Now for Wendy Davis, who dropped dead in a bridge tournament in Great Britain while holding a really big hand. The obituary in the New York Daily News was clearly written by a non-player, since much of the description of her cards is incoherent. It says she held 29 points, but a) the graphic shows a hand with 21 points, b) it says she had a “pat hand” for 6 Notrump but the hand is not suitable for that contract, and, worst of all, c) it ascribes her death to the excitement she presumably experienced when she saw her terrific hand.
But a “pat hand” isn’t exciting, really, and Ms Davis knew that, having played tournament bridge for half a century, and having achieved the high status of highest-ranking player in Cornwall. Excitement in bridge comes from highly competitive deals, or from very difficult problems in playing the hand or defending against opponents. The sort of hand she held was not exciting, it did not put her under any pressure, she had only to add to thirteen to see what she should do.
Such stories get written by people who don’t know much, if anything, about the game, which is in decline. It’s a hard game to learn, let alone master, and it takes a lot of concentration and a lot of time. Most of our young game-players prefer faster, noisier and more colorful competition, which is a pity, since bridge is the game that best encapsulates the varieties of life. It requires lying, for example…and deception, as Obama is seeing, is an essential part of the real world.
The only case of a fatal bridge hand in my experience came a long time ago in St. Louis. I was playing in a minor tournament, and a woman at the next table made some bid. Her opponent yelled “DOUBLE!” in a suitably vicious tone. The poor woman died on the spot. There are many doubles in bridge, and I couldn’t help pointing out that that one was truly a penalty double.
Nobody doubled Wendy. Denton would have done it quietly, but firmly. Schlesinger would have done it with a slight sneer and good humor. Walsh would have doubled ex cathedra.