While chatting on the phone to my friend Alex Hydes a couple of weeks ago, I asked whether he was playing any online bridge. For a bridge superstar, Alex is unusually down to earth and self-deprecating. ‘I’m rubbish at it,’ he replied. ‘Cards on screen don’t register with me like real cards.’ But only a week later, he proved himself spectacularly wrong.
Eight top international teams were invited to compete in the second ‘Alt Invitational’ — the most prestigious online bridge tournament so far — and Alex joined Janet de Botton’s team. They ended up winning in style, and Alex had clearly lost none of his acuity or flair. I particularly enjoyed watching his defence on this hand — it was like a magic trick unfolding in front of my eyes (See diagram).
Sitting East, Alex led the ◆6. West (Jason Hackett) covered dummy’s ◆2 with the ◆7 and declarer, the Israeli champion Ron Pachtmann, won with the ◆Q. He then cashed the ♣K and switched to the ♠7. Not cashing the ♣A would turn out to be a costly mistake. Jason won with the ♠K, and returned the ◆K. Declarer covered with the ◆A, and Hydes ruffed. Hydes now had a complete picture of the hand — he knew declarer was 1-6-4-2 — and found the devastating return of the ♥5 from ♥K5! He had given up a trump trick, but ensured two diamond tricks instead. Declarer won in hand, cashed the ♣A (too late) and the ♥A, but had no way back to dummy’s ♣QJ to discard his ◆53.
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