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Sadly, Geoffrey Breskal passed away on 24th Sept 2018. May he rest in peace. Our condolences to Margaret and his family.

Known to many in the bridge world as the former joint proprietor of St John’s Wood Bridge Club, Geoffrey won the Gold Cup in 1977 & 1983 (and was runner-up four times), Crockford’s Cup in 1974 & 1988, Robert Provost Cup (Spring Foursomes) in 1983 & 1986, Hubert Phillips Cup in 1989, Pachabo Cup in 1975, Eastbourne Bowl 1964 & 1972, Middlesex Cup in 1972, 1975 & 1978, many other tournaments and a great deal of money at the rubber bridge table!

Geoffrey was interviewed in Bridge Plus, August 1998:

Introduction:
Geoffrey and his wife Margaret have two daughters and 3 grandchildren and they live in Barnet. He is a tall, cheerful, good-looking man. He has had a successful career as the owner of a chain of betting shops and for 21 years he has been a director of one of London’s top rubber bridge clubs, St John’s Wood (known as ‘The Wood’). As a player, he has won every top event in England several times over - sometimes playing a simple rubber bridge style with no conventions at all. Highly respected amongst his peers, he has a reputation for being a sensible player with an excellent rapport with his partner at the table.

When did you start the game?
When I was about 13, I used to kibitz my father, who was a good player. During the war I served in the Army, joining the Gordon Highlanders after I left school. I was stationed in the Far East and then moved on to decoding duties at GHQ. After the war, I started playing bridge more seriously and took up tournament bridge. Ernest Senk, a close neighbour, and I played together a bit. When Margaret wanted to learn, Ernest taught her.

I hear that you and Margaret feature as characters in a Frederick Forsythe novel?
We met him on a cruise, and I am told that our characters are woven into a novel (Interviewer’s note: extreme modesty set in here and it was very difficult to find out more)

How did you come to be the proprietor of The Wood?
I had recently sold the betting shops and David Edwin was looking for a partner in the club. We got on very well together, perhaps partly because we never saw each other, as we took it in turns to be at the club. The London rubber bridge world is full of characters and we had a good time running the club. It’s now managed by Unal Durmus and still continues to be successful.

I’ve heard of rubber bridge games that go on and on. Are any particularly memorable?
There was one which started on a Friday night, the same four people playing throughout. By Monday morning two of the players had disappeared. One of the remaining players complained that there was no game for him.

Has anyone ever died at the table?
Yes, a small stake rubber player actually did. David Levitt said to him at the time “you can’t go yet, you’ve got to call last two hands”. Meanwhile, across the room someone yelled out “can’t you keep quiet there”.

Have you ever had to throw people out of the club, other than for reasons to do with bad debts?
There was an Australian fellow, high stake player, who used to break down if anyone bid a slam against him. You could see the tears running down his face. Eventually, I said to him “this game is not for you”.

Richard Sampson, known as Two-Jacks (because of what he claims is his poor card holding) was playing one day when he picked up a bad 27 count. There was a storm brewing outside. The Wood is in the basement of a large building, and suddenly the basement became completely flooded. All the players left, except for Richard. He sat there with his feet immersed in water, gripping his ‘bad’ 27 count. Eventually we persuaded him to leave.

Who were your partners at tournament bridge?
I have played with Joel Tarlo, John Collings, Gus Calderwood and Graham Cooke. Graham and I held the record as challengers in Bridge International’s Bidding Challenge for 13 months on the trot.

And finally, have you ever fallen asleep at the table at a major event?
Who told you that? Yes, its true, we were playing in the Continental Life Tournament in 1981 and the declarer took so long to play a card that I really did fall asleep.

New The EBU has created a series of videos featuring Gordon Rainsford to help club Tournament Directors deal with some of the more commonly occurring situations.

There are seven videos in the series: http://www.ebu.co.uk/laws-and-ethics/td-videos 

Introduction
The revoke
Opening lead out of turn
Unintended call
Insufficient bid
Call out of turn
Misinformation

Please remember that if one of these situations arises, you should, as a player, always call the director, and not try to sort this out yourself.

