I don’t play rubber bridge nearly as much as I used to, but I still enjoy the occasional game at TGR’s. The stakes normally range from £10 to £30 per hundred. Although I play at the lower end, it’s still a nerve-racking amount, especially when cutting into a game with top-class regulars like Gunnar Hallberg and Robert Sheehan. But this is no place for sissies – the bridge is fast; people get heated; and a big loss can feel a bit like getting mugged. Many years ago, the late great Oswald Jacoby tried to warn a friend against playing rubber bridge. The man responded, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? I play like an idiot and lose a lot of money?’ Jacoby shook his head: ‘That’s the best that can happen.’
But it’s all great fun – if you don’t mind looking like a fool. The other day, Gunnar pulled a fast one on a lesser player who took it in good spirits (see diagram).
West led the ♥4 to East’s ♥J, and Gunnar played… the ♥A! He knew that if he won with the ♥Q and took a losing club finesse, West would have no problem switching to a spade; creating the illusion that the ♥Q was with East was his only hope. Sure enough, Gunnar crossed to the ◆A, and ran the ♣Q – and West won and played the ♥8 to Gunnar’s ♥Q. Not the most thoughtful defence – but if you haven’t seen that old trick before, why wouldn’t you?
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