Naomi knew everything about the Champion. He was her hero. She read all his books and knew about all his world wide winnings.
That is why she was thrilled when she heard that he was invited to the Bridge Festival in her City.
“Can you believe it?? He is coming here and I will finally see him face to face. I wonder how he is… you know, as a person”, she said to her partner, excited.
Her partner was not at all that excited “Probably he looks like an alien… you know, like these ‘lost’ brilliant professors who know all about their subject, but nothing about real life. OR maybe he is like the champion of our club, looking down at other players, insulting everyone and putting them down so that they realize they know nothing”, said her partner.
Her partner was always skeptical like that. But Naomi was not discouraged:
“No! He is not like that! I’m sure of it. I can feel it from the way he writes: so clear, so full of humor. He can’t be anything like what you say”.
But… Doubts did approach her heart: Maybe her partner was right. How ‘normal’ can a real world champion be?
The day has come. Naomi and her partner joined the Pairs Tourney at the Festival. And she saw Him, the Champion himself. But she didn’t dare to approach him. He was surrounded by other famous players and she felt like a complete outsider.
And then, while playing the tourney, she happened to be in the same section he played… And finally it was her turn to move to his table, playing against him! She was full of excitement, fear and emotion. She took her seat quietly, trying to hide her emotions.
The champion shook her hand and her partner’s and introduced himself politely. He spoke softly, and seemed calm and humble. Nothing like what her partner described.
On the hand below he “guessed” all the missing cards and played the hand as if all the cards were in the open (Dear readers, I challenge you!! Can you make 4 here with all cards in view? Give it a try before reading further.)
Dealer East – None vulnerable:
After a quiet start, the bidding came to life till it ended with 4 doubled. Naomi, sitting East, held these heavy spades and her Partner promised something too, after all he did bid 2 freely… Wouldn’t that be something – To set the Champion, doubled? That would be a story to tell and a memory for lifetime.
She overcame her fear and dared to double the champion’s 4. Her partner lead the 9. The champion turned to her and asked her politely about their leading agreements.
She answered: 9 means top of nothing.
The champion said nothing more. He just thought for 2 whole minutes (“Woww, the champion is thinking against me”, she thought with a thrill).
Then he asked for the A, ruffed a heart. Played AKQ, finessed to theQ. He ruffed the third heart, played a club to the Ace. Ruffed the fourth heart, and then played a spade from hand.
This was the situation:
Naomi’s partner played the K, and Naomi, stripped to spades only, followed with the 9. West continued with the J, and the champion discarded a club from dummy. Naomi was forced to ruff her partner’s winner and play a spade back. Thus, the Q became the champion’s 10th trick.
Naomi couldn’t resist asking: “How did you guess the position of all the cards?”.
The champion smiled: “I didn’t really guess. It was a combination of listening to the bidding and seeing the lead. After that, it is like playing with open cards.
Since your partner showed no heart values, it was clear that the KQ were in your hand. Also your both doubles suggest that spades split 4-1. However, since you were a passed hand, you can’t have the AK. With AK, and KQ you would have opened the bidding.
That means that your partner must have a singleton A or K and theK too. Bidding also suggested that hearts are 4-4, and that you are short in clubs with diamond tolerance, from your take out double.
That’s it, really, I hope I explained it clear”, he said, trying to sound as modest as possible about his brilliant analysis and performance on this hand.
“Yes, absolutely… I ehhh….”, Naomi began to say something, but she choked with emotion. She sat there quietly while the champion was giving her full attention, waiting for her to calm down and finish her phrase.
Her partner came to the rescue: “This is Naomi, my best friend. Do you realize you are her hero? She read all your books, she followed all your victories. She wanted to meet you in person for a long time. And today she came to play here especially to see you”, he said with a naughty smile.
Naomi blushed and so did the champion. Now it was his turn to lose his words. It took him some time before he finally said:
“Thank you so much, Naomi”.
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