Some players are slower than others but there is also a lot of valuable time wasted at the Bridge table. Always make the opening lead BEFORE you write down the contract on your scoresheet and at the end of the hand, North's number 1 priority is to enter the result on the traveller and get it checked by the opponents, NOT to fill in his own personal scorecard.
When partner opens a 12-14 1NT and you have 5-4 in the majors, with 11+ points transfer into your 5-card suit then bid your 4-card major (forcing). With fewer than 11 points, with no aspirations towards game, use Stayman.
Try to avoid the losing Bridge practice of underleading an Ace as an opening lead against a suit contract. Almost as bad is leading an unsupported Ace. The lead of an Ace generally promises the King. If you don’t have this, try to select another suit as the opening lead.
A good way to improve your Bridge playing techniques is to deal some random hands and see how suits break and cards lie. One good one is to test out 'split honours'. Give you and partner 13 cards each including eight spades missing the King and Queen. Then deal the rest of the cards out randomly and see how often you would only lose one trick by finessing twice. The odds are that you should succeed 75% of the time by doing this.
Another one you could try is to do as above but only missing the Queen. See how often you would catch her by playing off Ace and King and see how often you would catch her by finessing. You should find that it is much better not to play for the drop when you have only eight cards in the suit. However, a variation on that is to have nine of a suit missing the Queen. Normally it will be right to play for the drop rather than to take a finesse.
Whilst we have to continue maintaining Social Distancing, why not give online Bridge a try? Bridge Base Online is free with a small charge made if you want to enter any of the club or county events that attract Master Points.
Many Declarers go wrong at Trick 1 because they play too quickly and don't plan the play. When dummy goes down, take a few seconds to reflect whether you are in an easy or difficult contract, whether it will require some luck to make it and, if it looks easy, what are the possible dangers. Should you win in hand, in dummy or duck the opening lead? More haste, less speed at the start often means less time trancing during the middle of the play when things have gone wrong.
Always watch the vulnerability. If you are vulnerable, going down can be very expensive. Minus 200 at Pairs is nearly always a poor result. When you are not vulnerable you can be more pushy, especially if you end up sacrificing against vulnerable opponents. For instance going three down doubled in 5♣ non vulnerable is profitable against the opposition's vulnerable 4♠ but if you are vulnerable and the opposition are not, you cannot even afford to go two down doubled in 5♣.
The most underused word in the Bridge vocabulary by less experienced players is 'Double'. It covers a huge range of scenarios but it is very important to have partnership agreement on whether the double is takeout or penalties. Many more doubles are used for takeout rather than penalties compared to how it used to be. For instance if you opened 1NT, left hand opponent jumped to say 3♦ and your partner doubled, what would that mean, takeout or penalties? It's all down to partnership agreement and if you don't have agreement, you can't really do it at all.
Should you cover an honour with an honour? Sometimes yes, sometimes no and sometimes maybe. When you are defending, it helps to think ahead whether you consider it right or wrong to cover if Declarer plays a certain card. If you don't think ahead, you will either play too quickly and maybe make the wrong decision or hesitate and completely give the game away.
Miscounting trumps is the downfall of many Declarers, either because they leave one out or draw one round too many. There are two good ways of counting trumps. One is to count them as they go but some Declarers lose track when somebody ruffs. One good way is to count up your total trumps when you see dummy then mentally tick off the opposition trumps each time they play one.
A takeout double is probably the most useful tool in the bidding vocabulary. Yet is is a much underused bid as many players are not sure when/when not to double and often nervous about doing so.
Continuing the theme of takeout doubles, many players do not know how to respond to it. Rule of thumb is to respond at the lowest level with 0-7 points, jump with 8-10 points and cue bid the opposition's suit with 11+. With a good stop in the opposition's suit, bid no trumps at the most appropriate level. Occasionally with a very good holding in the opposition's suit, it may be appropriate to pass and turn the takeout double into penalties.