I couldn’t help snorting when I came across an article in the Guardian last week (about the ongoing legal battle to get bridge recognised as a sport) in which the game was described as ‘genteel and physically unchallenging’. What? Bridge is physically exhausting — all that sustained concentration leaves you floored. As for genteel — ha! On the whole, we’re such a boorish and unkempt lot that the English Bridge Union feels obliged to place a slip of paper on every table before a tournament, exhorting players to ‘greet others in a friendly manner’ and — I’m not joking — ‘take care of your personal grooming’.
Even the way we treat our own partners would astound the non-initiated. At one point during the Easter Congress, Janet de Botton shouted loudly for the tournament director. Uh-oh, I thought, what have her opponents done? But no, Janet was complaining about her partner, Thor Erik Hoftaniska. ‘He’d been shaking his head at me and smirking in contempt for the first five hands,’ she told me later. ‘So I got the director to shut him up.’
In fact, Thor Erik and Janet are close friends; they both know that angry outbursts are part of the rough-and-tumble of this most ungenteel and physically demanding game. Thor Erik’s edginess goes hand-in hand with his flair for the game. He played this slam at lightening speed.
E/W stayed silent in the auction. West led the ♣10. Thor Erik won in dummy and — before touching trumps — immediately played a heart to his ace. Quite hard for West to jettison his ♥K at Trick 2! (Note that if West had held doubleton honour he would have been end-played regardless.) Thor Erik now drew trumps, eliminated clubs and diamonds, and exited with a small heart, hoping for the best — and he got it. West won and was forced to deliver a ruff-and-discard.