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Bridge stars accused of fraud

With the lack of local news during the summer break I thought this might be of interest.

Norwegian Bridge Aces Indicted for Aggravated Tax Fraud

Two Norwegians (Geir Helgemo and Tor Helness) considered among the world’s best bridge players are accused of aggravated tax fraud for having hidden revenues of NOK 18 million (about $2.1 million) from playing the game. According to the indictment, one partner has failed to report bridge revenues totaling close to NOK 10.5 million in the period 2006 to 2014, while the amount for his partner is about 7.5 million in the period 2005 to 2013, writes Dagens Næringsliv.

The case is considered “gross” because it is a very significant amount and the violations lasted for several years, the accusation states.

The two accused deny culpability and declare that they have been living in Monaco for many years and therefore only pay taxes there, with which Norwegian tax authorities disagree. Both are professional bridge players and currently represent Monaco, playing on Monaco’s national team, funded by billionaire Pierre Zimmermann of Switzerland.

Helgemo and Helness are a brilliant partnership and one which has challenged the dominant pairing of Meckstroth and Rodwell of the US and many put Helgemo at the top of the game about five years ago.

This is troubling news for the pair but highlights the riches available to the top pros with rich sponsors prepared to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars just to hire a team for one event! I am sure we will hear more on this!

You will hopefully have noticed that I rarely put a hand in the column that does not have strong instructional value and today’s hand is no exception. One of the most common mistakes I see is that too many declarers can’t see beyond trying to draw trumps as soon as they get the lead, usually with a bad outcome!

Remember, you are playing in a suit, and not in no-trump, for a reason and it is essential that you use your trumps well, both in hand and in dummy.

Dealer South, Both Vul


S 83

H 32

D 87653

C AK74


S 62

H AJ109

D 94

C J9532



H Q64


C 86



H K875

D QJ102

C Q10

South opened 1 Spade, and rebid 3 Spades over Norths 1NT bid, and North raised to 4 Spades, which became the final contract. West led the Queen of Diamonds, taken by declarer with the Ace.

I know how this would usually go at the table, at least 90 per cent of the time – declarer would win the Diamond, cross to the Club, take a losing Spade finesse and eventually go one down losing a trump and three Hearts.

The Declarer on this hand was a lot better than that – He counted nine fairly sure winners – five trumps and the four tops in the minors. A tenth couldcome if East had started with the Queen of trumps but that was at best a 50 per cent chance, even if one discounted the possibility of minor-suit ruffs. Declarer decided that a better approach was to try and ruff a Heart in dummy.

Obviously, leading a Heart from hand would not succeed on the given layout because East would be on lead twice in Hearts to play trumps, leaving declarer a trick short.

Declarer had such a possibility in mind, so he crossed to dummy with a Club to the King to lead a low Heart. At the table East rose with the Ace and played a low trump.

Declarer took this with the Ace, then crossed to dummy with another Club to the Ace to lead a second Heart. This would have been a winning play if East had had both the Ace and King of Hearts along with two low trumps. Instead, West took declarer’s Queen of Hearts with the King and could not profitably continue with a trump. Out of Clubs, West led another Diamond. With no Diamond ruff available to the defence, declarer was able to win with his Diamond King and ruff his remaining Heart with dummy’s eight of

trumps. After ruffing a diamond back to hand with a middle

trump, declarer cashed the king of trumps and then

conceded a trick West’s queen of trumps. Making four.

Really neat planning and execution!