Janet de Botton

Bridge | 6 December 2012

A few years ago I used to play Rubber Bridge from time to time with an elderly gentleman called Leo Halpern. Leo was unfailingly polite, good-humoured and kind. He was also very, very slow. One day, when he was playing a laydown 3NT he thought for ages and one of the other players finally said: ‘Leo, what on earth are you thinking about?’ He looked rather surprised and answered, ‘I’m not thinking about anything, but the slower I play the less money I lose!’

Rubber Bridge is about getting as many games into a session as possible for most people, and while occasional long tanks are not a problem, too many cause irritation. I thought about Leo when this hand came up at TGR’s recently:

I was sitting South and decided to open my hand a strong NT, hoping that my partner was not a member of the point Gestapo. He confidently raised to 3NT and West, David Burn, led the obvious ♠K, which I ducked and won the second one perforce. I played Ace, King of clubs and, as you can see, they broke but they were blocked! I took the Diamond finesse, hoping for four tricks in that suit, but no cigar and I went one down. We all laughed at the blockage and got on with the next deal.

But Steve Eginton, one of the hosts, was sitting behind me and said, ‘Interesting, if you take the first spade and play back a spade, David has to be very careful not to play a third spade as you can pitch a club on it!’

Now, David Burn is a very fine player and would probably have worked it all out …but he might not.

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