There are plenty of bridge professionals who believe in flattering lesser players (whether they’re clients, friends or spouses) by exaggerating how well they play, or claiming their mistakes are perfectly understandable. Not so Espen Erichsen. Espen is a great player and I like him enormously, but he’s also the most blunt-talking man I’ve ever met. More than ten years ago we used to play together a bit, and I’ve never forgotten the time I mistakenly ducked a trick in defence. ‘Let me give you some advice,’ he said sternly. ‘Never try to do anything clever. It will always backfire.’
Last week, I played against him at the Young Chelsea. I had a difficult hand to bid, but my partner and I fumbled our way to a good slam. Afterwards, I asked Espen how I should have bid it. ‘There were various options,’ he replied. ‘But one thing’s for sure: what you did made me want to puke.’ Ah well. I wonder whether he felt equally queasy with the way East-West (Alex Hydes-Jason Hackett) bid this hand against him at the NEC Cup in Japan a few weeks ago:
Hackett meant 5NT as ‘pick a slam’; Hydes thought it showed both minors, which is why they ended up in 6♦ instead of 6♠. South (David Bakhshi) led a heart to the ace. Hydes played the ♦K and Espen (North) ducked. He then played ♦J and Espen ducked again. It’s rare to have to duck your trump ace twice from Axx to beat a contract — superb defence. Hydes switched to spades. On the third round, Bakhshi ruffed, dummy overruffed and Espen still didn’t overruff. Hydes ruffed a heart to hand and played another spade. This time Espen ruffed and played a heart — down 3.