Susanna Gross

Bridge | 19 February 2022

Bridge | 19 February 2022
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A couple of weeks ago, just as I’d begun to think that if I hadn’t got Covid by now I never would, I succumbed to Omicron. The timing was terrible: I was due to play in the European women’s trials the next day, and hated letting my partner down. Still, I was cheered up by several messages from friends, including Zia Mahmood, who told me that he also had Covid. We compared notes: a cough, some aches and pains — nothing too bad.

It was only the next day, when I tried my hand at an online duplicate, that I realised there really is such a thing as Covid brain-fog: I couldn’t concentrate at all. Instead, I took to bed to watch some online bridge — and lo and behold, there was Zia playing a match. The longer I kibitzed, the more amazed I was. He was as sharp as ever — in fact, he was on fire. Can nothing dim that man’s flair and imagination? This deal was classic Zia — he was West:

North’s 1♣ opener was artificial and strong. East (David Gold) made a pre-emptive overcall of 4♠, and South bid 5♣, a slam-try. What would you bid as West? Zia had no hesitation: he doubled for penalty! This was a ‘striped-tailed ape double’: he was sure the opponents were making a slam, and that a doubled overtrick or two in game would be less expensive. As he hoped, they passed, and scored two overtricks for 750, instead of the 1440 they would have made for bidding 7♣. And why does the double have such a strange name? Because he would have run like a striped-tailed ape to 5♠ had the opponents redoubled. All I can say is, if that’s how Zia plays when he has Covid, perhaps it’s his opponents who should run when he’s better!