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Hamman’s name always mentioned among bridge’s all-time best

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Figure 1
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Perhaps my favourite bridge player in the world, and also one of my favourite people in the world, is the great Bob Hamman from Dallas, Texas. Bob has become a great friend over the years and he comes to mind as I saw in the press that he had withdrawn from a tournament “due to illness” and I called to find out how he was. It seems he has been hospitalised for some 20 days but I’m pleased to report that he seems to be coming out of it okay.

When one discusses the best bridge players of all time, Hamman’s name is always in the conversation – he was the number one ranked player in the world for some ten years straight, has tens of thousands of masterpoints and his bridge wins in major events, mainly with Bobby Woolf, would take a couple of pages to list. Top of his achievements is winning ten Bermuda Bowl World Championships , the first in 1970 and the most recent in 2009. Google him to get the rest and you will see what I mean.

The first time I played against Bob was when Colin Millington and I came up against him and Bobby Woolf in the World Pairs Championships in New Orleans in 1978. We were newcomers to this level and met Hamman-Woolf in ‘The Pit”. This was pre vugraph, and the Directors would take one table with a star pair and surround it with tiered seating so it was a bit like entering a boxing ring, and it felt just like that. We thankfully held our own through two of the most tense bridge hands I have ever played!

Years later I had the pleasure on emceeing the ACBL Hall of Fame Awards in San Antonio in 1999 when Bob was inducted. One story on that before the hand, and I’ll give you the short version!

It was a black tie dinner and I was lining up all the inductees and their presenters in the back room but Bob was missing. I was not a happy camper, and when he turned up ruffled and perspiring 20 minutes late I let him know that. He then informed me that he had boarded the elevator on the 26th floor and it had plummeted 5 floors and got stuck below the 21st, which is where he was until the rescue crew got to him!

I felt bad and apologised for my outburst, but Bob was fine with it – he then put his hand on my shoulder and said “just think what would have happened if that elevator had crashed to the ground – every single bridge player in the world, including you dear David, would have moved up a notch!!”

That sums him up – razor sharp , hugely funny, a good dose of ego, but a huge heart in more ways than one. I really hope we see him back at one of our Regionals, as I know it’s something he’d like to do.

This week’s hand came up at the club earlier this year and Harry Kast sent it to me as it is a neat declarer play problem . The key to the hand is listening to the bidding and then being careful with the spot cards (non- honour cards) which is something that the better players do.

See Figure 1.

North opened 1 diamond , East overcalled a heart and after South bid a spade North South ended up in 4 spades. West led her singleton 9 of hearts.

It seems the contract was defeated at every table on the night and yet it is an easy make on that lead if one pays attention, and all because South holds the 8 of hearts! Declarer knows , after the overcall, that East started with Q10765 of hearts and should play accordingly.

Cover the heart nine with the Jack and win the Queen with the King. Now draw trumps ending in dummy and play the three of hearts and when East plays low, put in the 8 - you know East has all the remaining hearts including the 10. Now cash the Ace of hearts carefully throwing a Club, and now play a club to the Queen and East’s Ace - this is now the position (see Figure 2).

The defence has one trick and can take two diamonds, but after that the rest of the tricks belong to declarer.

The idea of finessing with the heart 8 may be a bit scary, but the bidding has, in effect, shown you all the cards, so it is not that difficult. The more you play the game the more comfortable you will get in making the spot cards work for you.


Monday, October 11

1. Gertie Barker - Jane Smith

2. Bill Pollett - Des Nash

3. Sheena Rayner - Lorna Anderson

Tuesday, October 12

1. Louise Payne - Katyna Rabain

2. Diana Downs - Jean Schilling

3. Catherine Welmer - J.C. Brett

Wednesday, October 13

1. Greta Marshall - Heather Woolf

2. Lynanne Bolton - Peter Donnellan

3. Gertie Barker - Jane Smith

Thursday, October 14

1. Elizabeth McKee - Linda Pollett

2. Stephanie Kyme - Charles Hall

3. Lynanne Bolton - Betsy Baillie

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Published October 16, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated October 16, 2021 at 7:36 am)

Hamman’s name always mentioned among bridge’s all-time best

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