Susanna Gross

Bridge | 6 February 2021

Bridge | 6 February 2021
Text settings

The American professor Martin Seligman is one of the most influential psychologists in the world. Known as the father of ‘positive psychology’, he has written numerous bestselling books on the power of optimism, arguing it’s something that can be learned, can cure depression, boost your immune system, and help you reach your goals.

Seligman is also a well-known bridge player. His success at the table is down to two guiding philosophies: first, the importance of hiring professionals to keep improving — he’s not super-wealthy, but, as he says, ‘being a client costs me about as much as others spend on their clothes (I spend almost zero on clothes).’ The second, you’ll have guessed, is to have an attitude of positivity. Pessimists are not resilient; their game collapses after one or two disasters. Optimists, on the other hand, never give up, and are alert to any small chances. On this deal, from a recent online tournament, Seligman showed how an optimist tackles an apparently hopeless contract (See diagram).

East led a heart. It looks like you have a spade and a club to lose (unless ♣QJ are doubleton). But Seligman saw a chance: what if he could eliminate hearts and diamonds, then sneak a spade through? A second spade would force whoever won to give him a ruff-and-discard, or open up clubs. With no indication of who holds the ♠A, why not try the defender who is more likely to duck? So he cashed a second heart, drew trumps and led a spade away from his ♠K. Bingo. East ducked, and on winning the next spade could no better than exit with the ♣J: Seligman won with the ♣K and played a club to his ♣10 — victory.