My entertainment last week was watching the NN-Cup, a ‘Goulash’ tournament normally held in Moscow, now played online for the first time. Goulash is a rare form of bridge, typically played at rubber. When a deal has been passed out, everyone places their cards (still sorted) on top of everyone else’s, and they are dealt unshuffled to produce extreme distributions. Picking up 10-card suits or encountering 7–0 breaks are par for the course.
The computer-generated deals in the NN-Cup were absolutely wild; watching the top-class teams battling it out was like being on a rollercoaster ride. This hand comes from the final between Teams ‘Vitas’ and ‘We Will Squash You’ (who did indeed go on to win). Thor Erik Hoftaniska (Vitas) was East (see diagram).
South’s double of 6♠ indicated he wanted a ruff: a heart lead defeats 6♠ so Hoftaniska did well to pull to 6NT. On a non-club lead, the contract is cold. When South led the ♣J, it looked doomed. But just look at the way Hoftaniska made it: he won the ♣A, then cashed all but one spade. In the 5-card ending, he was in dummy with ♠3 ♥109 ◆Q3 opposite ♥AQ5 ♣109. North had come down to ♥KJ8 ♣KQ. On the last trump, he was squeezed; he couldn’t release a heart so he threw the ♣Q. Hoftaniska discarded the ♥5, played a heart to the ♥Q and then a club. North won and was forced to return a heart. The ♣9 was Hoftaniska’s 12th trick. It was perhaps a little harsh of North to point out to South at the end that a small club lead, not the ♣J, would have defeated the contract!