It’s no surprise that so many bridge players are computer programmers or systems analysts; it’s an ideal game for those who excel at logic and puzzle-solving. But at the highest level, a strong imagination is what really gives you the edge. Certain players have an extraordinary ability to visualise their opponents’ cards, put themselves in their shoes, and then persuade them to go wrong. It’s a rare gift that elevates the game almost to an art form.
Artur Malinowski, the manager of TGR’s rubber bridge club, is one such player. During a recent high-stake game, he pulled off this coup against two formidable opponents, Robert Sheehan and Gunnar Hallberg:
Robert (West) led the ♥A, then switched to the ♦8. Gunnar played the ♦Q and Artur won. Next he played ♠A and a spade to dummy’s ♠Q. Gunnar discarded the ♥10 — a clear suit preference signal for diamonds. The only legitimate chance of making 4♠ is to play towards the ♣K, hoping East has the ♣A — as anyone else would. But Artur felt sure West held the ace: otherwise East would surely not have encouraged diamonds.
Was there anything to be done? Putting East on play was hopeless: he would inevitably switch to a heart and Artur would be left with two club losers. But what if he put West on play and somehow persuaded him to cash the ♣A? After a moment’s thought, this is how he did it: he played the ♥Q from dummy and discarded the ♦10! Robert now assumed he had started with ♦A10 and three low clubs. A diamond switch would therefore be fatal: Artur would ruff the ♦K, return to dummy with a trump, and discard two clubs on the ♥J and ♦9. And so he cashed the ♣A and played another club — handing Artur his contract.