This Sacrifice . . .

This Sacrifice by the Rabbit Resulted in a Rueful Papa

“It’s all very well,” said the Rabbit, sipping his favorite cherry brandy as we sat chatting after dinner in the GRiffin’s bar, “but difficult plays are much simpler really than easy ones. I mean, one can read books and study smother plays and squeezes and get used to throwing aces and trumps away, but can you be sure that the 8 is master — or that there are no more clubs out? At times I can get a count on the opponents’ hands and yet retain legitimate doubts about my own, if you see what I mean.”

The Rabbit’s reflections were prompted by a brilliantly played grand slam during the afternoon session. The momentous deal found the Rueful Rabbit and Timothy the Toucan facing Papa the Greek and Karapet, the free Armenian, the unluckiest player of modern times — and before that, too, of course.

Dlr: West ♠ K Q
Vul: N-S
A K Q 10
♣ A K Q J 10 9 8
♠ A 10 9 8 5 4 3 2
J 9 4 3
♣ —
Pass 2♣ Pass 2♠
3 4 Dbl 4♠
5 6♠ Pass Pass
7 Pass Pass 7♠
All Pass

The final contract was due to a slight misunderstanding. The Toucan felt he had done enough by soaring to 6♠ with only two prospective trumps. If they were going to end up in 7♠, he didn’t want the responsibility for bidding it.

The Rabbit, on the other hand, took the view that if the Toucan couldn’t double 7, neither could he, while it TT didn’t mind 6♠, it would make a difference of only one trick to bid 7♠.

Papa led the Q, and as dummy went down RR counted 19 tricks. A recount allowing for a heart ruff at trick one brought the tally to 20.

The Rabbit duly ruffed the Q and was startled to see Karapet drop the A. Now why would he do a thing like that? After all he couldn’t know RR’s K was bare. Papa jettisoned aces because he was brilliant or at least he thought so, but Karapet wasn’t, so the only explanation was that his A was bare as RR’s K. If so, Papa had been dealt 11 hearts.

“An unthinkable thought,” murmured RR to himself, “and yet it could account for his bidding. First he passes, next minute he’s in 7. Ridiculous!”

If Papa had a trump, all would be well. If not, RR would have to perform a multiple Grand Coup and kill winners to dispose of losers. Fortunately, the Rabbit had studied the technique and felt confident that he could handle the situation pretty well. He had 20 tricks and he needed 13, so he would have to reduce his winners by seven.

The first step was to ruff a club. Papa followed. Next came a spade on which Papa discarded a heart. The Rabbit had expected as much, but he wasn’t unduly depressed for now he would have a chance to show what he could do.

Ruffing another club, RR noted, Papa had no more. That left him with one card which wasn’t a heart, a club or a spade. The Rabbit deduced that it was probably a diamond, Karapet therefore would have four diamonds. Consequently, dummy had four entries and RR could go on killing winners for some time without let or hindrance. The entire deal was an open book.

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

Three times the Rabbit crossed to dummy with diamonds, ruffing clubs on the way back. This left:

Dlr: West ♠ —
Vul: N-S
♣ 9 8
♠ — ♠ J 7
J 10 9
 — 8
♣ — ♣ —
♠ A 10
♣ —

The A provided the vital entry for a quintuple Grand Coup.

“Why did you push them into a grand slam?” cried Karapet in anguish. “You could have shut them out early on or left them in 6♠, maybe even in 4♠. It was sheer sadism.”

“How could I guess,” retorted Papa with dignity, “that at unfavorable vulnerability they would choose to sacrifice at that level?”