The Art of Coarse Bridge – Part II

There was a club in the darkest Northwest corner of Mayfair, Green Street, run by Bill Elvin, no mean player, like so many class bridge players of his generation, an emigre from Austria. It was well run, it had to be, without a firm grip there would have been copious amounts of blood on the carpet. It had its fair share of East End gangsters, people who their governments wouldn’t mind interviewing about the whereabouts of certain monies, rubbing shoulders with swashbuckling business types and City traders. There were notable exceptions, Tony Salmon deserves a special mention, part of the Lyons family, the phrase ‘perfect gentleman’ could have been invented for him, no one had cause to say a harsh word about him.

Some of Britains finest players hosted at the club; The redoubtable Andrew Robson worked at the establishment for a while, Joe Fawcett did his apprenticeship there when he first arrived in London. Willie Whittaker took over from Joe when he left for pastures new. Bill once remarked that Willie won more money as a host than any other.

There was a member, an Iranian gentleman, Freddy was the anglicised moniker we all knew him by. Utterly charming, who confined his bridge abilities to the money game. It is fair to say as long as you play duplicate you will never meet a chap like Freddy, a man who used hesitation, tone of voice and facial expression to transmit the strength or weakness of his hand. If he had a weak raise to 2 spades, he would whisper the bid so it was barely audible. When playing a hand he would sway in his seat from side to side, it was rumoured that his glasses were specially made to accentuate his peripheral vision so that he could peer into his opponent’s hands.

He finds himself in six notrumps, vulnerable.

♠J74                      ♠9632
84                       ♥Q753
Q32                     ♦54
♣8732                   ♣K1054
The Bidding was swift:
South opened 1NT, they are nearly all hand hogs, and the game was a race to bid notrumps first, North raised to 4NT and Freddy obliged.
Willie was sitting West and led the spade 4.  Freddie won in hand with Ace, he next played the club queen and let it run, your dear author won with the king and fired back a spade, won by the queen.  Now Freddy took stock, this hand started to look a lot more difficult, and the man started to sway, imperceptibly at first, and slowly amplified over the ensuing minutes. I instinctively concealed my holding, but Willie tacitly moved the queen of diamonds into his heart suit, and ever so slightly lowered his hand.  Freddy could now see his way home, he played a small heart towards dummy and with a smile on his face played the 10.  He was astonished when I played the queen.  The poor man nearly fell off his chair.  He took his glasses off and gave them a good wipe.  He never suspected that he had been stung by the resourceful Mr Whittaker.
John Wilmott

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