Each March, a roll call of bridge superstars come to compete in the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams, one of America’s most prestigious tournaments. When the American player and sponsor Jeff Wolfson recently asked Zia Mahmood if he could recommend a pair to join his team, Zia suggested his pal from England, Peter Crouch. Crouch then asked a fellow pro, Alex Hydes. They’d never partnered each other before.
They’re both delightful men. On the surface they don’t have much in common. Crouch (57) is a family man and renowned bridge coach with a measured, methodical approach. Yorkshireman Hydes (38) is a scruffy free spirit who travels the world with his clothes in a plastic bag; few would guess he’s a self-made millionaire. But when they came together for the Vanderbilt last week, they produced absolute magic, mowing down teams Lavazza, Zimmerman, Nickell et al. So let me add my congratulations to Team Wolfson, surprise new holders of the trophy! Here’s an example of their defence against the Dutch pair Sjoert Brink and Bas Drijver:
Crouch led the ♦10. Brink rose with dummy’s ♦Q and Hydes ducked. Next came a club to the ♣9. Crouch won and played the ♦9. Now it was Brink’s turn to make a good duck. Crouch switched to the ♠J. Brink won with the ♠K, played a spade to the ♠10 and cashed the ♠A. Next came ♣AK and a fourth club. Crouch, on lead with nothing but hearts, exited with a brilliant ♥K — the only card to avoid being end-played. One down.