I’ve never had the courage to ‘psyche’ at the bridge table, but I grudgingly admire those who do. Sally Brock and I were well and truly kippered at the recent European women’s pairs championships when, neither side vulnerable, I opened 1♣ holding AK43, K986, J4, 854. Our innocent-looking young Dutch opponent found the gutsy overcall of 1♥, holding QJ52, 42, Q1085, Q97. Sally held 87, AQJ1073, AK, A106 — and felt, quite reasonably, that she had no option but to pass. So the Dutch woman played in 1♥ undoubled, five down — a great result, given that we were making 4♥ plus one.
One of the most famous psychers of all time was Adam ‘Plum’ Meredith, the brilliant and eccentric Irish player who won the world championships in 1955. As one of his partners said: ‘For Plum, a three-card suit is not only biddable, it is rebiddable. More, it is playable.’ Plum was particularly fond of opening a spade, regardless of his spade holding. The following rubber bridge hand was typical:
After Plum’s 1♠, his partner bid 2♣, and when Plum bid 2♦, he jumped to 4♦ — a slam try, given the part-score. Plum figured his partner had short spades, long solid clubs and two aces — just the ticket. West led a spade. East overtook and led back a heart. Plum won, drew trumps, established clubs by ruffing and claimed. When West scolded his partner for not returning a spade at Trick 2 to shorten dummy’s trumps, Plum retorted that it wouldn’t have worked. He would ruff the spade, come to hand with a trump, and ruff his last spade with the ♦A. He’d then cash his ♥A and his remaining trumps. On the last trump West, holding ♥K and ♣J875, would be squeezed in hearts and clubs.