District 25
NEBridge - The Individual: Tips from Mark Aquino

How to Excel in the Individual

Duplicate bridge is basically a partnership game. For the last few decades, however, once a year the spotlight in New England has shone on the play of individuals. No one has done better in the annual Individual Tournament than Mark (the Shark) Aquino. He probably could have recounted half of the hands from his victory in 1978 (he also won in 2002), but instead we asked him for some tips on how to adapt to this novel event. Here are his top five pointers. 

1. KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid — This is not the time to trot out a lot of conventions. The fewer the better.

2. Be pleasant! — Even if your partner dumps you mercilessly, you need to be nice. Others around you will notice your behavior and the classier you are, the classier they will be when they play with you and you will get a lot better score because of this.

3. If you can, try to steer the play your way. If you can't, be conservative. This is matchpoints and plus scores are good. Don't stretch to bid thin games or slams — especially if your partner is declarer.

4. If you like to "operate", wait until the second board of a set to do so. Even if it backfires, your partner will be moving on to a new table.

5. Scope out the field. After the first session, you will know what sections your partners and opponents will be from. Take the time between sessions to determine who this will be and go check the recaps of those sessions. Let's say for example that you are sitting North, and you discover that the Souths with whom you will be partnering are from Section A, the Easts who will be coming to your table are from Section B, and the Wests from Section C. You'll probably find a few scores that stand out. In the 3 sections you will be encountering, there will probably 1 or 2 60%+ games, and 1 or 2 40%- games. Put some shorthand notes on the inside of your private scorecard. S++ 1,4 S-- 6,8 W++ 2,3,5 W-- 7,8,9 E ++ 1 E-- 3,4 Now, keep track of who is at your table. If you are playing with a ++ against two --'s, take a few liberties, bid a bit more aggressively than normal, etc. On the other hand, if you are playing opposite a -- against two ++'s — fasten your seatbelt.