2015 leaves many bridge players with mixed emotions. I have played in more wonderful, high-level tournaments than ever before (Iceland, Vilnius, Cavendish Monaco and Lederer to name four) but all of them were overshadowed this August by the greatest cheating scandal in bridge history. Four world-class pairs were outed and banned awaiting trial, three of their teams withdrawing from the Bermuda Bowl as they had qualified with cheats. For my last column of the year I want to pay tribute to possibly the greatest player of all time — USA’s Bob Hamman. I have taken the hand unashamedly from Bobby Wolff’s marvellous book of his favourite deals and it shows Bob’s genius at work in defence:
Wolff (West) led ♠7, dummy played low and Bob (East), reading partner’s 7 as his lowest, correctly inserted the ♠Jack which declarer ruffed. Next he laid down the ♣Ace and ruffed a club in dummy with the ♦8. Now put yourself in the East chair. What would you do? Overruff and play a heart? Overruff and play a spade? Overruff and play a diamond? Mr Hamman did none of the above. He discarded a spade! Declarer was in dummy. East still had three trumps. What can he do? If he crosses to hand in trumps and ruffs another club he is finished. He could ruff a spade to hand but he has lost control and has to go 3 down for -800. If Bob overruffs — which almost everyone on the planet would do, declarer gets out for one off.
For his memorable defence, Hamman’s team won 7 IMPs and went on to win the match by 5 IMPs. Had he overruffed they would have lost — and they were playing the US trials. Awesome! Merry Christmas.