Magazine article The Spectator

The Natural

Magazine article The Spectator

The Natural

Article excerpt

I READ recently about a group of British soldiers in the second world war who played bridge in a Japanese war camp: it helped them to endure the horrors. Even that wasn't possible for the young Czech-born Martin Hoffman. He was a prisoner in Auschwitz; when he emerged at the end, aged 14, he was the only member of his family to survive.

But three years later, in England, he took up the game. His natural aptitude was astonishing: soon he was holding his own at rubber bridge clubs against players like Terence Reese and S.J. Simon. He went on to play for England. Today, he is widely regarded as one of the best card players of all time.

Hoffman is famed, above all, for the speed of his analysis. Now in his seventies, he still plays like lightning, spotting possible squeezes and end-plays as soon as dummy goes down. Here's Hoffman in action (taken from his recent book, with Tim Bourke, Imagination and Technique in Bridge, Batsford, £10. …

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