For The spectatorby Janet de Botton; 10 December 2016aaxx

Simon Cochemé, whose witty column appears monthly in English Bridge magazine, celebrated his 70th birthday with a knees-up and duplicate at Young Chelsea at the end of November. The hands were ‘prepared’, each containing a problem of one sort or another, some well-known, others less so. The question was, would the players reach the intended contracts and recognise the problem, or would they find their own unique way to get lost? The party was overseen by club manager Nick Sandqvist, who, when he heard thunderous laughter from one table, went to investigate. This was the hand:

South played in the intended 3NT on a Heart lead. Seasoned bookworms will recognise the problem: the defence will duck one round of Clubs. South uses this entry to play a Diamond to the Jack, which, if West takes it, will give him three Diamonds to go with his six tricks in the other suits.

Declarer, knowing there was a catch to the hand, thought he recognised the situation — that the only way to bring in the Clubs was to play East for the singleton Ace.

After some deep thought, he therefore led the 8 from hand and asked for the 2 from dummy. We will never know if East knew what he was doing when he won this trick with the Ace, if he misheard or had just had too much champagne.

What we do know is that South was so jubilant his reading of the situation had been accurate that he couldn’t hold back a loud ‘Yay’ and a fist-pump. He won East’s Spade exit and, with an air of total invincibility, played another Club to dummy’s 10…

Happy birthday, Simon, and Merry Christmas everyone.