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How the average 'grass-roots' club players feel about psychs

Given that every other week or so an article appears in BW on the topic of psyching, I decided to try an experiment.

 

In my 'intermediate' class, where they have been not been exposed to psychs, I put the following hand in the general lesson deals:

West
KQ92
AQ5
9872
Q3
North
J8643
10743
65
64
East
107
KJ96
Q43
9752
South
A5
82
AKJ10
AKJ108
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
3NT
P
4
P
4NT
X
P
P
P
D
4NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

This is a deal played thirty-five years or so ago in my college-town's duplicate game. This was before the LTT was generally known, and I was South playing with a sweet LOL from the next town up the river. We weren't playing anything special (so please no comments on the auction). My instinct was to open it 2NT, but NT might play better from her side and so was going to open 1 when it occurred to me that I could forestall an opening heart lead by psyching 1 (hoping to get around my partner in the process, but generally when I bid 3NT she always Passed so this was a risk worth running).

 

The auction you see was what transpired. LHO and RHO (sweet LOLs too) were fidgeting during the auction, and yes, I could have doubled 1NT for a good score. But in my youthful exuberance I decided that I psyched 1 to play 3NT and 3NT I bid. This operation was going beautifully... until my 'hero' partner yanked to 4 Tongue Out

 

I 'corrected' to 4NT and this got doubled by LHO. Now, all of BW-dom would know that 1 WAS PSYCHIC Cool but apparently LOLs from my college town didn't. LHO took two minutes on the lead (first lesson - think about your lead before you double) and emerged with...A LOW SPADE.

 

I put up the jack in desperation. When it held, I hooked the diamond, dropped everything in sight and emerged with 11 tricks and iciest top I'll ever call my own. When I use this deal as a teaching tool about psychs, I enforce the auction and await the lead, instructing all players to analyze the auction for discussion later. It might surprise you that, in the six times I've used this deal, five (!) players led a low spade. The sixth led a diamond (so the bottom they get is a little less round, I guess).

 

After the hand, we discuss this oddball auction and learn a few things: 1) When an auction looks weird, it's probably because somebody has done something weird. 2) With a little thought. it should be clear who that somebody might be. 3) If partner bids 3NT in a weird auction, respect it. 4) If defending a weird contract, don't lead weirdly - just lead what's in front of your nose. On this deal, 3NT should be ringing alarm bells, and by the time 4NT hits I might as well put a sign on my head saying: 1 WAS PSYCHIC.

 

I generally don't psych anymore at the club for reasons I've stated before (for one - IMO it's anti-percentage when your good scores should come simply from better judgment and play) but the biggest reason is that right or wrong the average players simply feel they are being cheated when victimized by psychic actions and I don't want to deal with the headaches associated with their complaints. When I ask my students their thoughts, there is unanimity in their opinion: it's wrong, and borderline cheating. With this deal, I try to illustrate that even inexperienced players can defend themselves against a psych, and regardless of their opinions on the practice the ACBL has said it's OK to do (with the provisos on 'frequent psychs in similar situations' and psychic controls).  For many average club players, their thought processes are apparently so rigid that any deviation from the norm is 'dishonest' and therefore suspect.

 

We can discuss the appropriateness of such anti-psych thought again if you want, but I'd rather discuss one important point, 'cuz what I'm trying ain't working: how can I best arm/equip/prepare my students to handle psychs, and what can I say to the average player who dislikes them to at least tolerate psychs?

 

(There is a funny ending to the story at the table. LHO called the director to complain about my psych. I sat quietly while the director sympathized and said 'result stands'. To her dying day, whenever I opened 1 against my LHO she would ask my partner: "Does he have hearts?" Smile

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