What is it like to be a novice?

I have recently joined a Bridge club. The card game rather than the fans of suspension variety. I have played a few time before this but I did not have much idea of what I was doing in the bidding process. I had played whist, another trick-taking card game, so I get playing the bride hand more that I get the bidding.

But I am essentially a Bridge novice.

The folk at the club are very welcoming and are generously supportive to new players. They do use a “look” when one makes a major error but I am fine with that. I can’t really be too concerned about making an error when it is outside my Bridge playing expertise.

Being a novice means there is a load I don’t yet know. Note the positive nature of the word “yet”. I know I can learn and I am confident in my abilities to be able to become a reasonable Bridge player. That attitude is not present in every one of our novice learners – the children in our class.  They will not have had as much learning success as I and you have had. I am also quite learning resilient. I can cope with the inevitable setbacks. Make a mistake, of which I will make loads, shrug and note to check out what I needed to do back at home.

I have many advantages over most children who are novice learners.

But… let me say it is very challenging to know so little. There is so much to learn. I have used YouTube, books, websites and the kind folk at the Bridge club to help me learn. But while I can get the specific Bridge bid right when the practice area is well defined, for those who know my response to partner’s one no trump bid is fine, I am rather lost with many other bids. I just don’t know enough and in particular, I have little understanding of the “why” of bids to make it make sense.

This is not really about Bridge!

We play hands and on the Friday sessions it is allowable to ask questions, take bids back etc as it is a learning process for most of the players. Such behaviours would not be possible on the “proper” Bridge evenings! The Friday players claim that playing is one of the best ways to learn bridge. Secretly I disagree but who am I to question their wisdom? The problem is that while I might be picking up some elements of Bridge I know too little to put these snippets into any cognitive map of Bridge. Hards are random so we may never come across more than one of a particular type of hand so understanding and repetition are not featuring.

But what is happening, after 4 weeks, is I am beginning to understand the things that do repeat. How to count cards before we start bidding. WEhat the bidding boxes are for and how to use them. Simple but n=mysterious until one uses one. Actually how to lay out my cards when I am dummy. No comments please!

What is happening is I am building up enough knowledge to start building a cognitive map. I now don’t have to spend too much time thinking about such matters and I can concentrate on deciding what to bid after my partner’s one no trump bid.

The idea that you learn by playing is probably true but this is a form of discovery learning and as a novice, it is very difficult. I just don’t have enough knowledge to be able to benefit from playing so much Bridge. Once I have built a significant amount of knowledge I will be able to learn what to do when my partner bids two no trumps.

Until a learner has enough knowledge discovery is a poor learning process. When they do have enough prior knowledge discovery becomes more useful, although I would argue for explicit teaching and then using the Friday sessions as practice of my Bridge knowledge.

I have now started attending Thursday sessions where we are specifically taught Bridge. Love it. This works for me.

Teach them enough and then practise. Best way of novices learning.