Have you ever cooked way too much of a one-pot meal for anyone to eat, or have you ever gone to the trouble of making a whole heap of grilled sandwiches when all you really wanted was two?
I think most people have. And the first thing you think is, “Why the hell did I just do that?”
I’ve done the same thing in the kitchen (Note: A lot), and I’ve done the same thing during a few bridge games too. I imagine that a lot of other players have done the same thing too.
The good thing is that it made me realize the importance of taking a closer look at the question of why during the game, whether you’re analyzing someone else’s previous plays or trying to figure out what the next best move is at the table.
Here are a few thoughts about why you should think of motive before anything else.
“Why Did I Just Do That?”
Whether we’re talking about bad bidding or losing a trick with a vital card, examining the motivation for moves is one of the most powerful forms of analysis we have – and it’s what people look out for when they’re reading any coverage of the game.
It’s not just the How of tricks that’s important to how you play, but the elements of examining just why that move was made: Asking after a game can help you to get into players’ heads or solve a bridge puzzle; asking during a game can stop you from making any really bad choices.
If you can’t explain why you’re making a certain move, that’s your cue for having to think twice about making it. This is a helpful rule especially to newer players – and it can force you to really look at your game and method.
Essay questions force you to motivate your answer for a reason, and teachers can usually tell when their students are giving them a runaround because they can’t really do it. The same applies to bridge.
When Moves Go Bad
If you’re currently absorbed in the middle of a game and you’ve made a bad move (to your partner’s dismay and your opponents’ possible delight!), the first thing to realize is that not all is lost.
Sacrificing the wrong card at the wrong time rarely means that the entire game is a lost cause. It just means that one route towards the cheese has been blocked: Now it’s time to find another one.
When you think that a move has gone bad, rethink.
If your regular route to work is blocked off by traffic or a sinkhole, you don’t call in and tell them you can’t find your way to work: Most rational people (barring that all other roads are blocked too) would find a next-up route as alternate.
And in bridge, once you’ve screwed up, you can find a next up move in the same way.
If you have to ask, “Why did I just do that?” in the context of a bad move, make sure your next question is, “What do I do next?”