Susanna Gross

Bridge | 8 July 2023

I always look forward to seeing what Team Black are wearing when I go to international bridge tournaments. Their captain, Andrew ‘Bertie’ Black (founder of Betfair), picks a new team shirt for every event. At the recent European Transnational Championships in Strasbourg, they wore grey flat caps and Hawaiian shirts adorned with palm fronds. For next month’s World Transnationals in Marrakech, Bertie has already chosen a set of matching kaftans. My all-time favourite shirts were emblazoned with images of Einstein.

But however much good cheer their outfits spread, don’t be lulled into lowering your guard – they are some of England’s very best players (David Gold and Tom Paske to name just two), and the deadliest of foes. Take this hand, my favourite from the European Transnational Open Teams: Tom Paske, partnering Andrew Macintosh (‘Tosh’), employed some dazzling skulduggery to make a grand slam (see diagram).

 North’s 2♥️ was an aggressive pre-empt; South’s 4♣️ was a fit-jump. Tom, knowing from Tosh’s double that they had a spade fit, decided to ask for aces – the ♥️A or ♠️A would be enough for slam. But what if Tosh held the ♣️A? It would provide a discard for the ♥️3, but only if North didn’t lead hearts. So Tom decided to lie about which void he held by jumping to 5♥️: exclusion keycard, showing a heart void and asking for keycards excluding the ♥️A! 6♣️ showed 2 without the ♠️Q, and Tom jumped to 7♠️. His gamble that North wouldn’t lead the ♥️A paid off magnificently, and after a trump lead, he made the contract easily by discarding a heart on the ♣️A and ruffing a diamond.

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