18th European Youth Team Championships Page 3 Bulletin 10 - Wednesday, 17 July  2002

The All-Time Bridge Greats (9)

Rixi Markus

Rixi Markus (1910-1992) was born in Romania but moved to Austria where she first made her name at the bridge table. In 1938 she fled Austria and made her home in London where she remained for the rest of her life.

Generally recognised as the top European lady player to date and a great personality, Rixi was the first woman to become a WBF Grand Master and was the leading woman in the WBF masterpoint rankings from their inception in 1974 until 1980.

Rixi won more international titles than any other woman, a total of fourteen. For Austria in the thirties there were two European Women's Teams and one World Women's Teams. Later, representing Great Britain, she won seven European Team titles, one World Women's Teams, one World Mixed Teams and two World Women's Pairs. She also had second places including both the World Mixed and Ladies Pairs in 1970.

For Great Britain, her favourite partner was Fritzi Gordon. 'Rixi and Fritzi' were as fearsome a combination as the women's game has seen with a strong table presence to add to their technical expertise.

Rixi was named International Bridge Press Association Personality of the Year in 1974 and was awarded the MBE for contributions to bridge a year later by Queen Elizabeth. For many years she organised a match between the two Houses of the British parliament.

Rixi contributed to many magazines and wrote seven books, mostly collections of well played hands by expert players at tournaments around the world. She was also bridge columnist of the London Evening Standard from 1975 to 1980 and bridge editor of The Guardian newspaper from 1955 to 1992, enabling her to involve The Guardian in sponsoring a regular series of important English tournaments.

Rixi was never afraid to bid and some of the bids she found were imaginative to say the least. The title of one of her books, Bid Boldly, Play Safe reflects her approach to the game. Perhaps she became such a fine dummy player because her bidding forced her to do so.

This hand comes from rubber bridge and the score was Game All with North/South also having a 60 partscore. This sort of score often tempts each side to compete a little too much, though in this case the contract was played at the two level.

  ª -
© A Q 8 5 3
¨ A 10 5
§ K Q 6 5 3
ª K 6
© K J 10 6
¨ K 9 8 4 2
§ 8 4
Bridge deal ª A Q J 5 3
© 9 7
¨ Q
§ A J 10 9 2
  ª 10 9 8 7 4 2
© 4 2
¨ J 7 6 3
§ 7

West North East South
- 1© 1ª Pass
1NT 2§ Dble 2¨
Dble All Pass    

You may have guessed that Rixi was sitting South. The 2¨ bid was brave and did not have to work anywhere near as well as it did. It seemed that North must be very short in spades and, with no help at all in a heart or club contract, Rixi decided to hope to find her partner with some diamonds. A truly inspired decision, as we shall see.

West led ªK and declarer ruffed in dummy and led §K to the ace. East returned the ¨Q to dummy's ace and Rixi paused to take stock. The obvious move was to pitch a heart on the §Q but after doing that declarer can only take two heart ruffs and is a trick short. Instead, she ruffed a club to hand, ignoring the established queen, and took the heart finesse which, remember, was heavy favorite to succeed because of the 1NT bid. She continued with the ace and ruffed a heart, ruffed a spade and ruffed another heart and that was eight tricks - one diamond, two hearts, three ruffs in hand and two in dummy. Not a bad result with East/West cold for 3NT.

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