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Most bridge players have little interest in the game’s greats

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Omar Sharif: the late actor and bridge fanatic
Figure 1

Today sees the Open Pairs Championship taking place at the Bermuda Bridge Club – it is a two-session event and I will bring you the results in next week’s column.

One of the great things about our game of bridge is that it brings a different kind of excitement to players of all levels – most regular players are, in effect, competing against themselves every time they play, in an effort to get better, and that gives them what they want from the game.

Figure 2

At the expert level, however, the satisfaction comes from winning and little else matters – that has its consequences, as often that line is crossed when enjoyment turns to stress and winning brings relief, not jubilation. Been there, done that!

Bridge players also seem to exist in their own little bubble – unlike golf or tennis, where the average player is usually also an avid viewer and can roll off the names of the top players, most bridge players have little interest in the upper echelons of the game.

Few will know that Bob Hamman of Dallas was the top ranked player in the world for ten years, or that “Meckwell” is the term used to describe the most dominant partnership in the game this century – Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell – or of the domination of world bridge by the  Italian “Blue Club” team or the US-based “Aces” (originally the Dallas Aces) in the 1970s and 1980s.

Talking of the “Blue” team, a fun story – in 1975 the Italian car company Lancia sponsored this dominant team (Belladonna, Garozzo, Forquet, Avarelli and the captain was Omar Sharif, the actor) on a tour of the US against four US teams. So confident were Lancia of success for this team that they offered a Lancia car to each member of a team that beat the Blue Team.

Well, they won in Chicago, but lost in LA, Miami and New York, which resulted in Lancia having to distribute 12 of their prized cars to the winners!

Talking of Omar Sharif – he was a brilliant player and was addicted to bridge and horse racing, and it is often said that he only acted to fund these two passions. I was lucky to get to know him and play some rubber bridge with him and the Egyptian team during the World Pairs Championships in New Orleans in 1978 and our conversation was almost entirely about horses – he liked owning them and I liked backing them, usually unsuccessfully!

With all of the above setting the scene, I am covering today a bidding sequence from two experts at the top of the game – I usually try and keep the hands in this column at a level that the majority of my readers can relate to, but once in a while I deviate and bring you a hand from the top echelons of bridge, both to show you where the game can get to and perhaps allow you to pick up some knowledge that will help you in the future.

Today’s hand came from the 2023 Scottish Winter Foursomes and the North-South pair, Alex and Paul Gipson, won the IBPA (International Bridge Press Association) Award for the Best Bid Deal of the Year, even though the contract failed due to a horrible layout of the defender’s cards!

1, Game forcing or clubs

2, 15+ HCP, 5/5 in hearts/diamonds

3, Relay

4, 3-5-5-0 shape

5, RKCB for diamonds

6, Two key cards, no Queen of diamonds

7, King ask

8, Heart King

North knew, counting the high-card points, that South had to hold the heart Queen or spade Queen to take care of his third heart. The grand slam had odds of success of more than 80 per cent if diamonds split 2-2 or hearts split 3-2, or the smaller chance of long diamonds to be with long hearts.

West believed the auction – perhaps he had played this pair before – and refrained from leading the Ace of clubs, choosing instead a trump. Thus, the contract was doomed to fail.

At the other table, the contract was five hearts, just making, for an undeserved gain of 13 IMPs.

This beautifully bid hand, which failed way against the odds, cost the Gipson team the event! Cruel, cruel, game…….

At least they received some consolation, and recognition, by receiving the IBPA award!

David Ezekiel can be contacted at davidezekiel999@gmail.com


Friday, June 7


1. Tony Saunders-Margaret Way

2. Charles Hall-Molly Taussig


1. Martha Ferguson-Judy King

2. Heather Woolf-Aida Bostelmann

Monday, June 10


1. Peter Donnellan-Lynanne Bolton

2. Betsy Baillie-Joyce Pearson

3. John Burville-Margaret Way


1. Gertrude Barker-Jane Smith

2. Charles Hall-Sancia Garrison

3. Martha Ferguson-Judy King

Tuesday, June 11


1. Duncan Silver-Marion Silver

2. Benjamin Stone-Jean Schilling


1. John Thorne-Heidi Dyson

2. Tracey Pitt-Desiree Woods (Tied 2nd)

3. Sarah Jane Varley-Barbara Elkin (Tied 2nd)

Wednesday, June 12


1. Louise Rodger-Margaret Way

2. Charles Hall-Tony Saunders

3. Richard Gray-Wendy Gray


1. Gertrude Barker-Jane Smith

2. Sancia Garrison-Molly Taussig

3. Betsy Baillie-Sharon Shanahan

Thursday, June 13

1. John Glynn-Rachael Gosling

2. Charles Hall-Stephanie Kyme

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Published June 15, 2024 at 7:56 am (Updated June 15, 2024 at 7:25 am)

Most bridge players have little interest in the game’s greats

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