Online bridge has been a lifeline for many players these past 18 months. But not everyone wanted to try it. Now that clubs have reopened, I keep hearing the refrain: ‘Sorry, partner, I’m very rusty.’ It’s true — playing bridge after a long absence isn’t like getting back on a bicycle. You don’t forget how to play, of course, but you become less sharp; the muscles of the brain used for bridge go flabby. I feel it happening after a mere two weeks away, so I can imagine how daunting it is to play for the first time since lockdown.
One aspect of the game that doesn’t suffer through lack of practice, however, is imagination. The other week, I partnered Ewa Kater in the Young Chelsea Super League, and she too was full of apologies about being rusty. She needn’t have worried. Ewa used to play on the Poland women’s team, and her inherent flair still shines through. On this deal, she was South (see diagram).
West led the ◆5. Ewa won with dummy’s ace. If trumps were 2–2, game was making, so she cashed the ♥AK — and got the bad news. West obviously held the ♠K for his overcall, so there was no legitimate line to make the contract — but what about a little subterfuge, followed by an end-play? Ewa crossed to hand with the ◆K, cashed the ◆Q, discarding a club, and then played a low spade towards dummy’s ♠J! West, slightly bemused by this development, played low, and the ♠J won. Ewa now exited with a trump. East won, played a low club to West’s ace, won the club return with the ♣K, but now had to present declarer with a ruff-and-discard for her 10th trick.