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There are always two sides

Every medal has two sides. When we voice our opinion on a subject, we should not do it in a manner that suggests there is no other opinion. There usually is, and often it is just as well-founded as our own.

When I joined BW half a year ago, I did so in the first place because I wanted to learn some things about bridge (and take part in the respective discussions). As we all know, major changes took place in the bridge community since then, and I learned a thing or two about detecting cheaters instead. I'm not giving up hope.

One of the best series of bridge articles I know is Kit's Korner. Nobody would accuse me of being a world class player, so I cannot judge whether Kit is right more often than, say, Gonzalo or David when it comes to bridge advice. What I recognize and appreciate is that Kit has this exceptional ability to write about bridge problems, analyze them from every possible direction and present arguments for either side before drawing a conclusion.

In my opinion, the ability to look at a problem from different perspectives is one of the most important skills in bridge. Now, I'm not saying that other people on BW don't have this ability. But sometimes they act like don't have it. That's actually a pity because the most fruitful discussions about bridge take place when every angle is considered and when either side respects the opposite position.

Let's say there is a bidding poll. In almost every instance I know of, there are at least two reasonable choices - otherwise the hand in question wouldn't have been posted as a problem in the first place. But there is always someone responding to it like "I bid <some call> in a millisecond". What are these people trying to tell us?

If this is only about taking part in the poll, they simply can have their vote registered, so apparently being heard is of importance to them. It would be great if they could also give reasons for their vote, but usually they don't. That's regrettable because one can only guess why they consider this particular choice so clear-cut.

Maybe they want to give their own opinion a greater value by exaggerating how clear the call is for them. As I see it, the opposite result is more likely, because the above response suggests they have not really spent much time thinking about the problem.

In German there is a popular word, "alternativlos", meaning "without any alternative" (but trust me, it sounds better if it's only one word). Over the last few years this word has been heard more and more; to some it is kind of a running joke because it also appears quite frequently in a certain political context. But I'm digressing.

In a German bridge discussion group I hear this word quite often, typically in the context of bidding polls as well. People use it to stress their point. My personal opinion is that this word doesn't display a lack of alternatives, only a lack of willingness to investigate them. There usually comes a time when sufficiently many people have reached the "alternativlos" state; at this point one can be quite certain that no significant progress is made any more in terms of exchanging bridge ideas.

Of course this phenomenon is not limited to bidding polls. Recently I have been involved in some discussions about bridge laws and their application - some of them quite heated, I'm ashamed to admit. With regret I notice that the same state is reached quite early in this kind of discussion.

People in general love to be right about something, and bridge players are no exception. In fact, I am currently under the impression that this is more true about bridge players than about any other type of person. People - well, at least quite a few people - go to almost any length to make their point. At the same time, they refuse to accept that a different opinion might be just as valid.

I'm not sure if the climate of discussions has recently changed along with the process of uncovering cheating in bridge. Maybe it's only a distorted perception, but I seem to read a lot more comments of the kind "Anyone who <does this or that> is <a bad person / very unethical / ...> - you get the idea. No arguments, just a statement to the effect that the own position or ethical standard is clearly superior to everybody else's.

What I would wish for - and I am certainly not excluding myself - is more tolerance and objectivity when it comes to discussing bridge problems, no matter if they're about bidding, play or laws. It doesn't hurt to say "I believe this is a correct / poor decision because ..." instead of "whoever makes this choice must be a complete moron".

While this article is motivated primarily by another thread and a particular discussion about a claim in 7NT, neutrality is an objective one should always keep in mind in many different areas. The ability to analyze a problem dispassionately is essential for a bridge player.

Suppose that a play problem is given where none of the available options is obvious from a technical point of view. Perhaps you think that a certain play is clearly superior to all others, but there is still the chance that you have overlooked a possibility. You should make sure that your conclusions remain correct when you look at the problem from a completely different angle.

Or let's say there is an expert who presents a bidding convention he has invented, including numerous examples where his tool would have led to a significant advantage. At this point one should ask if there are any downsides to his invention. If he is truly an expert, he will be ready to tell you what is lost if one employs this convention. If he says there are no downsides, don't trust him. There are always two sides.

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