I’m just back from Beijing, where I’ve been playing in the Hua Yuan Cup, an invitational tournament for the eight top-ranked women’s teams in the world. It’s a wonderful event, with generous prize money, and I got lucky: a member of the England team, Gillian Fawcett, couldn’t come, so I subbed.
To say it was intense is to put it mildly. At one point, after our match against the Netherlands, I mentioned to the formidable Nicola Smith that I’d lent one of the Dutch women my scarf as she was cold. Nicola looked at me aghast: ‘You mustn’t do that — she’s the enemy!’ She went on to tell me that the great Rixi Markus had once refused to let her partner Dorothy Shanahan give smelling salts to an opponent who’d fainted at the table.
We ended up coming just fractionally behind Sweden and Poland to win Bronze. It was a good result, thanks largely to outstanding performances from two members of the team: Fiona Brown and Catherine Draper. Catherine played every single match (partnering either Fiona or myself), and achieved the highest individual score of anyone there. I particularly enjoyed our defence on this deal (she was North) (See diagram)
(*Transfer to ♠). Sitting South, I led the ♣7 (second highest from a poor suit). Catherine won with the ♣A and, in an imaginative flash, saw our only chance. If she could fool declarer into believing she had a doubleton diamond, declarer might ruff a third diamond high, fearing an overruff, which would promote Catherine’s J♠. So she continued with a deceptive ♦J. Declarer covered with the ♦K, I won, cashed the ♦Q (Catherine playing low) and played a third diamond. Declarer, after a moment’s thought, ruffed with the ♠A — mission accomplished!