 

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HOTM Previous Hands

** Bid of 2S is Weak Two **

Contract is 3 No Trumps by South.
West leads Club Ten.
What is the line of play?

NOTE: TO PLAY ON VU-BRIDGE CLICK ON THE TITLE

West decided against leading a spade, rightly fearing that it might give declarer his ninth trick.  Instead, he opted for safety, leading the ten of clubs.  Declarer took the first trick with the ace of clubs and then cashed his remaining club winners. This enabled declarer to place West with ten cards in the black suits, so South decided to extract the remaining red-suit cards in West’s hand.

Declarer’s first move in that direction was to play the four of diamonds from hand to the eight, nine and ten from East. Declarer took the queen of diamonds continuation with the ace, West discarding a spade, and played the four of hearts from hand. West rose with the queen of hearts and exited with a heart to declarer’s ace. West had shown up with 6=2=1=4 shape. Declarer played the queen of spades next. It did not matter whether West took the ace of spades or ducked: declarer would make two spade tricks, along with one in hearts, two in diamonds and four in clubs for his contract.

 

Contract is 4 Spades by South.
West leads Heart Eight.
What is the line of play?

NOTE: TO PLAY ON VU-BRIDGE CLICK ON THE TITLE

West led the eight of hearts against four spades. Declarer could count nine tricks and while the tenth might come from a winning club finesse, he thought that the king of clubs was more likely to be offside. In that case, he needed to keep West, the danger hand, off play.

Thus declarer covered the eight of hearts with the nine.  East took this with the ten of hearts and shifted to the queen of diamonds.  Declarer rose with the ace of diamonds, West signalling encouragement, and entered dummy by playing the ten of trumps to dummy’s jack.  His next move was to call for the jack of hearts.  East covered this with the queen and declarer threw his losing diamond. Now East tried to cash the jack of diamonds, but declarer ruffed it high.

After crossing to dummy by playing the eight of trumps to dummy’s queen, declarer ruffed a heart high.   

As all of the preparatory work had now been done, declarer crossed back to dummy with the five of trumps to dummy’s seven and led dummy’s last heart. East covered this and declarer threw a club. East now had the choice of leading into dummy’s ace-queen of clubs tenace or conceding a ruff-and-discard. Either way, declarer had his tenth trick.

 

Contract is 6 Hearts by South.
West leads Heart Three.
What is the line of play?

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As North/South were using a four-diamond response to two notrump as a transfer to four hearts, this sequence suggested that North had a mild interest in a heart slam.

As he held an ace and a king, West deduced that it was almost pointless to lead his singleton and so started with a low trump. Declarer took this in hand with the eight and led the king of clubs. West covered the king with the ace and declarer, instead of ruffing, threw a diamond from dummy.

West exited with a trump, which declarer took in dummy. After crossing to hand with the ace of diamonds to park dummy’s two remaining diamonds on the queen and jack of clubs, declarer ruffed a diamond in dummy. Next, he crossed back to hand with the ace of trumps, thereby drawing West’s last trump, to ruff a second diamond in dummy. This set up two diamond winners in hand and declarer had the ace of spades as an entry to enjoy them. He made one spade, six trumps, three diamonds and two clubs for a total of twelve tricks.
 

 

Contract is 6 Hearts by South.
West leads Club Ten.
What is the line of play?

NOTE: TO PLAY ON VU-BRIDGE CLICK ON THE TITLE

After a forcing rebid of three hearts, promising a six cardsuit, and some control-bidding, South, rather optimistically, leapt to a small slam in his long suit.

West led the ten of clubs and, after dummy was tabled,declarer saw that his prospects were rather bleak. As the auction was not a thing worth lamenting, after winning the first trick with the queen of clubs, declarer ran the queen of trumps. When that held and East followed, declarer saw that all would be well if West’s trump king was now bare. So he asked himself, “What could be done if West started with king-third of trumps?”

