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
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
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
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
A bit later, you again play 3NT
The lead is the 9 of hearts. 7 sure tricks. Where can you find the 2
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
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.
walk toward the next table, as light as your convention card... that
hold between the thumb and the index.