The answer to most questions phrased as absolutes is “No.” But if you modify this to, “Do good bridge players remember most of the hands and bids from past games?” the answer is a qualified “Yes.”
I played at the local club with a more experienced player – gold life master and had won a national championship. The club had games twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays.
One day he picked up his hand and looked surprised, but went through the bidding. He called the director over and said, “This board wasn’t shuffled. I played this hand on Monday.” The director was skeptical, and said it was probably just similar to the previous hand.
But my partner insisted. He then proceeded to call out every spot in all four hands, and they matched. Because of the bidding, and knowing his own hand was identical, he recognized the hand.
That’s beyond me, and I’m a decent player. I remember generally what I had, and how the bidding went, on interesting hands. The rest I forget quickly.
Answer Number 2:
Disclaimer: This is how my brain works and may not represent other bridge players.
I still remember hands from years ago where I messed up the play when I could have made on a better line. These failures are burned into my memory, and I’ll likely carry them with me the rest of my life. I do remember some successes, but not nearly as vividly as my failures.
As far as after a session, I used to remember every hand I participated in, and where almost all of the important cards were without a hand sheet. Important cards being cards I was actively tracking and thinking about during the hand. When you’re constructing all 4 hands based on the auction and play, they tend to make a bigger imprint in your memory. This makes it easy to discuss the hands afterward with partner and friends. As time passes, like everything else, the memories fade.
And no matter how good my memory was, I still couldn’t tell you what I had for lunch on Tuesday last week.
Answer Number 3:
No. I retain all the hands in a session for a few days at most, by which I mean I can generally be reminded, “do you remember that hand where….” not that I could read off the cards I held by memory. But ask me about a hand that occurred a couple of weeks ago and it is long gone.
A few prodigies do remember. Lew Stansby was famous for remembering all the hands in a session years afterwards. However, don’t worry. This type of memory is not necessary to be a great player and anyway it improves with time. Play bridge obsessively for 10 years and you too will be regaling your friends with complete hands you played years ago :).
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