Do You Speak Icelandic?

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 08/23/2009
Level: All Levels

Playing and teaching bridge has taken me all over the world. In some countries, they spot Americans a mile away (probably I shouldn't wear sneakers and a baseball cap). When touring (usually with my wife), "hawkers" constantly harass us trying to sell their wares. I've taken to answering in Spanish (my wife's native language). I say, "Yo soy de Espana" (I am from Spain)--hoping they will leave me alone.  No. They seem to be multi-lingual pests--they start harassing me in Spanish!


        Jon Baldursson of Iceland
World Champion Jon Baldursson of Iceland
I figured out a solution. I asked my friend Jon Baldursson (a world champion from Iceland), how to say "I am from Iceland" in Icelandic. Surely, the hustlers wouldn't understand.

I have practiced saying "Eg er fra Island" over and over.  Every time I see Jon, I greet him with that phrase. I am now ready to hit the streets of the world with my new protective language.

At the 2009 Spingold in Washington D.C., I played against Jon in the Round of 16. This was an amusing deal from the 4th quarter:


Vul: None
Dir: North
?J 9 5 4
?8 4
?J 10 6 5
?A 6 5
?Q 7 3 2
?K Q 10 9 7 5
?Q 7
  ?K 10 8 6
?J 6 3
?9 8 4 3 2
  Jon Baldursson  
?A 2
?A K
?Q J 9 8 7 4 3 2

Jon held the South cards and in 3rd seat he opened with a strong-club (Precision-Style).

With the West cards, I preempted 2? (yes, I was "heavy," but my partner had already passed and it is a good idea to jam the auction when the opponents show strength). North passed and David Berkowitz (East) raised LAWfully to 3?.

What should Jon do with the South cards? He thought and thought. He had a very funny expression on his face. He looked at me and smiled (we were on the same side of the screen).

Just for fun, I took the 7NT card out of my bidding box and handed it to him. He laughed, but didn't accept my offer. Instead, he chose to bid 5?.

North, with his ?A, considered raising, but passed. Against 5? I led a high heart. If the clubs were 2-0, declarer would probably lose a club and a heart. But, with clubs 1-1 and the ?Q dropping, declarer easily made 7 (the heart loser went on the ?J).

This board was actually a push (our teammates also played in 5? making 7). 

But, after the hand was played, I told Jon that I had handed him the winning bid--7NT was cold!  Next time, maybe he will take my advice, just as I've taken his (on how to speak Icelandic).