On the whole, I’ve enjoyed playing bridge from the comfort of home during lockdown. One regrettable outcome, however, is that I’ve taken up smoking again. Cards and cigarettes just go too well together. Back in the days before smoking was banned indoors, we puffed away so much at TGR’s rubber bridge club that I couldn’t go on anywhere without washing my hair and clothes first —no perfume was strong enough. Even among tournament players, smoking seemed to be encouraged. The England player Patrick Collins told me that he took up smoking in 1970 when first prize in the Torquay Congress was 200 Benson & Hedges.
Bridge has so many tense moments that despite having given up for a decade, I instinctively found myself reaching for a cigarette while playing online, and the habit crept back. Now, every time my partner and I bid to slam, click goes my lighter. But I needed have worried with my friend Robert Hobhouse at the helm on this hand from a recent duplicate.
West led the ♠J. Robert won, cashed the ♣A, crossed to dummy’s ♣J, and ruffed a spade to eliminate the suit. Next he cashed the ◆AKQ in the hope the ◆J would drop or the suit was 3-3. When East showed out, however, he found a neat solution: he simply played a fourth diamond and discarded a heart from hand, forcing West to return a heart or give him a ruff-and-discard.