I would never say that bridge is just a game — for many of us, it’s a lifetime’s vocation. However, some players heap too much pressure on themselves; they fret if they’ve had a disturbed night’s sleep or feel a slight sniffle coming on — anything that might impair their focus. They practise breathing techniques, insist on absolute silence at the table, and castigate themselves for the smallest mistake.
The effect is often counter-productive; they’d probably do better if they simply lightened up. Someone firmly of this view is the manager of TGR’s rubber bridge club, Artur Malinowski. Whenever his customers are fraught or playing badly, his solution is to offer them a tipple — whatever the time of day, and however high the stakes. He insists that it’ll improve their game — and he’s normally right.
The other afternoon, Catherine Fishpool — one of the club’s regulars and a former European women’s champion — was getting increasingly cross with herself for making a string of poor judgments. When she cut Artur as her partner for a new rubber, he promptly got up and fetched her an enormous glass of red wine. Ten minutes later, she was on fire.
Sitting North, Catherine led a spade rather than Artur’s hearts, as the opponents had bid a confident 3NT. Artur played the ♠K, ducked by declarer, and continued with the ♠Q (implying a doubleton). West won and played a diamond, intending to finesse dummy’s ◆Q. But in perfect tempo, Catherine played her ◆K! Convinced it was a singleton, West ducked to retain communication between his hands, hoping she would play a spade or a heart. But Catherine switched unerringly to a club — one down. Time for a refill!
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