Bridge is a partnership game — but haven’t you sometimes wished you could file for a quick divorce mid-rubber? The problem is that however maddening your partner, if you try to give him a taste of his own medicine — by overbidding wildly, for instance, or ignoring his suit-preference signals — it would be like pushing him into a river and forgetting you’re tethered to him. Still, it has been known. Geoffrey Breskal was once playing for England in a Camrose match with the late, great (but highly volatile) John Collings. Collings opened a forcing two spades; Geoffrey, with a Yarborough, decided to pass. His left-hand opponent doubled and Collings, with gleeful fury, bid straight to six spades. Just to punish Geoffrey! While playing for England! Of course, they were doubled and went a bundle down.
That’s the only case I’ve ever heard of a top player purposely inflicting a penalty on his own partner — but there are, of course, countless examples of involuntary manslaughter. This one took place many years ago, but remains a favourite. It occurred during the Danish Premier League, division one. Henrik Sorensen (S) was playing with Neils Pedersen (N), and they managed to reach 6♥ on a 0–0 fit!
2♠ was strong; 4♥ was a splinter; 4NT was ongoing, promising as least three key cards; 5♦ and 5♥ were cue bids; and 6♥ was intended as ‘last train’, meaning North had interest in a grand slam. At which point Pedersen seems to have decided he’d been wrong about the whole auction, and that his partner actually had a one-suiter in hearts!
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free