Geir Helgemo is the most revered bridge player in the world — and that isn’t about to change just because he failed a drug test at the World Bridge Series last September. You probably read about it at the weekend; some newspapers found it positively comical that the No. 1 player had been suspended for ‘doping’. Yet ever since bridge was recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee in 1998, players have been subject to random drug tests. Helgemo tested positive for synthetic testosterone. There’s no evidence it improves anyone’s game — indeed, no drug has been shown to do that. But it’s a substance that’s been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, and as a result, the World Bridge Federation has suspended him for a year. The decision has provoked outrage; many players would rather see bridge de-classified as a sport. Here’s one of Helgemo’s celebrated hands, which no drug on earth could have helped him achieve (see image).
West led the K. Helgemo ruffed and cashed the A. He needed to establish 3 spades for a club discard, but a 3-3 break seemed unlikely. So he advanced the 2 from hand, and when West played low inserted the 7. East won with the J and immediately returned the 5 — which Helgemo ducked round to his 9! (Had East not returned a spade, Helgemo would have run the 9 from dummy, pinning West’s 8.) How did he know? Well, West had played low without thought; he might have hesitated with the 10xx. So East’s J had been a false-card — why? And why had East returned a spade rather than a club unless he wanted to force Helgemo to make a quick decision about spades? To Helgemo, it all pointed to East holding QJ10x!
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