Janet de Botton

Bridge | 19 December 2020

Goodbye 2020 and don’t come back. Worst part for bridge players? All the matches and tournaments have been moved online, which is not ideal as it is too easy to cheat. But for me the worst thing about it is the absence of that indefinable thing called table presence, easily the best part of my game.

Here is a hand from a sneaky rubber bridge game, where I did rather well.

Artur Malinowski, my professional partner for about 15 years and my primary teacher, was sitting West in a fairly high-stake rubber game and led the ♥5 to the 6, Queen and Ace. I noticed that when I leapt confidently to slam, Artur, who normally passes or bids in a creamily smooth way, glanced at my bid, looked towards his bidding box, stretched out his hand and a fraction of a second later passed. I clocked the tiny change of tempo, which could mean he was thinking of doubling, and when East followed with his Queen I was certain Artur had four hearts to the ten. So I played another trump to dummy’s ♥8 and claimed! Artur looked at my claim and exploded (which made the whole thing even more fabulous). ‘Did you see my hand?’ he yelled. ‘No,’ I replied, trying not to laugh. ‘I can hardly see my own.’ The next couple of sentences are unprintable, but the tirade ended with him saying: ‘How did you find that play? You’re not that good!!’

‘It’s called table presence, Artur,’ I said in my most annoying voice. ‘Deal with it.’

Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year to you all.

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