Unlike poker, there’s not much money to be made from bridge tournaments (consider yourself lucky if you win £40 in vouchers). There is one event, however, where big bucks — actually, euros — are at stake. The invitation-only Cavendish Pairs attracts top players from all over the world; they are auctioned off (they can buy back a percentage of themselves if they’re outbid) and a huge pot is raised. The 52 pairs taking part in this year’s Cavendish, held last week in Monaco, raised €618,000. The biggest draws were Geir Helgemo and Tor Helness (€47,000), Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes (€44,000), Andrew Robson and Tony Forrester (€33,000), and Krzystof Buras and Gregorz Narkiewicz (€22,000).
But here’s the funny thing: the bidders got it wrong. Well, not entirely: Buras and Narkiewicz won (netting €137,500 for their ‘owner’ and €16,200 for themselves) and Robson/Forrester came second (netting €82,500 for their owner and €9,720 for themselves). But Helness and Helgemo didn’t even make it to the A Final, only the B. Even more amazingly, Nunes/Fantoni didn’t even make it to the B Final — they played in the C and only came second in that.
Which goes to show that, however good you are, sometimes things just don’t go your way. On this hand, the two most expensive pairs came head to head:
Helgemo opened 3♦. Helness (East) chose to pass (great decision: 3NT goes down). Nunes (South) bid 4♦ and Fantoni (North) bid 4♥. Helness led ♣A followed by a diamond to the ♦A and another diamond. Now Fantoni had to decide: should he play trumps to break 2–2 or take his only chance if they broke 3–1 (with West presumably short)? He went for it — playing the ♥J and hitting the jackpot when Helgemo held the bare ♥10. Now Fantoni had just one trump loser: contract made.