Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Between the Thumb and the Index

The exercise is routine, and the actions always the same, that lead each time to this recognizable and desired condition: your middle and third fingers placed on top of the plastic case, the thumb slips under the 13 cards captive of their thin sheath, the index puts pressure on the top of the pack, and the index finger and the thumb, in perfect harmony, in two equal and successive tractions, draw the cards of the first board.

The opposable thumb, what a wonder! Has human being been created so they can easily draw cards from boards and play bridge?

At the same time you access this state, desired, anticipated, each time welcomed, this peace, this silence in your soul and your mind, this seriousness similar to that of children playing a game, or adults making love, this gravity before experiencing a deep pleasure.

You hear nothing, a protective bubble surrounds you and protects you from the world and its hype, while you place your 13 cards in colors, alternating red and black (but not necessarily spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs), the highest card on the left and the others down to the right.

You count your points at the same time, quickly, without going into details, and your distribution in the same way.

Once the cards are placed (how many hundreds of thousands of times have you repeated the same gestures for so many years?), you close your cards, then reopen them, deliberately, allowing the same regular intervals between them.

This time, you count your points accurately, make a provisional statement of your losers and take note of your distribution. Then, cards placed in a fan shape, held gently at the base of the fan between the thumb and the index finger of the left hand, you cross your right leg over the left and you wait for the beginning of the auction.

In anticipation, you look around a bit, who is and who is not there, but this panoramic traveling doesn’t distract you. It is one of those rituals immutable, inevitable, these gestures repeated at the beginning of each session, that carry you... elsewhere.

What is this place where you find yourself, because you're really in a place, but not palpable, non-localizable? You can talk to opponents, make jokes, talk with your partner, but you never leave this place, this space outside of time that you find each time you begin a bridge session.

At the beginning of the session, the gods of the bridge send you a 3NT hand, only to see if you are awake. The lead is a small spade. The view of dummy immediately brings a smile to your lips.

You immediately recognize the theme. You score +430 and notice that, played from your side, the contract will surely fail if declarer is not fully awake. You know them, they won’t plan ahead and will probably go down.

A bit later, you again play 3NT

The lead is the 9 of hearts. 7 sure tricks. Where can you find the 2 others?

In spades maybe, or with the diamond finesse. But you don't want to commit yourself too early. When you don’t know how to play a hand, it is sometimes indicated to let the opponents play for you. Here, you just have to cover the 9 of hearts with the Jack, and East will be in.

East wins with the Queen and thinks for a long time. He can't play back a heart nor a diamond nor a spade: he will each time give you a trick. He should then play a club, dummy's weakness. But he surprises you a lot when he plays back a spade! Why not a club?

You duck and dummy's 9 wins the trick. You then play club yourself and East plays the Queen: is she singleton? Maybe that is the reason East didn't play a club at the trick before. You duck that club Queen. East insists at spades and you win in hand.

Something tells you not to play a diamond and you have learned to listen to your instincts when you are in the zone. And your instincts tell you to beware of those diamonds, to avoid this inviting finesse, too easy in fact.

Maybe East had a stiff club Queen? Maybe he has a 4441 hand. You play the club ace to see what will happen: East plays the King. You thank him silently, you cash the club Jack, discarding a diamond from dummy, East doing the same.

The original hands were maybe like this:

And we are now here:

You now play the spade ace, all following. Spades were then 3-3.

You now play a heart to the Ace, all following. On the spade Queen, East pitches a diamond. You discard a club, West doing the same as you. King of hearts and a heart now endplay East, West discarding another club.

The position is now:

East, endplayed for the 3rd and last time, has to play a diamond, giving you 2 tricks in dummy and +430. Looking at the cards, you notice that the diamond king was with East. You were right then to resist the diamond finesse. And this discovery augments your euphoria. If the king had been under AQ, you would have been disappointed, it would have been to easy a play, accessible to all those finesse maniacs.

You pick up your cards, 10 vertical and 3 horizontal, you replace them in their original position and hold them in your right hand, as usual and always in the same manner: thumb towards you, index on the left side of the pack, 4th finger on the right, middle and 3rd finger holding the cards. When you approach your hand from the board, the 4th finger leaves the cards and sticks in air (like an English lady having tea at Harrod's), you put the 3rd finger on the board, the index applies some pressure on the middle of the pack so it is easier to slide the cards in the board. Once the front end of the pack is introduced in the slim casing, the index stays on top of the pack and the thumbs pushes the cards into the casing.

This ritual after, always the same, responds to the ritual before and maintains you in this special state.

You get up from the table, without effort, like if you were elsewhere. In fact, you are elsewhere, you are in this state of grace, this seventh heaven reserved to bridge players: this diamond King offside has justified your line of play and you know this is the reason why you play bridge, for this elation of the mind, this ecstasy of the intelligence, when you have resisted the easy play, when you resisted to laziness, when you have courageously counted, counted and counted.

You don't look at the traveling sheet, it is without interest really. You walk toward the next table, as light as your convention card... that you hold between the thumb and the index.

No comments:

Post a Comment