‘You know what people say about you?’ Zia Mahmood told me the other day. ‘You play really well but then go berserk. Good-good-good-berserk.’ He’s absolutely right, and I love him for telling me straight, in typical Zia fashion.
I’ve been struggling for a long time to overcome my sporadic lapses of concentration at the table. Of course, it happens to many of us: we get tired, we lose focus, we do silly stuff. But I’m determined to minimise these blips, and, like several of my friends who play competitively, have decided to take myself off to a sports psychologist.
This will come as good news to some of my partners, who know all too well what I’m talking about. Playing with Alex Hydes in the London Easter Pairs, I bid an excellent slam but then — inexplicably — fantasised that I held ace-doubleton in my hand when in fact it was a singleton, and managed to cut myself off from dummy. Luckily, a few hands later, ‘berserk’ turned to ‘good’:
West led the ♠4. I won in dummy, and played A♣ and ♣10, overtaking East’s ♣J (I might have ducked), then a third club. West won and switched to the ♦9, won by East’s ♦J. East returned a spade. I won and cashed my winners, coming down to ♥AQ9 in dummy. East came down to ♥K4 ♦A, so I threw him in with the ♦10 to play a heart for an overtrick. Not that it made up for the botched slam…