Sunday, May 19, 2013

Karma and Dharma
(or How to prevent your stupid partner from making a mistake)

Karma is a trendy word.
Many use it as an excuse: It’s my karma, they say, to explain that destiny has decided for them, that they can't do anything, that they are always unlucky.  If everything was written beforehand, people with the same karma should arrive at the same result, which is not the case.
Some, born with a silver spoon in their mouth, waste their lives, while others, born with absolutely nothing, achieve astonishing success.  Why is that?
Well, it is because we forgot dharma.  Karma is maybe what we receive when we are born, but dharma is what we do with it.  Thus man is always free, whatever his debut in life.
The bridge player also is free, whatever the cards he receives.
You have:

Your partner opens 1

You lead the 8 of hearts.

Declarer plays small in dummy, partner wins the Queen, plays the Ace and returns a heart.  You ruff and play a club: Queen from partner, Ace from declarer, who then plays AK of spades, 10 tricks.  You get almost a bottom and start the usual whining:
"It’s our karma.  How can I know you have the Ace of diamonds and not the Ace of clubs?"
Examining the score sheet, you find all sorts of results, typical of a local club game.

Contract Score
4♠ = - 420
4♠-1 + 50
3♠-1 + 50
3♠-2 + 100
2♠ = - 170 (you)

A "normal"’ score sheet in your club.  How is this possible?
All the players have the same cards, no?  How can they make 10 tricks at one table and 7 at the next?  Is Karma all mixed up?  NO. 
Some players invoke karma to explain their failure, others use dharma.  Let’s have a closer look.

8 of heart lead, small, Queen, small; then Ace, small, small, small.
Now what card must partner play to suggest a diamond return? 
A big heart obviously, to tell you to play back the higher suit, diamonds.  So you ruff and play a diamond to partner’s Ace who returns a 4th heart.  Declarer discards his losing diamond, you ruff, end of defense, 2 making.  How can 2 go down?  You can’t see it.
On the last round, you are bye and you decide to kibitz the best pair of the club.  You’re lucky: they are playing that famous 2 board.  Same bidding, same lead.
But, on the big heart return from his partner, signaling diamonds, the player with your cards, after ruffing, makes a play that astonishes you: he plays the King of diamonds.  His partner then makes another play that stuns you even more: he takes the King with his Ace, then cashes the Queen.
Defenders now have 5 tricks: 2 hearts, 2 diamonds and 1 spade.  After the diamond Queen, the 4th heart is now played.  What is he doing?  Is he really giving a ruff/sluff?
Declarer, witnessing all this marvelous play, cannot help being amazed: he knows very well he will get a zero, but he can only admire the beauty of this sequence of play, this dazzling and infallible logic.  He ruffs with the 10, knowing very well it is useless.  West over ruffs with the Queen, 2 down one.
This result has nothing to do with luck or bad luck.  The only bad luck for declarer was to play this board against those players.  The cards are the same for everybody (karma) and everyone has the possibility to play them for the best result (dharma).  Wanting to learn, you ask explanations.  You should always ask good players, they will usually answer.  If you don’t ask, they will not tell you.
"Why the king of diamonds?"
"Since my partner has signaled diamonds, I play the King so he doesn’t make a mistake, to force him to cash the Ace at the second diamond play. That way, declarer cannot discard his losing diamond on the 4th heart."
"And why did you take the King with the Ace?"
"To prevent my partner from making a mistake.  As I have AQJ10, it is easy for me to take the King and play the Ace.  If I play the 10, who knows what can happen?"
"And why a 4th heart, and not a club?"
"My partner passed on 1. With the King of diamonds and Ace or King of clubs, he would have made a negative double.  So partner doesn’t have a club honour.  Declarer has redoubled to show a good hand, so he has AK of clubs.  My club Queen is dead.  The only hope then is that partner has the spade Queen.  It is not certain, obviously, but it is the only chance.  If it works, good for us; if it doesn’t work, we couldn’t beat 2."
"Thank you very much, it is very clear.  So, if I understand well, playing defense is mainly preventing partner form making a mistake.  I have to think for him?"
"Yes.  You know Murphy’s Law: if something can go wrong, it will.  If partner has the chance to make a mistake, I must prevent him from doing so."
The next time you play bridge, instead of looking around fearing your bad karma, think of preventing your partner from making a mistake.
Think about karma and dharma.  When you look at your hand, you see your karma.  You can leave it as is, and then complain.  Or you can use your dharma: play your cards the best way you can.
Good players don’t care about karma. They believe only in dharma.

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