A Slight Case of Slander

“Well played. Papa.” The Rurful Rabbit and Timothy the Toucan spoke in unison.

“Yes, a very pretty defense,” echoed Charlie the Chimp. “What a pity it wasn’t against the Hideous Hog.” The Secretary Bird agreed heartily. Both were still amrting from the contract of 5♠ redoubled that HH kept making and breaking, in turn, at their expense a few days earlier.

“Perhaps we could set the hand up and goad him into betting,” suggested the Chimp. “If we mention Papa . . . ”

“No, no,” broke in the Greek. “It’s certainly high time to teach the Hog a lesson. But for heaven’s sake don’t tell him I was West or he will naturally expect something brillant and that might put him on the right track. Better say I was declarer and went down, but you wonder if, after all, there might be some play for it.”

When, an hour or so later, the Hog entered the card room, the deal had been reconstructed and was waiting for him.

“We had a pretty hand just now,” said the Chimp. “Papa, who went down on it, says you would have fared no better, though double dummy, of course . . .”

“I play all hands double dummy,” broke in the Hog, “and if this one can be made, I will make it. Naturally.”

A moment later, HH was declarer in 4♠, doubled by the Chimp, the Secretary Bird and two kibitzers.

Dlr: West ♠ A K 2
Vul: None K 5 4
A K J 9 3
♣ 7 4
♠ Q 10 6 4
A 6 3
Q 10 4
♣ 8 5 3
West North East South
3 Dbl 4♣ 4♠
All Pass

West led the ♣6. As the Rabbit who was turning over dummy’s cards, detached the ♣4, Oscar the Owl, our senior kibitzer, came in and took his place. “Sorry to have kept you waiting,” he apologized. Then after a review of the bidding and a look at dummy, he observed thoughtfully: “5 would be a far better contract.”

The Hog shook his head in dissent.

“But you can’t lose 5,” persisted OO. “West almost certainly has seven hearts. Anyway, one round will clear that up. When you’ve seen how often he follows in the minors you will know how many spades he has and finesse accordingly. You will have a complete count.”

“Superficial analysis,” objected HH. “In diamonds, declarer would be some imbecile who can’t count anything. Present imbe . . .present company excepted of course. In spades I am in charge. Play on.”

East won the first two tricks with top clubs, West following, and continued with a third club on which West threw the 2.

“So, Themistocles went down,” murmured the Hog softly.

Oscar frowned. “Why doesn’t West uppercut? With only the deuce in dummy behind the tops, it should be easy enough.”

“Precisely,” agreed HH. “It’s a clever defense and will succeed against anyone but a virtuoso. You see what will happen, don’t you? Declarer ruffs, lays down the ace and king of spades, then must now get back to his hand to take a third round of trumps, for he can leave one trump out, but not two. If he tries to cross with a diamond, West ruffs and gives East a heart, defenders ruff in reverse order. Very neat, indeed,” said the Hog with a surreptitious glance at his opponents. He was looking distinctly crestfallen.

“You forgot to redouble,” hissed SB.

“It’s not too late,” jeered the Chimp.

“I will gladly oblige,” agreed the Hog with alacrity. The redouble was duly noted and the Hideous Hog, now that he had what he wanted, proceeded to play like lightning. Ruffing the third club with the ♠A, he cashed the ♠K, crossed with the two to his queen and exited with a trump. The defense won that trick and then none after. This was the full deal:

Dlr: West ♠ A K 2
Vul: None K 5 4
A K J 9 3
♣ 7 4
♠ J 8 7 ♠ 9 5 3
Q J 10 9 8 7 2
2 8 7 6 5
♣ 6 2 ♣ A K Q J 10 9
♠ Q 10 6 4
A 6 3
Q 10 4
♣ 8 5 3

“How did you guess . . .” began TT.

“Surely it was against the odds to play for a 3-3 trump break,” ventured RR. “I mean, spades don’t often break like that, do they?”

“That poor Papa.” The Hog was in his element. “It’s so easy, really, if only you stop to think. On his bid and East’s play, West must have seven hearts. He wouldn’t have discarded a diamond if it were not a singleton, for then it would serve no purpose and the uppercut would be automatic. And if he has three cards in the minors — two clubs and one diamond — he must have three spades.”

“We can now tell you, ” admitted the Rabbit, “that Papa wasn’t declarer. He was West who found this pretty. . .”

“What!” broke in the Hog. “It was Papa who produced that silly defense?”

“But you were all for it just now,” protested RR and TT.

“Bah! That was before I saw the ♠J. With that key card he could make life really hard for declarer by uppercutting. The second top trump is cashed and now declarer doesn’t know whether to play East for three trumps or for four and finesse against the jack. He has no count on West, who might well have two clubs and two diamonds.

“I suppose it was Papa who put you up to it,” went on HH. “Not only did he misdefend, but he would have misplayed the hand, too, and he thought I would do no better. Me! Who does he think I am?” cried the Hog indignantly, “Another Papa? It’s defamatory. It’s slander. It’s libel. I’ll sue . . .”

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