I love the French expression esprit de l’escalier (‘wit of the staircase’); it perfectly captures that moment of frustration when a clever remark or retort comes to us just too late — as we’re leaving, or on the stairs.
I’ve always thought there should be some equivalent expression in bridge: how often do we realise in a flash — once a hand is over, naturally — that we should have taken a different line? But I found myself wishing for yet another term of regret the other day: one to describe the even more frustrating experience of knowing you actually had the right thought at the right time, and yet dismissed it as being too fanciful to act upon!
Here’s the hand. I was playing at the Acol with my friend Kevin Castner, and I’m still kicking myself (see diagram).
Kevin made the excellent bid of 6♣ to give me a choice; 6♣ was far superior to 6♠. West led the ◆9. East won with the ace and returned the ◆5, which I was relieved wasn’t ruffed. Next I ruffed a heart, ran the ♣J to my ♣A (no hesitation from East when he followed low), and ruffed another heart with the ♣10. What did I know? West had 6 hearts, 2 diamonds (top-of-doubleton lead), and more than 1 spade as he’d have led a singleton. But should I play him for 1 club or 2? Then the thought came to me: what harm to cash the ♠A? If the ♠Q appeared on my right, I’d know West started with 6 hearts, 4 spades, 2 diamonds and 1 club. But as soon as I had the thought I dismissed it: most people don’t make a weak jump overcall in one major holding 4 in the other. And so I simply went for the drop — one down. Aaaargh! One interesting point though: holding ♠Qx, how brilliant it would be if East had dropped the ♠Q under the ♠A to give me false count…