Gunnar Hallberg moved to England from Sweden 25 years ago to play professional bridge, and made such a success of it he never went back. Now, at 75, he remains a hero to many younger players, not just because of his outstanding talent, but also because of his passion for sharing his knowledge and helping them improve. Indeed, he seems as happy partnering a 13-year-old at his local club as he does winning yet another medal on the international stage.
Last week, I came across a fascinating interview with Gunnar on a new online bridge channel, Tricks of the Trade. He describes a couple of his favourite hands, including this one. It may look like a boring part-score, but his defence was simply inspired (he was East).
West led the ♠10. Gunnar covered the ♠J with the ♠Q, and declarer won with the ♠K. Next came a heart to the ♥J and Gunnar’s ♥K. Gunnar felt sure his partner held ♥Axx (declarer hadn’t opened a weak 2♥). So if he played his singleton diamond now, the defence would come to 6 tricks (the ♥AK, ♠A, ♣A and two ruffs). But could he do better? The problem with playing a diamond was that West, once on lead, couldn’t both give him a ruff and play another spade through dummy’s ♠9.
And so… he played a low club! It went round to the dummy’s ♣Q, and declarer played a heart to West’s ♥A. West returned a spade and Gunnar won with the ♠8. Now he cashed the ♣A, followed by the ♠A, on which West discarded his last club. Next came a club. West ruffed, and then played his part in this brilliant defence by returning the ◆Q. Declarer had to win in dummy and play another diamond, which Gunnar ruffed. Down two was a resounding matchpoint top.