Susanna Gross

Bridge | 17 February 2024

I always put on weight when I play in bridge tournaments: the build-up of stress and concentration makes me ravenous. Sally Brock often reminds me of the time, many years ago, that we played in the women’s trials at the YC, which was then based in Earl’s Court. When it was over, she asked if

Bridge | 20 January 2024

Bidding would be so much easier if you didn’t have opponents. Imagine if you and your partner were given a clear run, without interference from those pesky players on either side. But that’s not bridge. Getting in your way is what opponents do – at the highest level possible. Having to judge whether to bid

Bridge | 6 January 2024

One of the things I like most about bridge is that it allows you to be sociable without actually having to talk to anybody. At the Year End Congress, held between Christmas and the New Year, it was lovely to see all the familiar faces. But what a relief not to have to answer the

Bridge | 9 December 2023

As someone who gets anxious quite easily when faced with difficult bidding decisions (have I done too much? Or not enough? Will my partner be angry?), I admire players who just do what they feel is right without worrying. A refusal to be cowed by your opponents, or nervous about your partner’s reaction, is a

Bridge | 25 November 2023

At high-stake rubber bridge, it’s not uncommon for players – nearly always male, I should add – to react to a penalty double as though a direct challenge has been made to their manlihood: out comes the redouble card, essentially quadrupling the stakes. But they have a point: in bridge lingo, if you make a

Bridge | 28 October 2023

It’s surprising how many bridge players seem to think they’ll never be able to execute a squeeze. They talk as though squeezes are the preserve of experts – a view no doubt reinforced by all those technical terms like ‘rectifying the count’ and ‘isolating the menace’. But there are plenty of books to guide people

Bridge | 14 October 2023

Everyone knows how hard it is to keep fighting when you’re behind in a match. But it ain’t over till the fat lady sings – and if anyone needed reminding of it, they only had to watch the Gold Cup semi-finals last Saturday. After 56 boards, Janet de Botton and her team were down 50

Bridge | 30 September 2023

I never make psychic bids. The only time I tried, it backfired horribly: my partner leapt to slam and we went for an unthinkable penalty. I decided there and then that psyching was best left to those with a real nose for it – not to mention nerves of steel. The art of psyching is,

Bridge | 16 September 2023

I’m hugely ignorant when it comes to history – and just about everything else, except for bridge – but I do know a little about the Spanish-American war. Why? Because one of its most dramatic episodes, the sinking of the cargo ship Merrimac, has lent its name to a bridge coup. Early in 1898, the

Bridge | 2 September 2023

The World Championships are taking place in Marrakesh, and when I log on to Vugraph I feel like a child in a sweet shop, spoilt for choice about who to watch. And yet an old expression which I heard as a child keeps coming back to me: you know you’re getting old when policemen start

Bridge | 19 August 2023

They say a two-way finesse is never a complete guess: there are always clues to be gleaned from the bidding and play. That’s not strictly true, as the great Giorgio Belladonna once demonstrated at a tournament when, after a long think, he turned to a kibitzer and asked him to toss a coin. But even

Bridge | 8 August 2023

It’s been more than 30 years since Zia Mahmood published his classic memoir, Bridge My Way*, and now – finally! – he brings us up to date with Bridge, A Love Story. It’s published next week, and having just binge-read an early copy, I can assure you that it’s every bit as brilliant. Zia is

Bridge | 22 July 2023

Bridge isn’t a game you can master quickly. Quite the opposite: with every new level you reach, another looms above you. The higher you climb, the more humbling it is: possibilities you didn’t even know existed reveal themselves, yet remain beyond your grasp. Frankly, even Sisyphus wouldn’t swap places. Recently, one of the clients I

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

Bridge | 24 June 2023

I never stop being amazed by the freakishly good memories of top bridge players. Last week, at the European Transnational Championships in Strasbourg, I got into a lift with the Italian international Fabrizio Hugony. Looking at my name tag, he remarked: ‘I’ve played against you before. It was at the Mixed Championships in Belgium about

Bridge | 10 June 2023

It’s a great idea to set a thriller in the world of high-stake bridge, and my friend Helen Erichsen has pulled it off brilliantly. Her debut novel, Murder by Natural Causes (Muswell Press), is about a young, amoral contract killer named Cilla, who the reader can’t quite help rooting for. It’s a page-turner from start

Bridge | 27 May 2023

It’s not unusual to get distracted at the bridge table, but sometimes that distraction takes peculiar forms. Last month, I was lucky enough to be on a team with the Swedish women’s gold medallists Jessica Larsson, Kathrine Bertheau and Sanna Clementsson – three of my favourite people. They had flown to Bristol to join me

Bridge | 29 April 2023

The American multiple world champion Eric Rodwell is truly a legend of bridge. He and his former partner Jeff Meckstroth were the best pair in the world for so long that they were referred to simply as ‘Meckwell’. When he published his book The Rodwell Files: Secrets of a Bridge Champion 12 years ago, it

Bridge | 15 April 2023

Working out ‘safety-plays’ is pretty tedious, but can be vital when playing rubber bridge or teams. Unlike matchpoint pairs, guarding against bad breaks to secure your contract is far more important than trying for overtricks. That said, it can be difficult to work out safety-plays quickly at the table, especially as they’re often counter-intuitive. Far

Bridge | 1 April 2023

The idea of going to a bridge tournament where you have to sit in a separate room to your partner, and play with tablets instead of cards, sounds like a dystopian nightmare. But that’s exactly what’s planned at the next US Nationals. The idea is to eliminate cheating between partners via unethical hesitations and mannerisms.