I am a "developing" bridge player who has come to the conclusion that card reading/counting ability is the most important skill to learn; more than say, new bidding conventions.
There may be a precedent in chess, whereby a number of world champions were the best endgame players of their time, without being the best at the opening. (The endgame also "informs" middle game play.) The analogy would be that bidding is the opening, and cardreading is the endgame. After all, if you can "see" all the cards, you'll know how to play.
Were there any world class/world champion bridge players who were reputed to be the best card readers/counters of their time, even while having other skills (e.g. bidding) that were not top notch? A lot of the "glory" of world championships goes to new bidding styles, but could card reading be a "stealth" road to high level play?