Magazine article The Spectator

Bridge: Janet De Botton

Magazine article The Spectator

Bridge: Janet De Botton

Article excerpt

Martin Hoffman is a hero. Now in his eighties, he can still analyse a hand faster than most people can sort their cards and he still plays at the speed of light. For many years he was considered the best Pairs player in the world, splitting his time between Florida and London where he played with a vast array of sponsors, getting some remarkable results.

Born in Czechoslovakia, he was orphaned in the Holocaust and at 14 was liberated by the Americans at the end of the war and sent to England. He started watching bridge players at the local club, and became obsessed with the game.

Between rounds, Martin loves telling jokes. Jokes make me anxious. I never get them and usually force a laugh at the wrong time. Last time I saw him he asked if he could tell me his latest story. 'No,' I said forcefully. 'Give me a hand instead.' Two minutes later he showed me this:

In a team's event both Souths opened 3[clubs] and ended in 5[clubs]. …

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