In that case, his only hope was that West had also started with the king of diamonds and could be stripped of his black-suit cards. Accordingly, declarer crossed to dummy with the ace of spades then ruffed a spade. A trump to the ace brought the bad news that West did indeed have a trump trick. Continuing with his plan, declarer ruffed the third spade before cashing the ace-king of clubs and finally exiting with a trump to West’s king. As West had stared with 3-3-4-3 shape, he had to exit with a diamond and declarer’s queen of diamonds proved to be his twelfth trick. For once, dummy was pleased. “Well done,” he exclaimed, rather unexpectedly.

 

Contract is 5 Clubs by South.
West leads Spade King.
What is the line of play?

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This deal cropped up in a teams match and the auction was the same at both tables, as was the lead: both West players started with the king of spades.

The first declarer ruffed the opening lead, then cashed the ace and king of trumps, followed by the ace and king of hearts. Next he led a heart from hand and ruffed it in dummy. Alas, East overruffed and this declarer still had to lose a diamond and a heart, finishing down one.

The second declarer was a little more circumspect. He counted nine top tricks and, if the hearts were 3-3, eleven tricks would be certain. Accordingly, he turned his mind to what he could do if hearts were 4-2. So, after ruffing the opening lead, declarer cashed the ace of trumps and then played ace, king and another heart. When West followed to the third round of hearts, instead of ruffing, declarer threw a low diamond from dummy.

After winning a surprise heart trick with the seven, West shifted to a diamond. Declarer rose with the ace, returned to hand with a trump and led a fourth round of hearts, on which he discarded dummy’s last diamond. Declarer ruffed the spade continuation then ruffed his remaining diamond in dummy with the ten of trumps. After crossing back to hand with another spade ruff, declarer drew East’s last trump and claimed:he had three hearts, a diamond, a diamond ruff and six trumps for a total of eleven tricks.
 

 

Contract is 4 Spades by South.
West leads Heart King.
What is the line of play?

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4 is Puppet to four spades

West led the king of hearts. Declarer could count nine winners and while a double finesse in clubs would offer around a 3:1 chance of success, declarer felt that he should be able to do better. He had recognised a classic sign of an elimination play as the way to make his tenth trick: plentiful trumps and a club suit that would benefit from such a plan. The problem was the diamond suit. He asked himself, “How can I prevent East from gaining the lead while preparing the sought-after elimination?” He was able to come up with the winning answer – he ducked the king of hearts. At trick two West shifted to a diamond, respecting East’s nine-of-hearts suit-preference signal. Declarer rose with the ace of diamonds then drew trumps with the king and ace. Next he played the ace and jack of hearts, discarding dummy’s two remaining diamonds. After winning with the queen of hearts West exited with a diamond, as he could not play a club without giving declarer his tenth trick. Declarer ruffed this in dummy then crossed back to hand with the queen of trumps to ruff his last diamond, thereby eliminating that suit. As all of the preliminary work was complete, declarer played the jack of clubs from dummy next and passed it to West when East followed with a low card. After winning with the queen of clubs West had no winning option. He had to give declarer his tenth trick, either by conceding a ruff-and-discard with a heart exit or by leading a club into declarer’s tenace.

 

Contract is 4 Spades by South.
West leads Heart Ace.
What is the line of play?

NOTE: TO PLAY ON VU-BRIDGE CLICK ON THE TITLE

West began with the ace of hearts and continued with the king and five of the suit in response to East’s encouraging signal. Declarer ruffed the third heart low in the dummy, East following suit with his remaining pip. A trump to the ace revealed the 5=0 break and South then had to lose a diamond as well as a trump trick for down one. “What rotten luck to get a 5=0 break,” moaned declarer. True to form, his partner was not sympathetic. “Nonsense! You should have discarded a diamond from dummy at trick four,” he offered. North continued, “This is pretty safe because you always have to lose a diamond and in playing this way you will get two low diamonds away from dummy, with the second one disappearing on the fourth round of clubs. East cannot damage you by playing a fourth round of hearts because then the jack of hearts will force West to ruff from his five-card length (discarding is just as ineffective for West). In that case dummy can overruff and from there it would have been routine to take ten tricks.” North then added “Also, discarding a diamond on the third round of hearts would succeed if East began with a doubleton heart. He would ruff the trick but you would have the rest: five trumps, the ace of diamonds and four clubs. My suggested strategy swaps a diamond loser for a third heart loser. Also, it all but guarantees ten tricks no matter how the cards lie.”

