Source: The Spectator 13 February, 2016

David Gold and Susanna Gross
David Gold and Susanna Gross

It’s got to be the most bizarre news story of the year: last week, no fewer than 50 Thai police officers burst into a bridge club in Pattaya — a city rife with crime and prostitution — and arrested 32 elderly players, many of them British ex-pats. Gambling is strictly forbidden in Thailand, and the police were acting on a false tip-off that they were playing for money. But even once it was clear that they weren’t, the bridge enthusiasts — who included an 84-year-old Dutch woman on a walking stick — were carted off to the police station and charged with breaking a 1935 law prohibiting card players from possessing more than 120 cards at any given time. They were released at 4 a.m., after being fined 5,000 baht each (around £100).

Well, I can’t say anything so exciting has ever happened to me at the bridge table — though I’m sure many of my partners would have loved to see me arrested on the spot. I was, however, subjected to a different sort of hold-up when I last visited the Portland Club in London. At the club’s annual auction pairs — one of my favourite events of the year — Lou Alsop made a hold-up play against me to bring home 3NT:

Dealer East N/S Vul

J 8 7
J 2
10 9 8 6
K Q J 4
4
Q 9 8 7 3
7 5 4
9 7 5 2
Q 10 9 6 5 3
K 6 4
A 2
A 3
A K 2
A 10 5
K Q J 2
10 8 6
West North East South
1 1NT
Pass 3NT Pass Pass
Pass

Opening lead: 7

My partner led the 7 to my K. It’s tempting for declarer to take this trick: by winning, she is guaranteed another heart trick; by ducking she gives it up. Moreover, if hearts are 4–4, she goes down by ducking. But Lou decided the 7 looked suspiciously like it was led from Qxxxx; and my opening bid marked me with both minor-suit aces. So she held up her A, and when I continued, held up again. She won the third heart, played the K and on winning I was powerless; I returned a diamond; she won, knocked out the A and quickly wrapped up nine tricks.