Omar Sharif did so much for bridge. He inspired countless others through his own devotion to the game (‘Acting is my living but bridge is my passion’); he promoted it around the world with his travelling ‘bridge circus’; he lent his glamour to every major tournament — even turning down films if they clashed. And he set a perfect example of gentlemanly behaviour. Zia Mahmood, one of his favourite partners, remembers that the only time Omar got cross with him was when Zia doubled the opponents in 7NT holding an ace. ‘He said the score would have been almost as good without the double — and not doubling would have shown more class and style.’
But Sharif wasn’t just a celebrity who loved bridge. He was a true talent in his own right. He would have made his name as a bridge player even if he’d never set foot in Hollywood. A contract of 7NT seems a fitting tribute: this one comes from 1974, when he was partnering Paul Chemla:
West led the ♣6. There are several squeeze possibilities for a 13th trick. There’s a simple positional squeeze against East if he holds both the ♣Q and the ♦K. If East holds ♣Q and West the ♦K, a double squeeze with hearts as the pivot suit works. But Sharif chose a criss-cross squeeze — which works if either opponent holds both the ♣Q and ♦K. He cashed ♥AK and the ♣A, and then ran dummy’s spades to reach this position: N ♠6, ♦Q8 ♣K, S ♦A10 ♣J9, W ♦KJ ♣Q8. On the last spade Sharif threw the ♦10 from hand and West had two losing options: to throw a diamond or a club. He chose a club. Sharif, reading the position perfectly, cashed the ♣K, dropping West’s ♣Q, and crossed to the ♦A to score the J♣.
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