 

Contract is 4 Spades by South.
West leads Club jack.
What is the line of play?

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4 = Texas Transfer to spades

North’s transfer to four spades improved the contract positionally since a heart lead from East would have beaten four spades. Nevertheless, how would you play four spades after West has led the jack of clubs?

You take the opening lead with the queen of clubs and play the ace and king of trumps, East turning up with a winner. Can you avoid three heart losers when the ace of hearts is offside? You continue with the king and ace of diamonds and ruff a diamond in the dummy. You return to your hand with the ace of clubs and lead your last diamond, West producing the queen. What now?

If you ruff this trick, you will have to lead a heart yourself. East will rise with the jack, to prevent you from inserting the seven to endplay West. The defenders will then claim three heart tricks to beat your game. Instead, you should discard a heart from dummy on the fourth round of diamonds. West is left on lead and must either lead a heart or give you a ruff-and-discard. It would not help East to ruff his partner’s diamond winner, of course, since you would then lose just one trump and two hearts.
 

Contract is 3 No Trumps by South.
West leads spade 9.
What is the line of play?

NOTE: TO PLAY ON VU-BRIDGE CLICK ON THE TITLE

West led the nine of spades and East overtook it with the jack. Declarer noted that there were only twelve high card points missing and so he expected East to hold almost all of them. Declarer ducked the first round of spades, but took the second round to keep open his option of endplaying East with a spade later in the play.

When West followed at trick two the spades were marked as 2=5 (East/West were employing five-card majors). Declarer continued with three rounds of hearts, with East throwing a low club on the third round. After a diamond to the king, declarer played a diamond to jack and then cashed the ace of diamonds.

When East followed to the diamonds with the four, ten and queen of diamonds respectively, declarer was fairly certain that East’s initial shape was overwhelmingly favoured to be 5-2-3-3. If that were the case, then East’s remaining cards were three spade winners and two clubs. So declarer exited with his remaining spade. All East could do was to take his three spade winners but then had to lead into dummy’s acequeen of clubs.

Contract is 4♠  by South.
West leads Daimond King.
What is the line of play?

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West led the king of diamonds to declarer’s bare ace. Declarer saw that he needed to do one of four things: (i) make a second heart trick, or (ii) make a club trick, or (iii) ruff a club in the dummy, or (iv) play the trumps for no losers.

The questions were, (a) which of these alternatives to attempt and (b) how to achieve one of them as safely as possible. As it appeared from the bidding that both the heart and trump finesses might well fail, declarer turned his attention to clubs. Playing a low club from hand would succeed if West had started with ace and king of clubs, but that also seemed an unlikely proposition.

It was then that declarer saw that this was a simple avoidance play problem. He had to keep East off lead when the club ace and king were split to prevent the defence from playing two rounds of trumps. So he crossed to dummy with the ace of hearts and led the seven of clubs from the table. If East had played the ace or king of clubs this would have allowed declarer to develop a club trick. In practice, East played a low club and declarer contributed the jack, which West took with the ace. As West could not lead a trump without sacrificing his trick in the suit, he opted to try and cash a diamond. Declarer ruffed, then played the two of clubs to dummy’s queen and East’s king. East exited with the expected trump but it was too late.

Declarer rose with the ace of trumps and ruffed the six of clubs in dummy. Declarer now claimed, conceding a trick to the king of trumps.

Contract is 4♠  by South.
West leads Club Ace.
What is the line of play?

NOTE: TO PLAY ON VU-BRIDGE CLICK ON THE TITLE

West led the ace of clubs. Declarer ruffed, then played the ace of trumps. East’s discard was a nasty shock and now declarer had to try and ruff a heart in dummy.

