Janet De-Botton

Bridge | 24 May 2018

Bridge | 24 May 2018
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Martin Hoffman, who died last week, had an extraordinary life. Born in Prague in 1929, he was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust and came to live in England soon after being liberated in 1945. He learned bridge by kibbitzing at a local club and became one of the most brilliant card players of all time — considered the best pairs player in the world for many years. The week before he died, he won a club duplicate and the day before he gave me some hands for this column. ‘Always count the opponents’ hands’ was his favourite tip and no one did that faster than Martin.

West’s 3♣ was explained as a fit-jump —showing a raise to at least 3 and a club suit. When South offered 3♠ Martin bid game. West led 4 which East took with his King and switched to the ♣8, covered with the ♣9 and won by West’s Ace. West continued with ♣7 which East ruffed and exited a trump. Martin needed the rest of the tricks and the easiest way was to play East for singleton or doubleton K. But was this possible? Time to start counting. West has shown up with 6 clubs and 4 hearts as surely East would have raised to game with 7 hearts? When he drew another round of trump to dummy, he knew the whole shape and that West couldn’t have the singleton K because where was East’s opening bid? There was one last chance — West’s singleton diamond had to be the 9 or 10. He played the Jack from dummy, East covered, Declarer played his Ace and West’s 9 dropped! And btw — he worked all that out in under 30 seconds.

Martin — you will be missed.