One of my goals this year is to work on my stamina over long events. To that end, I've just started playing a convention I recently learned of called the Keller* convention. It's not quite as complicated to understand as the nebulous 2♣ bid, but it's much harder to execute. Eugene Hung recently introduced me to Keller, which has been written up extensively by Adam Wildavsky. According to Adam, credit goes to Steve Nellissen who wrote the Bridge World article about it in the February 1991 issue.
The convention is quite simple in principle, but difficult in practice: no discussing hands until after the game is over.
Why play it? There are two reasons that I can think of -- perhaps you have others?
- Help build partnership trust by containing emotional reactions to bad things that happen at the table.
- Improve mental stamina by spending as much time as possible on the hand in front of you (and as little time as possible on the hand just played)
In regard to partnership harmony, Adam commented: "We can be overly sensitive after a poor result, so even a simple question can come across as criticism. After a good result, discussion can seem to the opponents like gloating. Far better just to say nothing. There will be plenty of time to discuss the deals after the session."
In addition to helping your partnerships, it should also help improve your mental stamina, as you will not be analyzing every deal to its logical conclusion until after the game is over.
I've been playing it now for a week or so, and the rate of regression is high (so far), but I am starting to get the hang of it. I'm collecting some baseline statistics so that I can monitor my progress. I'm also trying to get my regular partners on board with playing this convention. But old habits do die hard!
In my short experience with it, I've found that it definitely helps partnership harmony. However, it also has an unanticipated possible negative side effect which is to take away some of the social aspect of the game, a lot of which seems to revolve around discussing hands. Saying "we'll discuss it later" cuts conversation short in an abrupt, almost unfriendly, way. I am sure that as I get the hang of it, I'll figure out other topics to fill the silences.
I'm still working out the finer points of playing this convention. To encourage successful application, I'm thinking of staking cash -- for example, one partner pays the other $1 for every regression. If you've played this convention, do you have ideas for fending off the inevitable falls from grace?
I'm also trying to decide on what absolute ground rules should be set. Should discussion be allowed between rounds (for example clarification of some bidding fine point), or must all discussion be held until after the end of the game? Ideas for what's allowed during the session and what must be saved until later?
I'm really hoping Keller will help improve both my stamina and partnership harmony, which should lead to better results, especially in long events. We'll see!
*The Keller convention is named in reference to Helen Keller.