In general, I don’t like to play bridge just for fun: I prefer the cut-throat atmosphere of a tournament, or the adrenaline rush of high-stake rubber. But a couple of times a year I meet up with old friends at the card table: there’s lots of banter, too much wine, and the bridge gets sillier as the night wears on. I’ve been sorely missing these evenings, and fondly remembering our three rules: to play quickly, avoid lengthy post-mortems, and abide by ‘Zia’s Law’. This is based on a tip Zia Mahmood gave me long ago. It was obviously a joke, but he swore it worked miracles. It goes like this: if your partner is dealer and there are two passes to you, you should open a spade without looking at your hand. It turns out to be amazingly effective — your opponents seldom know what to do.
This hand occurred during our last game. It’s memorable not just because I opened a spade blind, then saw I had six of the beauties, but because I punted slam and misplayed it in haste.
West led the ♣K. I won with the A♣, drew two trumps and… blast, when East didn’t follow, I’d already blown it. Now I had to hope diamonds broke 3-3, as I needed to cash the ◆AKQ, then cross to a trump in dummy and discard a heart on the ◆J. No such luck. What I should have done, I saw too late, is duck the club lead. Then, on winning the club (or any other) continuation, I can discard a top diamond on the ♣A, draw two rounds of trumps and cash my two remaining diamonds, play a third trump to dummy and discard two hearts on the ◆J10. It’s all very well playing Zia’s Law, but it would help to play like the man who invented it.