Terence Reese’s concentration at the bridge table was legendary. Most people know the story of how Boris Schapiro once wagered £50 that Reese wouldn’t notice if a naked woman entered the room and walked around while he was playing. Somehow, he found a willing woman — and won his bet.
I’d always assumed the story was apocryphal, but an incident at TGR’s recently got me wondering. A few of us were playing rubber bridge, and the club’s manager, Artur Malinowski, offered to bring us coffee. He returned holding four steaming mugs, but somehow began losing his grip. ‘Help!’ he shouted. Like everyone else, I didn’t notice. He shouted again. Still, we were all too absorbed. Then came a desperate third cry, and we finally looked up — in the nick of time.
Artur is not a man who is often ignored. Far from it: he’s a formidable talent who usually dominates the room. Later that day, he was South on this deal:
West led the ♦2 (fourth highest). Artur captured East’s ♦Q with his ♦K. It seems there are only eight tricks, but he saw a chance. East almost certainly held five more diamonds, but, so long as he also held the ♠A, he could afford to discard just one diamond, or Artur could set up a spade. Artur ran his clubs: East discarded the ♠10, the ♠2, a diamond and two hearts. With luck, he was down to the ♠A, four diamonds — and either the ♥K or ♥J. But which? Artur’s view was that East was an excellent player, so if he held the ♥K he’d have tried to disguise the fact by baring it sooner. So he played the ♥Q. West covered, and when East’s ♥J fell under the ♥A, the ♥10 became a winner. That’s Artur for you: he might drop a cup but he never drops a trick.