Another way to gauge whether you are better, of course, is to play against a computer and see if you are getting better scores than before. The robots are not any better, and the field probably isn't either.
It has been a few months since I played a robot tourney on BBO, so I decided to see how well I did. It appears that the format has been changed, and the tourneys are now flighted. BBO put me in flight B and I came in first in B, but only 3rd overall. So, at first blush, it appears that there is no improvement -- coming in 3rd out of 20 players is about where I usually landed up a few months ago.
Still, digging further, I see that there were just two hands that made a difference. One positive and one negative.
Hand 2 was the negative influence. The thing is that I still do not know whether I made the right decision (scoring is IMPs). I bid 3H and made 4 for a pick up of 0.9 imps. Actually bidding and making 4 would have been worth 9 imps (enough to win). Would you have bid 4H on this hand?
At the table, I decided that my club shortness was offset by the unsupported Jack, and so my hand was not worth any upgrade. My hearts were piss-poor, so I took the low road. Right decision?
Next question: how do you play the hearts? Lacking the 10 of hearts, I led low to the King. That struck gold and I was soon in +170. Lots of others seem to have tried to run the jack and finding that they now had 2 heart losers. Which is why I actually gained imps for not bidding the thin game.
Hand 5 was the positive influence and the reason I at least came in third -- by bidding and making a vulnerable game that the field went down in.
Would you have bid 4S on this hand? My diamond singleton, 9-card fit and two aces convinced me. The field was also in game. East leads the two of hearts. Plan the play.
Well, if East has 4 hearts (likely from the lead) and 6 diamonds (likely from the bid: if West had 5 diamonds and no spade honors, he would surely raise to 5D), he will have only 3 black cards. Most likely, I thought, a singleton spade and 2 clubs. In that case, game is cold -- I can lose one spade, one diamond and one club. So, that's what I played for, changing the way I played the clubs once East showed up with 2 spades (why didn't he lead his singleton?). The field, on the other hand, seemed to be finessing clubs the wrong way, so the play here was worth 9 imps.
Maybe I am getting better -- a year ago, I'd have been played the club suit in isolation too. Now, I can see that the best way to play clubs (taking the bidding, presence of two spades and heart lead into account) is to cash the Ace and lead towards the queen.
Another possibility exists of course. It never even occurred to me in the play. What if East had a singleton heart and 4 clubs? That would explain the heart lead and the lack of a club lead. My line in clubs would then be the worst ... I should have checked that East did not start with a singleton heart by ruffing a heart ...
No one plays bridge because it's an easy game.