Zia Mahmood is as famous today as when I first met him 20 years ago. Not only is he still one of the world’s top players (a rarity for someone in their early seventies), but he brings as much dazzle and flair to the game as he always did. Quite simply, he’s one of a kind. Or so I’ve always thought — which makes it rather disconcerting to hear reports of his teenage son Zain emerging as a talented player. Zain attends Eton College and recently won the Stockdale Cup (its pairs competition) for the second time. No doubt his proud father is plotting some fearful double act, although I’m sure many players will feel that one Mahmood at the table is quite enough. Pity the couple Zia encountered recently at London’s Year End pairs, who were well and truly bamboozled on this deal:
Zia’s partner opened a pre-emptive 4♥, and when East overcalled 4♠, Zia knew the opposition had slam on. And so he made the most perfect example of a ‘striped-tailed ape double’ I’ve ever seen. This is where the doubler hopes to deter the opponents from bidding on, knowing that the doubled overtricks will be less expensive than the bonus for bidding slam. If the double had been re-doubled, Zia would of course have run ‘like a striped-tailed ape’ to 5♥. It worked: West nearly fell off his chair, and passed. The slam was indeed cold — so conceding 1190 was better than 1430. Unluckily for Zia and his partner, many of the NS pairs bid to 7♠, an excellent contract that only went down on the bad club break. Still, it was a brilliant double, and no one else sitting South had the chutzpah even to think of it.