Nothing is ever routine or boring when Alex Hydes is at the table. One of England’s best players, he’s a master at bluffing and pressurising opponents. His bidding may sometimes seem enjoyably eccentric, but in fact it’s the result of perfect logic and judgment. And he combines all this with wonderful humour and an eye for the absurd.
Occasionally, he sends me texts about amusing hands. Last weekend, while competing in the second stage of the European Open Trials with his partner Ben Handley-Pritchard, he sent this message: ‘We just bid and made a grand slam, despite both passing on the first round of the auction. That’s got to be almost unheard of.’ Of course, I was intrigued and asked for the details (see diagram).
After East’s 3♣ pre-empt and West’s 3♥ response, what would you bid? As you can imagine, Alex was the only North in the room to pass. Here’s his thinking: he didn’t want to bid 4♣ because, in his view, that should show the majors. True, West had bid hearts — but many players ‘psyche’ after a pre-empt from their partner, so Ben may still think he had the majors. Having decided there was no ideal bid, Alex decided to wait. Was there a risk East would pass 3♥? Not really: almost everyone plays that 3♣–3♥ is forcing for a round. And Alex certainly wasn’t going to ask: ‘Only an idiot would ask if it’s forcing as then East could guess to pass.’ East raised to 4♥. When the bidding came back to Alex, he bid 5♣. As he explained, to go past 4♠ ‘must show the earth’: Ben got the point and jumped to 6♦. So Alex bid 7♦. They were the only pair to bid a grand slam.