Has Zia Mahmood cried wolf one too many times? He’s still the undisputed master of the ‘psyche’ — he has an uncanny ability to know exactly how and when to make deceptive bids without running into large penalties like the rest of us. But he’s done it so often that many players are wary of him: he’s famously not a man to be trusted. Given this, Zia really needs to pick his victims with care. At the recent Cavendish Tournament in Monaco, he tried it on against the cheeky-faced Irish player Tom Hanlon (who, with Hugh McGann, has possibly the longeststanding bridge partnership in the world: 40 years). But the Irish have a nose for when someone is taking the mickey — doesn’t that very phrase originate from Ireland? After his psyche backfired, Zia could be heard muttering, ‘Who would find that lead? It doesn’t make sense. I ask you: how many times do you have to lie to deceive an Irishman?’ Here’s the deal.
Zia (North) was spot-on with his false spade response to 1♦: his side were heading for a slam which could only be beaten by a spade lead. So be honest: sitting West, what would you lead against 6♣? A heart or trump would seem the obvious choice. But not Hanlon. He chose… a low spade! Away from his ♠Q! This was an extraordinary choice given that spades had been bid and supported. Declarer (Dennis Bilde) now had to lose a spade and a diamond. Had any other suit been led, he would have been able to give up a diamond and discard two spades. Hoist by his own partner’s petard.