Not many players can pull a fast one on Gunnar Hallberg. The seasoned Swede, who came to live over here 20 years ago, has a fearsome reputation, both internationally (representing Sweden, then England) and also at the rubber bridge table. For as long as I can remember, he’s been a regular in the high-stake game at TGR’s in London. He’s notoriously hard to beat, even for other pros. And yet there is one player who he’d readily admit is more than his match: the club’s dynamic manager, Artur Malinowski.
The other day, Gunnar came up to me with a stunned look on his face. ‘I can’t believe what Artur just did to me!’ he exclaimed. ‘How did I fall for it?’ Gunnar was South, Artur West, and Janet de Botton East (see image).
Artur led the ♠Q to Janet’s ♠A. From an original holding of 4, it’s usual to play your lowest card back. But for whatever reason, Janet returned the ♠8, suggesting she’d started with 3. But Artur knew that if Gunnar held 4 spades, he’d have bid 1♠ over 1♥.
Quick as a flash, he saw a way to beat the contract. If Gunnar knew spades were 4–4, he’d simply knock out the ♦A; but if he thought they were 5–3, he’d need to decide who held the ♦A, and whether the heart finesse was a better bet. When Gunnar ducked the ♠8, Artur won with the ♠J and continued with the ♠9, as if he had the rest of them. On winning, Gunnar cashed his clubs. Janet did well by discarding small diamonds, giving nothing away. Artur discarded an encouraging ♦10 (suggesting he held the ace), followed by a small heart. Gunnar now played a heart towards dummy — and Artur played the ♥10! Gunnar won with the ♥A and confidently played a heart back to his ♥8… and Artur’s ♥Q. And Gunnar nearly fell off his chair.