He cashed the ace and king of hearts and then led the five. West ruffed this with the nine of trumps then crossed to East’s hand with a diamond to the king.

After ruffing the heart continuation with the jack of trumps, West exited with a diamond to East’s ace to set four spades by one trick.

As ever, North was not sympathetic to declarer’s cries of bad luck. “You should have discarded a diamond at trick one. Your aim should have been to surrender the two diamond losers early. If the defenders played a club at trick two, you should pitch a second diamond. If an unlikely heart shift came at trick two, you should win, cash the ace of trumps and, seeing the suit was 4-0, play a second diamond. If instead, the defenderscontinue with two rounds of diamonds, they would be doing your work for you in getting rid of those pesky diamonds. After gaining the lead at trick three, you would cash the ace of trumps and when East showed out, play the ace, king and five of hearts. Then it would not matter whether West ruffed in with the nine of trumps or discarded: if he trumped the five of hearts with the nine he would no longer have an entry to East’s hand to obtain a second heart ruff. All you would lose would be a trump and two diamonds.”

“As the cards lay you could have recovered at trick three by playing a diamond,” North continued.“However that risks going down when hearts are 4-3 and diamonds are 2-5 and East can play a diamondwinner on the third round of the suit. That layout would see the defenders make either two trumps or a trump and a heart.”
 

Contract is 3 No Trumps by South.
West leads spade 6.
What is the line of play?

NOTE: TO PLAY ON VU-BRIDGE CLICK ON THE TITLE

West led a fourth-highest the six of spades against three notrump. As only 14 high-card points were in the defensive hands, declarer saw that it was all but certain that West held all three of the missing aces. Declarer was about to play low from dummy when he saw that if he did so, West would grab the first round of diamonds to play the ace-jack of spades and he would have only eight tricks before he had to lead a heart. Then West would take the ace of hearts immediately and cash two spade winners for a one trick set.

So, declarer called for dummy’s king of spades. He then crossed to hand to lead a low diamond towards dummy. As the cards lay, if West rose with the ace and played on spades declarer would be safe as he would still have a spade stopper when the time came to develop a trick in hearts. In practice, West played a low diamond on the first round and dummy’s jack won the trick. Dummy’s king of hearts came next. West took this with his ace and returned a heart to declarer’s queen. Next, declarer  cashed the ace of clubs and then led a second low diamond to dummy’s king. The 4-1 diamond break was a disappointment but not a real problem. Declarer just cashed the king of clubs and the jack of hearts for his seventh and eighth tricks. All that remained was to lead a low diamond from hand. West took the ten and ace of diamonds but then had to give declarer his ninth trick by leading away from his ace of spades.

Contract is 6 spades by South.
West leads spade JACK.
What is the line of play?

NOTE: TO PLAY ON VU-BRIDGE CLICK ON THE TITLE

West led the jack of trumps and declarer was slightly disappointed by the rather threadbare dummy: four clubs was a bit of an overbid. However, that was in the past and his job was to make twelve tricks, not to complain about the auction.

Declarer saw that he needed trumps to be 3-2 and to have some luck in the red suits to make his contract.  However, there were real transportation difficulties between the two hands.  If the diamond finesse was successful, only one club ruff was needed, but if it were offside, two club ruffs would be necessary.  Furthermore, if declarer took a diamond finesse at trick two and it lost he would no longer have the entries to take two club ruffs.

Declarer then considered the question, “What if I gave up on the diamond finesse?” The only issue was that while he could ruff two clubs, his only entry back to hand after the second ruff would be with a heart ruff.

After some thought, declarer decided the second approach was more appealing. He took the first trick with queen of trumps, then cashed ace of clubs and ruffed a club. The next card he called for surprised everyone at the table, particularly East: it was dummy’s ten of diamonds. East took this with the queen and exited with a trump. After winning this in hand with the king declarer ruffed another club. There was only one way back to hand, in hearts, so declarer cashed the ace-king of hearts and ruffed a heart. As that passed off successfully, declarer drew the last trump with the ace while throwing dummy’s remaining heart. This left dummy with just the three high diamonds to cash.