Not many players can pull a fast one on Gunnar Hallberg. The seasoned Swede, who came to live over here 20 years ago, has a fearsome reputation, both internationally (representing Sweden, then England) and also at the rubber bridge table. For as long as I can remember, he’s been a regular in the high-stake game at TGR’s in London. He’s notoriously hard to beat, even for other pros. And yet there is one player who he’d readily admit is more than his match: the club’s dynamic manager, Artur Malinowski.
The other day, Gunnar came up to me with a stunned look on his face. ‘I can’t believe what Artur just did to me!’ he exclaimed. ‘How did I fall for it?’ Gunnar was South, Artur West, and Janet de Botton East (see image).
Artur led the Q to Janet’s A. From an original holding of 4, it’s usual to play your lowest card back. But for whatever reason, Janet returned the 8, suggesting she’d started with 3. But Artur knew that if Gunnar held 4 spades, he’d have bid 1over 1.
Quick as a flash, he saw a way to beat the contract. If Gunnar knew spades were 4–4, he’d simply knock out the A; but if he thought they were 5–3, he’d need to decide who held the A, and whether the heart finesse was a better bet. When Gunnar ducked the 8, Artur won with the J and continued with the 9, as if he had the rest of them. On winning, Gunnar cashed his clubs. Janet did well by discarding small diamonds, giving nothing away. Artur discarded an encouraging 10 (suggesting he held the ace), followed by a small heart. Gunnar now played a heart towards dummy — and Artur played the 10! Gunnar won with the A and confidently played a heart back to his 8… and Artur’s Q. And Gunnar nearly fell off his chair.
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