Playing rubber bridge the other afternoon for higher stakes than usual (£20 per hundred), I had a memorably miserable time. I just couldn’t pick up any points, and began losing money at such an alarming rate that I told myself I’d play one more rubber, then quit if my cards didn’t improve.
What was I thinking of? As any rubber player knows, the bridge gods have a very cruel sense of humour; just when you’re praying for your luck to change, they give you one last, sharp kick. In my case, you could argue it was self-inflicted. I was finally dealt a wonderful hand, and bid a slam. Not only did I manage to go down by trying — unsuccessfully — to do something clever, but my partner, one of the least forgiving people I know, heaped humiliation on me in a loud and public rant. I was South.
West led the ♦4. 6♠ was an excellent spot — unless West’s ♦4 was a singleton. I worried it was: East (Graham Orsmond) had, after all, opened 3♦. How could I dissuade him from giving his partner a ruff? I’m familiar with a deceptive play in this situation: but I couldn’t afford to hesitate. So when Graham won with the ♦A, I briskly played my ♦K underneath. My hope was that he would think it was me who held a singleton, and that West held ♦42. If so, playing the ♦Q next would set up dummy’s ♦J.
However, Graham smelt a rat. Holding just six diamonds, he knew that if the ♦K was a singleton, his partner must hold ♦432 — and would surely have led the ♦2. So he continued with the ♦Q. When I followed with the ♦2 and West with the ♦3… put it this way, my partner was too outraged to listen to my reasoning, and I left the club with the sound of fury still ringing in my ears.