Janet de Botton and I decided to spice things up a bit at the Young Chelsea heat of the nationwide Portland Pairs on Sunday by having a small bet about which of us would do better. She was partnering the fiery Thor-Erik Hoftaniska and I was partnering the unflappable Phil King. When Janet began surging ahead, I bemoaned my fate to another of the players — Nicola Smith (multiple world champion). She told me that many years ago, she’d had a similar bet with the bridge writer Alan Hiron. Alan had actually done poorly, but at the end he filled out a new scorecard of perfect scores — and showed it to Nicola. ‘Oh, we won’t beat that,’ she conceded. As he had to dash, he asked her to write him a cheque. When the real results were announced ten minutes later, Nicola saw she had been conned — but too late: for years, her framed cheque was displayed in his home.
Alas, these days results are instantaneous, so I had no choice but to hand Janet a crumpled tenner. What makes it worse is that I was still smarting from her superior play on a hand that I botched up in a league match between us the previous week:
Janet and I both ended up in 4♥, and the play began the same way: E/W took three spades and switched to a trump, won in dummy. Next I cashed ♣AK and ruff a club low, then cash the ♥A, ruff a heart, and ruff another club. But — unforeseen disaster! — West pitched a diamond on my fourth club, so when I tried to come back to hand with a ruff, he overruffed. This is what Janet did: first she cashed the ♦A and ruffed a diamond. Next she cashed ♣AK and ruffed a club. Then she ruffed another diamond and now ruffed her last club. That was 8 tricks, and her last two tricks were the ♥AK. All bets are off.
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