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The Greatest Kibitzer of all Time

Zia Mahmood

 The Guardian 03/31/2011

  I know the name of the player who has watched the greatest number of bridge hands – he is Roland Wald, formerly of Denmark, now living in London, and the man behind the vugraph shows that appear almost daily on the free service Bridge Base Online. It is not uncommon for BBO to broadcast from a great many tables at once when major events are happening in different parts of the world, and Roland is «present» at all of them. One of the most recent events was the White House Junior tournament which attracted the customary top-quality field. Israel sent a formidable team that racked up a massive 22-point average in the Round Robin, then steamrollered strong sides from Sweden and France in the semi-final and final respectively. Roland was particularly impressed by this deal from the semi-final. Love all, dealer East:


A 7 3
K 10 8
A 9 5 2
K 8 4

Q J 10 9 8 4 2
9 2
K Q 7


Q J 6 5
J 10 8 6 3
9 6 2


K 5
A 7 4 3
A Q 10 7 5 3

Roland Wald

South, one of Israel’s 2010 World Junior Team champions, Lotan Fisher, opened one club and despite a pre-emptive effort of three spades by West, became declarer in the excellent contract of six clubs. West led the queen of spades, taken by declarer’s king, and the ace of clubs felled West’s jack. Deciding to treat this as an honest card, he next led a low heart and put on dummy’s 10. This was a «safe» play that was not entirely as safe as it looks, but when you’re young you tend not to be too suspicious of people who drop honour cards. If West had started with a singleton heart and a doubleton club . . . but then he would be today’s hero instead of South. East won the 10 of hearts with the jack and returned a diamond, but Fisher had made up his mind. He played a club to the queen, a heart to the king, a heart to the ace, and ruffed his last heart with dummy’s king of clubs. Then he returned to hand by ruffing a diamond, drew East’s last trump with the 10, and claimed his slam.

There were, as Roland Wald and his faithful band of expert commentators explained, other ways to make the contract – you could draw trumps, duck a heart, and squeeze East in the red suits, for example – but Fisher’s play was (like his near-namesake Bobby Fischer) a demonstration of clarity and brilliance.


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