Saturday, 20 November 2010

The story of Icarus should serve as a warning to all bridge players beguiled by bidding gadgets and conventions.
Trapped on the island of Crete, Daedulus, a resourceful man, built wings of feathers and wax to enable his son to fly away like a bird. " Don't fly too low, " he cautioned the headstrong, light hearted youth, "...... or too high. Keep to a middle range if you can, and don't try to show off. " At first Icarus, heeding his father's warning, and flew cautiously, but in his exhilaration he gradually forgot all about his father's words. The youngster's initial fears had very quickly calmed. His confidence had developed to the point he wondered what more he could do with this splendid invention ? What limits did it have ? So he flapped his wings and flew higher, with everything seeming fine. So he flew higher still, convinced there was still plenty of margin for error. But as he soared higher, the wax on his wings started to melt. The feathers fell off, and he plunged to his death into the sea.
Well, bridge clubs are full of players who fall victim to the Icarus Syndrome. They too are often asked to use a gadget, such as a new bidding convention, by their more experienced partners. They choose to listen at first to the advice given............but only to ignore it later on. The device of course works perfectly well within the limits laid down, but in no time at all they become tempted to stretch the circumstances in which they might use it again. Sometimes they choose to use the gadget or convention on a point or two less, when the vulnerability is unfavourable, or when the suit(s) are not as robust as they should be.
This syndrome is a vice born out of over-confidence and inexperience. It is an affliction where blind faith replaces common sense. The initial success of the gadget makes them feel invincible, losing sight of the fact that the convention only works when the conditions are right. Like a child with a toy, they push the boundaries as to how far and in what circumstances the toy can be tested.
Tragically, far too many run-of-the-mill bridge players suffer from an obsession with bidding gadgets, becoming over-confident to the point of arrogance. Advice is completely ignored as the desire for experimentation becomes all too consuming. At no point do they realise that a bidding convention does not turn a poor player into a good one, as if by magic. A gadget in fact can only be as effective as the player who uses it.

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