This may sound odd, given its male-only membership, but the Portland is one of my favourite bridge clubs. I’m one of many women who are invited there regularly (in fact, I can claim to be the first woman to have played at its new premises in London’s St James’s Square), and we’re always welcomed with tremendous friendliness — not to mention gourmet dinners and far too much wine.
I was last there in December for the club’s inaugural auction pairs, the brainchild of its new chairman Chris Kemp. My partner was Patrick Lawrence and I loved every minute — despite being duffed up by the eventual winners, the brilliant Scottish player Willie Coyle and the extraordinary Bernard Teltscher, who at 92 continues his one-man campaign to prove that bridge keeps you eternally young and sharp. On this hand, Bernard caught me in a vice and showed no mercy:
My partner led the ♠10, and I cashed my three top spades, then switched to a trump. Bernard won and played another trump to dummy’s ♥Q. My 1NT bid showed 15–17 points, making it certain that I held both minor suit kings, so he wasn’t inclined to try either finesse. Instead, he cashed the ♣A and came back to hand with a trump. He continued running trumps, discarding clubs, until he came down to three cards: ♥4 ♦3 ♣J in hand, and ♦AQ ♣Q in dummy. I had come down to ♦KJ ♣K. On the play of the last trump, Bernard threw dummy’s ♣Q and I was squeezed: if I discarded my ♣K, Bernard’s ♣J would be a winner, if I discarded a diamond, he would drop my ♦K under his ♦A. I chucked my ♣K and it was all over. You’ve been warned: beware nonagenarians bearing cards.
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