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Helgemo’s genius will take your breath away

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Every once in a while a player makes a play that just takes your breath away and, as a result, stays with you for a long time.

Today’s hand contains such a play by the former world number one, Geir Helgemo of Norway, who burst onto the bridge scene in 1993 as a 23-year-old and achieved his ranking based largely on his dazzling and brave declarer play .

The hand turned up at the ACBL Spring Nationals in 1998 and the play he made was almost unreal (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Helgemo was sitting South and heard West open a weak two-bid in hearts, raised to four hearts by East. Timid was not a word in Geir’s vocabulary and he leapt to six diamonds which closed the auction.

West led the heart King ruffed by Helgemo, who cashed the Ace of diamonds and when both players followed he decided to analyse the hand.

He saw that if spades were 3-3 the hand could make, as the club loser could go away on the 13th spade, but he somehow didn’t think that likely and guessed there was a lot more distribution in the hand — he later said that he was convinced West was 5-5 in hearts and clubs, leaving him with a doubleton spade.

Having come to this conclusion, he now led a low spade from hand and when West played low without flinching he put in the spade seven, playing West for exactly 8x in spades ! When this drew the ten he thought he was on the right track. East switched to a low club , Helgemo won the Ace, crossed to dummy with a diamond to the eight and played the spade nine – East was helpless as this was now the position in the spade suit (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

If East covers Helgemo wins the King and now re-enters dummy with a diamond and the spades lying like this (see Figure 3).

Figure 3

Now a low spade to the six sets up a club discard – slam made!

Pure genius! More than that, incredibly brave, as Helgemo would have looked ever so foolish if spades were 3-3 and all the lesser players would have made the hand. But that is why he was rated the best at the time!

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Published August 13, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated August 13, 2022 at 8:00 am)

Helgemo’s genius will take your breath away

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