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My Son the Genius by Zia Mahmood

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

If you don’t see me winning any tournaments for a while, don’t be surprised. It’s not that I am becoming senile (that too) but I am too busy playing with my 1½-year old son, Zain. Which means that at times when I should be reading the system notes, I am gleefully playing soccer in the park.

Naturally the important question looming is, “Should I ever encourage him to learn bridge?” My gut reaction is no. I wouldn’t like him to spend his life as I did, albeit with great passion, in the pursuit of a one-suit squeeze.

And what if the dream I had the other night was a look into the future? In it my son (aged around ten) returned home from a bridge lesson; he was furious! “The teacher told me I wasn’t any good.” He complained.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I held KQ107 against a 4 contract; partner led the 9, I played the queen and declarer won the ace. Later when I got in, I played the 10, and declarer won his stiff jack.”

“That does sound wrong; you know the rule about cashing winners in suit contracts.”

“Of course, but it was you who taught me that there always are exceptions. This was my hand as East: KQ6 KQ107 K105 A87.

The bidding was not complicated:

West North East South
    My Son  
2 Pass Pass
The end      

Partner led the 9 to this dummy: J85 532 Q64 KQ105.

I played the queen and declarer won the ace. South now played the 3, partner the 2 and I took the ace. I was about to play the K when I stopped to think. It seemed the whole hand looked something like this (declarer likely to hold seven spades and one club):

  J 8 5
5 3 2
Q 6 4
K Q 10 5

9 8 6 4
J 9 7 2
J 9 6 4 2
  K Q 6
K Q 10 7
K 10 5
A 8 7
  A 10 9 7 4 3 2
A 8 3

If I played the K and another heart, declarer would ruff and play a low spade to dummy’s eight. I would now be endplayed, so it seemed the only chance was to sacrifice a heart trick. But exiting with the 7 wouldn’t work either.

Declarer could win, lead a spade to dummy’s eight and my queen. Now if I played the 10,  declarer would discard a diamond and I would still have to give dummy an entry. No, the only card to defeat the contract was the 10. That way I could later play the 7 and declarer could not afford to discard, as now partner could win the trick.”

That’s when the teacher got angry. But I could see my son was correct. What a defence! Brilliant! Experts could look at all four hands and never see the position. I was excited and thrilled, until I started to see the follow-ups.

Kantar and Barry Rigal hounding him endlessly for hands. Bob Hamman chasing him to play the Blue Ribbon Pairs. And worse, endless hours in chat rooms on the Internet, discussing double-dummy problems with Kevin Rosenberg (son of Michael and Debbie).

I knew then, it must never happen. I had to put in the three steps to stop this before it actually occurred.

1. Build a higher shelf in the bathroom on which I could hide Adventures in Card Play by Ottlik and Kelsey.
2. Make sure my son never heard the name of Eric Kokish–coach di tutti coaches.
3. Wake up.

(The hand above is taken from Geza Ottlik and Hugh Kelsey’s wonderful book Adventures in Card Play. I found it so beautiful that I wanted to share it with the world.)


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