The Spring Fours in Stratford-upon-Avon — perhaps the most prestigious event in the English calendar — was as enjoyable as ever this year: a combination of top-class bridge and late-night socialising. My own fun began the moment I boarded the packed train from London, when I managed to bag the last available seat, and then saw Phil King wander into my carriage. Phil is one of the cleverest bidding theorists around and I often badger him for advice. As luck would have it, he got stuck standing right next to me, wedged between passengers, and I managed to quiz him all the way to Banbury, when he spotted a free seat and made a dash for it.
I obviously didn’t drain him too much, though, because he and his partner Kevin Castner went on to play superbly over five days, knocking out team after team to reach the final, and losing only by the narrowest of margins when their teammates had an unfortunate bidding misunderstanding.
My favourite hand of the event, however, goes to another competitor, Kay Preddy, who managed to defeat an international player with this perfect Greek gift. See above.
Kay was South. Her opponents bid to 4♥ — a contract destined to make through sheer luck because, with no entry to dummy to take a trump finesse, declarer has no choice but to bang down the ace and hope the king drops. Not at this table! Kay led a diamond; her partner won and switched to a club. Kay won, cashed the ♣Q — then played a third club! She knew it would give declarer a ruff-and-discard and a ‘precious’ entry to dummy. Declarer wasted no time grabbing the opportunity: he ran the ♥Q, lost to Kay’s bare♥K, and spent the rest of the day kicking himself for believing a player of Kay’s calibre would ever have made such an ‘error’.