest 4-4-3-2 , 4-4-4-1 & 4-3-3-3 . Ask you caddy for a 5 iron this means the 4 most common patterns with 5 as the longest suit 5-3-3-2 , 5-4-2-2 , 5-4-3-1 & 5-5-2-1 . Ask your caddy for a 6 iron which means the patterns with 6 as the longest suit 6-3-2-2 , 6-3-3-1 , 6-4-2-1 , 6-5-1-1 . Finally ask your caddy for a 7 iron 7-2-2-2 or 7-3-2-1. Memorizing these paltry 13 patterns will change your Bridge game dramatically . Just do it.