The Norwegian Bridge Press Association’s annual prize for the best-played hand was a particularly hard-fought contest in 2018. Boye Brogeland and Geo Tislevoll (both Norwegian although Tislevoll now lives and plays in New Zealand) had already won the International Best Played and Best Defended titles, which made it likely that one of them would take their national honour as well. However, into the mix was thrown Tom Johansen, whose genius declaring a partscore in the final of Norway’s most prestigious knockout tournament gave him the title. The hand he played was stone-cold off on top and yet Tom found a way of disguising and camouflaging his cards so imaginatively that the opps had no idea they were letting the contract through not once, but several times. Don’t forget that this was the final of the tournament. The defenders were a very strong partnership, not a pair of bunnies waiting to be well and truly bashed.
West led ♦5 (3rd and 5th) and declarer won with the Queen in dummy and counted five ‘inescapable’ losers. His only chance was a deceptive play — or two — and watch what happened. His first ‘coup’ was to camouflage his King/Queen of spades; he called for the ♠3 on which East played the ♠4 and Tom put in the ♠6 allowing West to take the trick with his 7 and continue with another diamond. Now the magician played a sneaky ♣7, and West, not seeing what lay ahead, ducked. Tom advanced the ♠K from hand, covered and ruffed in dummy, establishing his ♠Q. He crossed back to hand with a high diamond, cashed the ♠Q and played the second round of clubs towards dummy. Contract made and Best Declared Hand awarded.