I was talking to the brilliant 27-year old Israeli player Alon Birman at the recent Brighton Congress, when suddenly there was a loud crash: a pane of glass had fallen to the floor. No one was hurt, and as everyone carried on chatting, Alon quipped: ‘It’s obvious none of you live in Israel.’ Alon is quite a star: aside from his dashing good looks, he is part of the Israeli team that stormed to victory at last month’s European Teams Championships. But life for Israel’s top players isn’t easy. Last year, its women’s team withdrew from the Venice Cup, held in Indonesia — my understanding is that the Indonesian organisers stonewalled their efforts to ensure adequate security was provided. At the recent European Teams, the Lebanese Women’s Team declined to sit down to play against Israel. And this month came the news that the Israeli Junior teams were reluctantly withdrawing from the World Junior Teams Championships in Turkey, where there have been violent anti-Israel protests, due to the Israeli government’s concerns over their safety.
But the players play on, undimmed, as Alon proved so elegantly at Brighton when the above hand cropped up.
West led a trump. Alon won and drew the remaining trump. Next he played the ♣A and ♣K, and switched to the ♥Q. West won and played a second heart; instead of ruffing, Alon discarded his club. East, on lead, saw that a heart (ruff-and-discard), a diamond, or the ♣Q would see declarer home, so exited with a low club. Alon simply discarded a diamond — even if West had held the ♣Q, he would have been able to discard a second diamond on the ♣J. Note that had West been on lead, he too would have been helpless: a heart or diamond were suicidal.