Janet de Botton

Bridge | 29 August 2019

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When did ‘literally’ become, literally, the most annoying word in the English language? Fairly recently I would guess, because ‘like’ as in ‘I was like… seriously?’ or ‘that’s like, so unfair’ was easily winning the title for many years. ‘Like’ has become a filler, taking the place of um and er, and generally making the speaker sound a bit of a moron but literally (used to) have some authority, emphasising the slightly unexpected veracity of whatever. No longer. My summer hols have been spent involuntarily counting how many L words can be crammed into one sentence. The most was four. And while we’re at it, what’s ‘reaching out’ all about? Answers on a postcard please.

On my annual sabbatical from bridge I came across this hand, pictured above in a book on Declarer play.

West led his singleton heart and, as is so often the case, declarer had to do the right thing at trick one — what would you do?

Look what happens if he wins with the K in hand. He tries to draw trumps but they split 4-1. The best he can do after the second round of spades is switch to diamonds but after cashing K,Q,J what next?  The A gives the defence a ruff, 2 clubs and a slow heart. A third trump to hand to cash the A, pitching a heart and continuing with A, fares no better (A — not ruffed club to West, fourth trump).

Everything becomes so easy if the first trick is taken by dummy’s Ace. Declarer lays down Ace and King of spades, King, Queen, Jack of diamonds, the ♠Q and the A pitching a heart. Declarer can’t be prevented from ruffing his losing heart in dummy.

Literally a winner.