I like to solve bridge problems in newspapers. When I do this, I often get the correct answer, or at least come "within sight" (e.g. get the key idea but "muff" the sequence). This process typically takes 2-3 minutes, because I start by inventorying outstanding trumps and honors, plan the play suit by suit, and identify potential problems.

It's different, in "real time play." Here, when dummy hits the table, I get 15, at most 30 seconds to study it before beginning (e.g declarer) play. If I take longer, others at the table start to grumble.

So I end up playing "by instinct"; I need to clear suit X, or I need to draw trumps or no, I need to save trumps for "transportation." This works "quite well," (relative to my peer group). But I fear that I'm blowing hands, or at least relying on opponents' mistakes, when I actually have a "forced" win.

I do have two advantages in "real time" that I don't have with newspaper columns. 1) I see my hand beforehand. 2) I've heard the bidding beforehand. Whereas, with a newspaper column, I see dummy, my hand, and the bidding simultaneously.

If I were in a tournament, would I get a "reasonable" amount of time (say 1 minute) to study the board before I play?

Or does anyone know of a way that I can speed up my "newspaper" reaction time to that of the much faster "real time" play?

  • Sounds to me like you're playing with the wrong people. I don't think there should be a rush to figure out how to play a hand. Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 14:22
  • @dave: I take your point--up to a point. Even allowing for this fact, my guess it that it takes me more time than is "convntionally" acceptable (e.g. in tournaments). So I want to find out 1) how long is "conventionally" acceptable, and 2) how to get to this point.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 14:24
  • I think this would be very applicable with respect to tournament play: it's still OK for casual play, but I think time should be much less of a factor in casual play. Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 15:21
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    also of course newspaper columns don't tend to print boring hands, in real play some hands are obvious how to play as soon as revealed
    – jk.
    Commented Apr 1, 2012 at 16:20
  • The other day I played a "speedball" tournament in which we had 4 minutes per game. That worked!
    – Tvde1
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 9:10

2 Answers 2


In tournaments, there is no time limit, official or unofficial for a hand or trick; taking 5 minutes to play to the first trick is not unusual. Tournaments don't grind to a halt (i) because there is usually a time limit for a section or session (so you play most hands quickly and have time to spare on the tricky ones) and (ii) because by the time somebody has reached tournament level, he or she will have enough experience to recognize the simple situations (draw trumps/crossruff, duck a trick/cash winners), and will only take a long time for genuinely complex decisions. The only way to reach this point, I am sorry to say, is practice. Find a group who take the game seriously enough to take time over it: join a duplicate club: make a mental note after every hand of the one thing you want to remember about it. And then get some more practice. It won't on its own make you a good player (ask any of my partners), but it will improve your speed.

(There is also the factor that tournament players have to write down their system of bidding and discards, so don't have to worry about remembering them; but it sounds like you shouldn't worry about that at present.)

  • Welcome to the site. Thanks for the answer (a good one). An upvote AND an acceptance.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Aug 6, 2011 at 22:49
  • -1: The statement that there are no time limits in tournaments is blatantly wrong. There are official limits in most major tournaments (depends on the locale/tournament, though), and teams/pairs can be penalized for slow play. The limits usually aren't per trick though, and are over a certain set of hands etc.
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Aug 6, 2011 at 23:47
  • @Aryabhata; maybe I read the question wrong, but I thought OP was asking about a time limit for a hand, which hasn't applied in any tournament I've ever seen. Continuing slow play is a different matter, I agree. Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 0:15
  • @Tim: In essence, there is an 'average' limit per hand. So if you play one very slow, but blitz through the others, it is usually ok. The -1 was for saying there are no time limits whatsoever.
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 0:54
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    @tim: The goal of the site is to improve the quality of questions and answers. That's the purpose of downvotes. These can be removed after edits that improve the "quality."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 18:20

By all means take 1 minute to study the hand. Often this minor delay actually speeds up the play later in the hand and allows an early claim. If you count your hand review the bidding add up points and imagine a detailed "target distribution" for the opponent's hand you know the most about the last five tricks of the hand will go in a flash. Instead of grumbling about your slow play you can grumble back at them when they cant decide what to discard on the last few tricks. (No not really but sometimes i would like to.)

  • Welcome to the site. Thanks your answer. An upvote to get you started.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 15:12

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