“Our bridge partnership finally broke up for -what people may think is a curious reason” Rixi Markus writes in one of many perceptive paragraphs of her autobiography, subtitled: A Vulnerable Game. Now full of years, honors, and as ever the devil, the great Rixi writes about her infancy in Austria during World War I, flight from Vienna as Hitler entered, England during the last 50 years, triumphs and tragedies, the men in her life, and top flight bridge behind the scenes.
Continuing her paragraph: I began to feel that I knew her so well that I could almost tell what she was thinking. If you play, long enough with the same person there is no doubt that a kind of telepathy builds up between you. I believe I am slightly psychic, and my affinity with Doris Rhodes was such that I knew what cards she was holding regardless of the bidding.
I find this disquieting — it seems tantamount to cheating — and that is one reason why I have played with so many different partners. There is a lot of psychology in good bridge, and to me a new partner is a fascinating challenge. I love the process of learning how his or her mind works, growing aware of particular tendencies or idiosyncrasies, and adapting my own play to fit. It’s a process like settling down in a foreign country!
In this hand, Rixi Markus found an opening bid on cards that many experts would dismiss as mere “tram tickets” and made a doubled game contract with only 23 high-card points in the combined hands —against the worst possible trump break!
Incidentally, your guru deplores East’s double. East knows that West is void of hearts, must have a decent spade suite for the vulnerable jump overcall, and should be able to take eight or nine tricks at spades. After the actual bidding, in a high level rubber bridge game in Los Angeles last December, West led the king of spades and continued with a low spade, ruffed in dummy.
Dealer South. All Vul
K 8 6 4
K Q 6 2
A 9 6 3
|A Q 9 8 7 6 4
J 8 5 2
A 10 7 3 2
J 10 9 5
|J 5 2
Q J 9 5
A 8 4
K 7 4
Opening lead: K
The fall of the ace revealed the spade distribution. Mrs. Markus led a low heart to the jack, undaunted by West’s failure to follow suite. Knowing that East started with five hearts and two spades, declarer tested diamonds, discovering that East started with four of that suit and therefore precisely two clubs.
Declarer ruffed dummy’s fourth diamond and cashed the ace and king of clubs, reducing East to four trumps. With eight tricks safely stashed away, South led her last spade and ruffed with dummy’s king. East shuddering as the play developed at breakneck speed could find no way to defeat the contract.
If East didn’t overruff, declarer would have nine tricks and would easily make another trump trick. If East overruffed, South would just as easily make two further trump tricks with the J-9.