Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mona Lisa and the Lacemaker

Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

The Lacemaker
Vermeer (1632-1675)

RHO opens 1 and you overcall 1 with:

Your card says Overcalls occasionally light! LHO negative doubles, showing 4 spades, your partner cue-bids and you end up in 2.

LHO leads a small diamond and RHO plays the Queen, then the King. You are playing duplicate and you have to try to make the maximum number of tricks. At the start of the hand, you have 6 losers: 2 spades, 1 heart, 1 diamond and 2 clubs! Can you reduce that number? Can you think of making 10 tricks?

First a bit of discovery.

You ruff the King of diamonds and play a club, small, King, Ace.

Stop, and count: RHO thus has AKQ of diamonds and the Ace of clubs, 13 points already.

In hand with the Ace of clubs, RHO plays back the 10 of hearts. LHO seems to have the King of hearts, because RHO did not open 1NT. You play small from hand, LHO plays small too! RHO has at least 15 points and did not open 1NT. For his part, LHO has to have KQxx in spades and Jxxx in diamonds, a minimum for his negative double at the first level.

But why didn’t RHO open 1NT? That is the question! He has at least 15 points and no singleton, LHO’s negative double showing only 4 spades. RHO’s hand is therefore an open book:


In dummy with the Queen of hearts, you play back a heart, King, Ace.

There, you are at the crossroads. You feel this light euphoria, announcing that you are in the zone, this second state you access when you see the cards. And what do you see? You see that, to make 10 tricks, you have to go to dummy, ruff the last diamond, go back to dummy and play a small spade towards your J972. You will need only to cover RHO’s card, and LHO will be endplayed with an honour (if he doesn’t have the 10), forced to concede ruff and discard or to play back a spade away from his other honour. You will score +170, certainly an excellent score.

In fact you are playing for the following position:

On the edge of your chair, you are literally floating. The beauty of the play, that’s the objective. Thus, the goal of a bridge player is not to play only his own 26 cards, but to play all the 52 cards (opponents don’t have the choice then) in order to recreate this image he has of the deal. A bridge deal contains an order, a structure, an innate organisation, an original and organic layout. The bridge player has to find this primary state and, if he succeeds in reconstructing it, he will have created a perfect object, a masterpiece, whatever the level of the contract.

I have visited many museums all over the world and I have seen thousands of paintings. I can say that, for the immense majority of them, you say to yourself Very nice, and you go on to the next one. But when you arrive before certain paintings by Vermeer (1632-1675) or by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), you stop, you are compelled to stop, and you say to yourself: "Now, this is perfect!"

These paintings are perfect, and nothing about them can be changed.

At bridge, it is the same thing: once the cards are dealt, the hand as a whole is perfect and nothing can be changed.

And what sign the bridge player should look for, that will tell him how the cards lie? Simply the state he is in, this febrile condition of acute lucidity, like before the paintings listed above.

You play a club, LHO follows with the 9, you hesitate, heart pounding. Finally, you play the 10 of clubs in dummy, which holds. It is really too beautiful and the rest is like a dream: diamond ruffed, club to the Queen. Then small spade …
RHO plays small, and you add the last touch to your masterpiece: you play the 7 of spades and LHO wins the Queen!!

He comes back a diamond (whatever), you pitch a spade in dummy, ruff in your hand and score +170, a top. More importantly, you taste this immense pleasure, this perfect satisfaction of having imagined the layout, of having been able to predict the play and seen the cards obey your will.

At the Louvre in Paris, Mona Lisa looks at you, wherever you are, near or far away, to the right or to the left, and her smile is directed towards you, personally. You stay there a long time, unable to leave her, unable to turn away. Gradually you find she has some imperfections: her right eye seems to squint a little bit, her nose is a bit too long, her mouth is small, her hair badly done, and her shoulders are sloping. But you stay there, without moving, subdued by all this perfection. People around you are talking, a guide is arguing with one tourist who is trying to show off (the French!), you hear everything, and you don’t hear a thing. Mona Lisa's eyes and her smile, ironic and at the same time indulgent, are telling you: "Don’t judge them too harshly, we are all imperfect. At this very moment, you are discovering my imperfections, and, at the same time, you are fascinated! And the more you will find my imperfections, the more you will love me!"

A bridge hand contains a series of imperfections (your spades are anaemic, you are missing K10 of hearts and AJ of clubs), but the sum of all these imperfections can produce the most perfect beauty. And this beauty intoxicates us when we succeed, with will, courage, imagination and concentration (all human qualities) in recreating this series of imperfections, in putting them in order, in using these imperfections to create a perfect object, a masterpiece, i.e. a work where nothing can be changed, where everything is necessary.

Take a good look at Vermeer’s characters; they are all perfectly concentrating on ordinary, daily, down to earth tasks: one woman is pouring milk, the other is weighing pearls, and a third one is making lace. These paintings are unforgettable masterpieces, inspired by little duties, done by little people, but carefully, diligently, with total concentration, like when you have to play a little 2 contract.

Your heart still races even today when you think about it, like when you think back of the Mona Lisa, and you say to yourself :

"Is it possible to have so much grace?"

No comments:

Post a Comment