Mystery of the Missing Ace

“It isn’t the Rabbit’s good luck, it’s my bad luck,” protested Karapet, the Free Armenian, indignantly.

The Rueful Rabbit and his friend, Timothy the Toucanm had won our weekly duplicate at the Griffins, and in the general view their success wasn’t due entirely to skill.

“That Rabbit is much too lucky,” said Walter the Walrus. “If I had his luck . . .”

The Hideous Hog, who joined us at the bar as the results were being announced, nodded in agreement. “Yes,” he said, “it was fortunate for him that I couldn’t get back in time to play, but when all is said and done, the other competitors had the same advantage. Even you, Karapet. Admittedly you were unlucky to be playing with Papa, though you brought it on yourself, mind you, but did you have to give the winners tops on three boards?” Poor Papa! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

Everyone was talking about that last set of boards on which Papa the Greek and Karapet had faced RR and TT.

This was the first deal:

Dlr: North ♠ 2
Vul: N-S 8 3 2
K Q J 10 9
♣ 5 4 3 2
♠ A K 10 6 5 ♠ Q 8 7 4 3
7 6 5
7 A 6 5 4 3 2
♣ K 10 8 6 ♣ J 9
♠ J 9
A K Q J 10 9 4
8
♣ A Q 7

Though East-West can make 6♠, it is difficult for them to come into the bidding. After North’s pass, South has little fear of missing a slam by preempting, and 4 was the final contract everywhere.

What would be the par result? The verdict of the leading kibitzers was that, though declarer has four losers, inspired play can bring home the contract even against inspired defense.

To preserve communications in the event of a 3-0 trump break, declarer refuses to ruff the second spade. West switches to a trump, but South has time to lead a diamond and he can draw trumps, ending with the 8 in dummy.

East counters by refusing to go up with the A. Declarer plays a second diamond, discarding a club, and West ruffs. The A is still out and South remains with a losing club.

Declarer, however, has the last word. Before leading his diamond, he draws a second round of trumps. As before, East holds up his A and West ruffs the next diamond. But now, having no trump left, he is endplayed. A spade, presenting declarer with a ruff and discard, or a club into the A-Q yields South his 10th trick.

When the board reached Papa’s table there was a slight variation in the bidding and a more important one in the play.

North
Karapet
East
R.R.
South
Papa
West
T.T.
Pass Pass 4 Pass
Pass Dbl All Pass

Looking for a cheap sacrifice at favorable vulnerability, RR doubled for takeout. Having passed originally, he felt there was no room for a misunderstanding.

The Toucan, on the other hand, reasoned that a partner who couldn’t bid at the one level wouldn’t want to compete at the four or five level. So, bouncing excitedly in his chair, his long red nose aglow, he left the double in, expecting a luscious penalty.

Like all other West’s in the room, TT opened the ♠K and continued with the ace. Papa, of course, was too good a player to ruff.

At trick three, the Toucan switched to his singleton diamond, hoping to find the Rabbit with the ace. After all, he had to have something for his double.

It came as a severe disappointment to see the Rabbit’s 2. Papa continued with a second diamond, but again RR played low. The Toucan couldn’t make out why no one had the A, and seeing Papa throw a club, he half suspected him of revoking. So he ruffed quickly and exited with a trump.

There was nothing the Greek could do to avoid the unsuccessful club finesse — and a cold bottom.

“What a fiendishly clever defense!” said a young kibitzer who was sitting behind the Toucan. “If you go up with the A, RR, as I saw them do at the other tables, declarer ruffs the next diamond with an honor and draws trumps, ending in dummy. That holdup . . .”

“What holdup?” asked the Rabbit, thoroughly bemused. “Which ace of diamonds?”

As he was about to replace his hand in the board, he noticed that a card had been left behind in the East slot. “Belongs to me, I suppose,” he murmured, picking up the A.

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