Top bridge players have a spooky ability to recall thousands of hands, often from many years back. With so many cards stored in their hard drive, perhaps it’s not surprising how forgetful they can be in other areas. I once had dinner with the great Bob Hamman, and after discussing some of his recent bridge hands — he had perfect recall, of course — I asked if I could test his memory for the more personal events in his life. He happily played along. It was even worse than I’d suspected: he struggled to remember the year of his marriage, how he proposed, or where he was when his first child was born — until he suddenly exclaimed, ‘Oh yes! I was in my club. I held the ace of spades, five small hearts…’
I was reminded of this when I saw Gunnar Hallberg recently, and he mentioned that the last time we’d played rubber bridge — this was before the first lockdown — my partner had missed a neat defence. He proceeded to write down the entire hand — but sadly even that wasn’t enough to jog my own enfeebled memory. Gunnar was South (see diagram).
I led the ♥Q. Gunnar won with the ace, and played a spade to dummy’s ace and another spade. My partner won and switched to the ♣Q. He hadn’t stopped to think, said Gunnar. He could see dummy — he was giving Gunnar the tempo to establish the ♥9 for a diamond discard. He should have played his partner (me) for the only high card outside hearts I could have: the ◆10. Had he returned a diamond, my ◆10 would have forced dummy’s ◆Q, and when I gained the lead in hearts, a diamond through would have defeated him. Is it too late to give my partner a ticking-off?