All high-level bridge tournaments involve playing with screens placed diagonally across the table — and there are numerous rules to remember. For instance, only North or South may slide the bidding tray under the screen, only declarer or dummy may remove the tray after the bidding, only declarer or dummy may lift the screen’s flap… It’s easy to slip up, but until a few years ago people were pretty relaxed about it.
Not any more. Ever since the cheating scandal erupted in 2015, this stuff is taken deadly seriously. It’s hardly surprising: a shocking number of world champions were exposed as cheats, starting with the young Israelis Fisher and Schwartz, who did so by altering the bidding tray’s position to convey information.
Today, some players are positively paranoid. At one point during the recent open Europeans, my partner Tom Paske and I were about to defend a hand when our opponents began angrily gesticulating and calling for the director; it turned out that Tom had absent-mindedly removed the bidding tray when it was their job. He kept his cool and defended brilliantly as always.
Sitting North, I led the ♦K, then the ♦Q, and switched to a spade. West won in dummy and played the ♥3. Tom smoothly played the ♥10, hoping to deceive declarer in case I held ♥KQx. Had he played low, West would insert the ♥8, then later run the ♥J pinning Tom’s ♥10 for one loser. Now, West’s ♥J went to my ♥K, and, when he got in again, he played low to the A♥, assuming Tom had started with ♥Q10. One down!