It’s hard to explain to non-bridge players how much the game means to some of us. It’s not just a pastime; it’s a grand passion. Janet de Botton summed it up well when someone asked her if she really loved the game. ‘I don’t love it,’ she replied, ‘I’m in love with it.’ Ask any bridge fanatic: it seduces us, it consumes us, it makes our pulses quicken. In fact, it’s better than romantic love because the excitement never wanes. As another friend put it: ‘I’ve often thought about bridge during sex, but I’ve never thought about sex during bridge.’
You’d think that after many decades of playing, world-class players would begin to feel weary of bridge; after all, haven’t they seen most types of hand before? Not a bit of it: every new hand is a fresh challenge, and former deals are remembered as fondly as if they happened yesterday. The world-famous Geir Helgemo, for instance, was recently reminiscing about a hand which he played back in 1988 at the age of 18, representing Norway against Sweden in his first European Junior Championship. Look at the beautiful simplicity of his solution to the problem:
North, Helgemo’s partner, bid 4NT to give Helgemo (South) a choice of minor suits, and Helgemo obviously bid clubs. West led the ♠A, which Helgemo ruffed. Next, he ruffed a heart to hand, and ran the ♦8 to East’s ♦K. West returned a spade, ruffed in dummy, and now Helgemo had to find a way to draw trumps without allowing the defence to score any spade tricks. His solution? He led the ♣9 from dummy, and ran it to West’s ♣K (it wouldn’t have helped if East had covered with the ♣J, as Helgemo would put up the ♣Q, promoting his ♣10).