Zia says his heroes in bridge today are players such as Michael Rosenberg and Bob Hamman, who are renowned for their high ethical standards. "I believe that what you get out of the game is pride in your performance and the satisfaction your mind gets from the challenge bridge presents. You can't get that out of bridge if you don't play it the right way."
Zia and Rosenberg believe strongly that equity and the spirit of the laws of bridge are of utmost importance. "I believe in what's fair," Zia says, "and Michael and I take it to such an extent that if someone accidentally drops a card on the table, we refuse to take advantage. That's not how we want to win."
(I like this quotation a lot, especially the last sentence. If you win through bridge lawyering, intimidation tactics at the table, and the like, your accomplishment is to me quite unimpressive. Much more satisfying -- even exciting -- to win by making great plays and bids. But I guess that's my artist's viewpoint, I can't help it!)
"The more you play the more you realize you know so little about the game."
"Bridge is impervious to society's traditional barriers of age, colour, religion or beliefs. Put it down to the magic, the spell that the game mysteriously weaves, bewitching all those who come into contact with it."
(Again the sanctuary idea ... that the bridge table is a different place, a space to escape from the problems and tensions of the outside world.)
Zia propounds the "theory of the three heats." It starts with the basic proposition that it is impossible for anyone to play consistently well. Zia goes on to explain the three categories, or heats, we perform at:
"Heat 1 -- This is the magic heat. You play above yourself. You are no longer a bridge player, you're an artist, a poet. The cards respond to your touch, they fly, they sing, they come alive for you. In addition, everything, luck included, is going for you. You're invulnerable -- you can't make a mistake.
"Heat 2 -- This is your normal level or standard. You play as you would expect to: middle of the road.
"Heat 3 -- You wish you'd stayed in bed. You play terribly and out of luck. Every finesse is wrong, every suit breaks badly. The opponents play like champions and you lose, with a capital L."
(Zia's idea is once you ascertain during a bridge session what heat you're in, you can adjust your game and thereby improve your results. This theory rings true to me. You can read more about it in Zia's book "Bridge My Way.")
"Never give up."
(This may be the most important piece of bridge advice to give to anyone. Once I made a weak jump overcall to 3C, my left-hand opponent passed and then left in her partner's re-opening double. Partner came down with a truly tragic dummy with a void in clubs. Never give up! Just because it looks like a complete bottom, try your hardest. I went down 3 for -500 and tied three other pairs who, it turned out, were in exactly my predicament; if I had allowed myself to get totally depressed I might have gone down 4 for -800 and a true zero.
The last round (or the last few hands of a team match) is another time where it's often wise to remind yourself to never give up -- perhaps your score is better than you think. or your teammates are producing good results to balance your earlier sins. "Never give up" is so important I've written a little article about it featuring a hand I recently played.)
"On the first round of spades, I dropped the J. Why? Why not? It couldn't hurt. However, I couldn't see that it would help either -- but watch ... [later in the play declarer thought Zia had the 10 and consequently made a mistake] ... there are often opportunities to false-card without cost. Sometimes they bring unexpected gains."
"We were bunch of misfits brought together by fate with no partnership understanding -- how could we lose?
"I, as team captain, was responsible for making sure everybody followed my example of never going to sleep before 3 a.m., getting up early to play golf, drinking wine between sessions, and, above all, keeping conventions to the minimum.
"Unfamiliar partnerships often can reap big rewards. The reason? No understandings -- no misunderstandings!"
Quotations drawn from: article in the ACBL "Bulletin," February 1997; Bridge My Way, by Zia Mahmood; and "Return of the Shriek," an article by Zia in Universal Bridge, 1995 no. 1.You can read more about Zia in an essay I wrote, "Kibitzing Zia."