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Le Manoir

2000 was a life-changing year for me. Much more important (even) than becoming The Times Bridge Correspondent (in June), I married Lorna in January, and was a Dad by the end of the year.

As any parent knows, life before children is very different to life after, and any comparison is futile, and entirely inappropriate. You adore your wife and children (I have two lovely daughters, Hannah and Mimi), but of course child-rearing is by its very nature a selfless task.

Carefree gallivanting around the globe is replaced by fetching and carrying small people; weekend Bridge-playing is replaced by more writing and teaching during the week.

There might be less Bridgeplaying, but there is far from none. I was thrilled to win Britain’s premier knock-out event, the Gold Cup, in 2002 and again in 2003. The very day I won (for the first time) in 2002, my parents were hosting their 40th Wedding Anniversary celebration at Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons restaurant. I felt I had to win to justify (to myself) my non-attendance. In the event, I felt this huge force (from Oxfordshire) with me all day, and we won by a record 151 imps.

My partner on that occasion, and the year after, was co-teacher at my club, David Bakhshi, one of the English talents to emerge over the last decade. Here is a Gold Cup deal in partnership with David.

South Deals
None Vul
A 6 4
K 10 8 7
8 6 5 3 2
A 3 2
A J 10 9
Q 8 6 5 2
W   E
J 8 3 2
Q J 6 4
Q 4
9 4 3
K Q 10 7 5
9 5
K 7
A K J 10
West North East South
      1 ♠1
Dbl 2 ♣2 2  4 ♠
Pass Pass Pass
  1. Playing Five-card Majors.
  2. A conventional bid, showing a decent
    three-card spade raise (8-10 points or compensating shape)


West led a reasonable (but unfortunate) club against my Four Spades. I won the ten, and at Trick two led a heart. West almost certainly held both red aces to justify his double, and he was likely to rise with the ace in case I held a singleton heart. He did.

West returned a passive second heart (best), and I won the king and ruffed a third heart low (safe -West would hardly double One Spade with just two hearts). What next?

I wanted to ruff my jack of clubs, but how would I then play trumps? Would I cash the ace and finesse the ten (West rated to be short for his take-out double)? Or not? Unwilling to guess, I saw an improvement, involving drawing trumps and endplaying West in the minors.

I cashed the king of trumps, crossed to the ace (West did discard), finessed the ten, and cashed the queen. To what five cards could West reduce?

Helpless, at the table West came down to three clubs and two diamonds, but I played ace-king-jack ********************

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