Back in the 1970s and 80s it seemed as if almost everybody smoked. There were no bidding boxes, or bridgemates to clutter up the table – just a large ashtray emptied regularly by the staff. Non smokers were surprisingly tolerant as the atmosphere gradually thickened, till your eyes smarted and you could hardly see across the room. Clothes worn on a bridge night went home reeking of cigarette and cigar. Hugh Kelsey was a particularly heavy smoker. When presented with a dummy he would immediately light a cigarette to give himself time to consider the play. When the play was particularly difficult he might have one cigarette burning in the ashtray and another in his hand.
How do you think declarer got on in the doubled 1NT contract shown below?
Inspired by Damien’s disaster story I recalled an early disaster of my own.
I had just emerged blinking from Classes to play in a scary Melville club competition. I was shaking with terror. The look on partner’s face signalled that she was either constipated or about to risk an opening bid. I had a very poor 5 count and decided I would pass whatever she bid and would not have to be declarer. Partner opened a club, my RHO passed. I was reaching for the Pass card when I noticed I had only two clubs. It dawned on me (insanely) that I could bid 1NT which might improve the contract. Too late I realised what I had done. Perhaps the opponents would kindly bid and no one would notice. No such luck. Partner bid two clubs passed out. I had to table my hand to reveal my stupidity.
RHO was a kenspeckle Scottish Internationalist who shall remain nameless. Let’s call him Les. He turned to declarer and asked innocently “does partner need a six card Major to introduce it at the one level?”
My first visit to the Melville was for a bridge lesson ( went with my In-laws and a family friend – just to make up the numbers). We didn’t have any idea about bridge – up until then we had only played partner whist.
The bridge lesson was led by Mr Paton – didn’t know his christian name as everything was very formal ( and sometimes scary) in those days (it’s still scary!).
He explained to us how to count our points and then a basic guide to the auction – and when the auction was complete you played the hand.
Moving into 5 Grosvenor Crescent in July 1976 marked the start of my bridge journey. An elderly neighbour sallied out every Saturday wearing her best, including hat, and with a cheery smile – when I asked the reason she said “Bridge, my dear”. I think she was a regular at the Rose Club, which met for a very social afternoon of bridge and cake in the Melville, then at 9 Grosvenor Crescent.
The Melville was my first bridge club. I joined in 1971, seeking a safe pastime while my husband-to-be was working in London. My mother was still living in Bathgate, but she had old friends in the MacKerrows; ‘Uncle Mac ‘had been my father’s best man. They proposed me for membership. A few days later I received a formal letter of acceptance from the Secretary, Sidney Milner, together with a Calendar of events.
It’s not very often that you have an enjoyable lasting memory of a hand especially when you’ve gone one down in your contract.
I can’t even remember what the contract was!
Our opponents were top players ( my LHO was our guy that gives the great bridge tips and my RHO – don’t want to disclose this).
Anyway, I just needed one trick in Diamonds. I was on the table where there was QJxx in diamonds and I held the singleton King. So I thought – there’s no point in leading a small one to my king as RHO will surely put up his Ace – so I decided to play the Queen ( hoping that RHO would duck the ace and think that his partner had the King) – not a chance down came the Ace – and a quiet remark to the effect – “do you think I was born yesterday”. How dare I underestimate him – was the look on his face! Every time I think of it, it brings a smile to my face.
I started playing club bridge in 1973 and consider myself to be a competent player and a sensible, if somewhat conservative (at times), bidder. In all those years I have had my fair share of disasters at the bridge table, but few have compared with the one I am about to describe! I am hoping that by sharing my story other bridge players might like to ‘entertain us’ during these difficult times with, with a story or two of their own. So, what happened?