Outfoxed by the Rabbit

It has been said that too much knowledge can be a bad thing, and no one provides better proof of this than Papa the Greek. Time and time again situations arise in which he begins by outwitting his opponents only to wind up outsmarting himself. Here is a recent case in point:

 Dlr: West North
 Vul: None ♠ A Q
87
A 4 3
♣ Q J 10 9 8 7
 South
♠ J 10 9
A 3 2
K J 8 7
♣ A 6 5
West
R.R.
North
Karapet
East
T.T.
South
Papa
Pass 1♣ Pass 1
Pass 2♣ Pass 3NT
All Pass

Opening lead 5

Papa took a slight risk inn responding 1, since Karapet could have then bid notrump first. The Free Armenian wasn’t so presumptuous, however, and the final contract was well-placed, with the lead running up to the stronger player.

Timothy the Toucan produced the jack on the Rabbit’s opening heart lead., and the Greek quickly counted his tricks. The club suit brought his sure winners to nine, but the trouble was that if the finesse for the ♣K lost, he might also have too many losers. How could he prevent the Rueful Rabbit from collecting four heart tricks if the ♣K were offside?

A lesser player would have pinned his hopes on one of two possibilities — that the club finesse would work, or that the hearts were divider 4-4. Not so Papa. A consummate technician, he would find a way to ensure that if the club finesse lost, the Rabbit wouldn’t lead another heart.

Placing the heart honors was the first step. It was obvious that the Toucan held the QJ— it couldn’t be otherwise, for his J at trick one denied the 10, and if the Rabbit had held K-Q-10 originally, he would surely have led the king.

This opened the way to a classic deception. In situations similar to this one, where a trick may have to be conceded to the opening leader, declarer, holding the A-Q, can win the first trick with the ace to lure LHO into continuing the suit on the assumption that his partner holds the queen. Papa knew that R.R., a devoted student of the game was familiar with the ploy, and just might be taken in if the A were won immediately. With a holding such as the one that actually existed, the Rabbit would normally expect the Greek to hold up the ace for a couple of rounds.

So Papa boldly won the first trick, trying to look for all the world like a man who is hiding the queen. He then crossed to the A and took the finesse in clubs. The queen held. The ♣J followed, the Toucan again played low, and so did Papa. This time, however, the Rabbit won with the king and, nodding his head knowingly, shifted to the ♠6. This was the full deal:

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

Dummy’s queen lost to T.T.’s king and his spade return killed the only entry to clubs while the ace opposite still blocked the suit. There was now no way Papa could come to more than eight tricks and so once again he had fallen victim to his own deceit.

“Of course,” explained the Rabbit as the next hand was being dealt, “I thought that Papa had the Q. I mean, why else would he have gone up with the ace so promptly if he had no other stopper. I’ve often read about this play in b ooks and in reports of hands that have happened in real life. Declarer tries to fool the opening leader because he fears a shift to another suit, and in this case what suit could it have been but spades?”

“But weren’t you afraid that you might lose your ♣K?” someone asked. “What if Papa would have put up the ace the second time?”

The Rabbit shook his head firmly. “With K-x you always hold up. The Hog does it all the time, and of course the finesse is repeated. Why, even with a singleton king there is a case for it — I mean, you never know, do you?”

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