I’ve been in a bridge bubble in Wroclaw for the past two weeks, playing in the World Bridge Games. I competed in the Mixed Teams then the Mixed Pairs, playing against nations from across the world, each wearing their own distinctive shirts (Japan’s pink and blue gets my vote for the most stylish). I wish I’d made fewer mistakes and done better, but it was a privilege to be there among the greats, from veterans like Hamman, Meckstroth and Versace, to younger stars like Dennis Bilde and Justin Lall. And I’m firm in my resolve to take everything I can from the experience, up my game, and try again at the first opportunity.
Two nations emerged victorious: the Netherlands, who won the Open and Mixed Teams, and the USA, who won the Women’s and Seniors’. Fairly early on in the Mixed, my partner (the amazing Alex Hydes) and I played against the Netherlands husband-and-wife duo Jan and Aida Jansma. I was struck by how courteous they were to each other — a rarity among married partners. Jan is known as ‘Houdini’ because he so often lands seemingly impossible contracts. On the following deal against Hungary, he was in 6♦. It was the last board of a tiring day, and Aida rather cheekily asked if he would be long as she was desperate for some refreshment. When he said he’d be a while, she excused herself and left the playing area. She ran into Zia Mahmood, who asked what contract she’d left Jan in, adding: ‘Hopefully not slam as trumps are 4-1 and spades 5-1.’ He had underestimated Jan:
The ♥K was led. Jan won and cashed the ♣K and the ♥A. He noticed the drop of the ♥Q but still played another spade. East ruffed and switched to a trump: nine, queen, king. Jan ruffed a heart, cashed the ♣A, ruffed a club, ruffed a heart and ruffed a fourth club. Declarer was left with the ♦A10 and a high club. When he advanced the ♣J from dummy, East was helpless — slam was home.