The Rueful Rabbit — Down the rabbit hole…

The Rueful Rabbit is pleased to welcome a new contributor to my Blog from Britain

From Our English Correspondent
Anthony Woodcutter

Column á Clef
“Would the loquacious Lancastrian like to enlighten his country cousins from across the Irish Sea with a column?” emailed the Rueful Rabbit.

As a strong supporter of building bridges between the Home Nations, I just couldn’t resist, particularly in view of the deleterious impact on Anglo-Irish relations of Ireland’s recent return to the Camrose. In the last three years I have heard more than one English International mutter that it is about time the stupid bloody competition was abolished. Perhaps the Camrose should be replaced by something a little less divisive, such as a qualifier for an all-British Isles Bridge Squad. What could we call such a team? Bionic – Bridge Isles Of the Northern Island Chain? But I expect the Scots would prefer a combination of Team Ireland and Team Scotland, while the Welsh might well decide it is time they learnt to swim!

Aficionados of my column in the Cablegram will know that I often feature brilliancies by my former bridge partner. What can I do? He sends me so many wonderful hands, and his own paper can’t be expected to publish them all. But to balance the books here is a rare example of blundering by the Big Boy. As I know only too well, even the great and the good can fall from grace. The other players’ names have been disguised to protect the innocent so let’s just say it was a case of Our Kid versus the Wunderkind, the Long Fellow versus the Mick on the Make.
Mercifully, the bidding is unknown to me. Modern bidding methods leave me as cold as Yorkshire Pudding. Pointless overcalls. Preempts on any five-card suit. Conventions that give the oppo more info than partner. Slam tries on hands that in my day as an International would have barely qualified for a limit-raise. These days you don’t bid what you think you can make but anything that will raise the hacketts of your long-suffering correspondent. In life no good deed goes unpunished; in Bridge no sin goes unrewarded, as the following hand will demonstrate.

The contract was 7H Doubled, played by South, Wunderkind, in partnership with “Dr Who”. Our Kid, the doubler, was sitting East and was partnered by “Miss Moneypenny”, who led the 3 of trumps. As soon as dummy appeared “Dr Who” immediately announced that he was going to get a drink and, viewing dummy, Our Kid could see why. How many times a week do you find yourself doing that, Whoie boy? I’ll never know how they managed come second at Stratford.

This was the hand layout from East’s point of view:



Wunderkind won the first trick in hand and then played the ace and the 2 of spades at which point Our Kid paused for thought. Partner’s play to the first spade indicated four cards in the suit, which meant that Wunderkind had a singleton and was trying to induce the play of the King. But “Miss Moneypenny” loved deceptive plays herself and given Our Kid’s double might have thought she had the luxury of messing about. If so, the boy wonder might have the Jack and was trying to steal a trick. If I play the King, Our Kid must have thought, it will cost a trick if Wunderkind has a singleton spade but it will cost two tricks if I duck and he has Jx because then the King can be trapped by playing the Q10. So the odds favoured playing the King.
Wunderkind ruffed Our Kid’s King and then played a trump to the Ace of hearts. The Queen of spades quickly followed, declarer discarding a club. Then came the ace and six of diamonds and Our Kid found himself on the horns of the same dilemma. Did declarer have the Jack? Partner’s play to the first diamond trick (the 2) indicated that she had one or three. Wunderkind’s discard of a club rather than a diamond on the spade queen suggested that “Miss Moneypenny” had three diamonds and that playing the King would enable declarer to ruff, cross to dummy with the ace of clubs, drop the Jack of diamonds on the Queen and discard his final losing club on the 10. On the other hand, if declarer has three diamonds there would still be time enough to win a trick in that suit.
So, going with the odds once again, Our Kid played low, Wunderkind, needless to say, won with the Jack and then played three more rounds of trumps, discarding the Queen and 10 of diamonds. This was the position after 10 tricks:




Wunderkind led his last trump, “Miss Moneypenny” played the 10 of clubs and declarer discarded the 10 of spades. If Our Kid threw a club the A2 would bring home the bacon and discarding the diamond King would establish declarer’s last diamond. At this point Our Kid’s thoughts must have turned to the post-mortem. What do you call a double deception followed by a double squeeze? A Chump Coup? And what would Wunderkind’s ghostwriter make of this little performance? He could see the hand heading in the next book: “How to Rob Sonone” or maybe something more sardonic: “Finally, after 800 years of hurt…” Worse still, what will the sponsor think?

For the record the full hand was:

If this hand seems familiar to you, dear reader, it is because it is, and it is not because it has been featured by six other Bridge columnists this week. Bridge Base Online, you see, has a new feature – Feast of Fictional Fun ( ) – which allows you to download and play fictional hands from satirical bridge books. I kid you not, and if you don’t believe me you can feck off.

This particular hand comes from a classic of the genre, but for copyright reasons I am not allowed to identify its source. Amazingly, the play of the hand at the “table” went exactly the same way as in the book! As Terence Reese liked to say, in the Bridge world life often imitates art, especially when you are accused of cheating. Or, as I am fond of saying myself, it’s a case of wheels within wheels within wheels.

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