As they drew for partners the Hog looked dejectedly at the pack. Whichever card he picked he would draw a loser — Secretary Bird (the Emeritus Professor of Bio-Sophistry), Charlie the Chimp or Gavin the Goose.
“I knew it,” he muttered under his breath as the ♦3 and G.G.’s ♥2 brought them together.
“I’ll not let you down this time,” promised the Goose. “I’ll never forget how I missed a simple trump squeeze in that 6♦ the other day.”
“There was no trump squeeze about it,” rejoined H.H. irritably. “All you had to do was play off your last trump and the squeeze would have been automatic.”
“Then,” persisted the Goose, “what ever you pros may call it, it was certainly a trump squeeze — no bid — an automatic trump squeeze, if you like, but still . . .”
“1♦,” interjected S.B.
The Hog passed and the Chimp’s response of 1NT became the final contract.
The Goose wasn’t amused. Small, silly contracts bored him. He like big things, slams, redoubles — something to conjure up the febrile atmosphere of baccarat and blackjack. Before long he had his wish.
|Dlr: West||♠ 6 5|
|Vul: none||♥ A 5 3|
|♦ A Q 4 2|
|♣ A K 10 3|
|♠ K||♠ A 2|
|♥ K Q J 10||♥ 9 8 7 6 4|
|♦ J 10 9 7 6||♦ 5 3|
|♣ J 8 7||♣ 9 6 5 4|
|♠ Q J 10 9 8 7 4 3|
|♦ K 8|
|♣ Q 2|
The Chimp led the ♥K.
“Thank you, partner,” said the Hog as if he meant it.
Clearly there could be no honest, straightforward play for the contract. What ruse, what subterfuge, what pieces of hocus-pocus could confine the ace and king of trumps to a single trick? As the Hog pondered, I tried to read his mind.
Against some innocent practitioner sitting over him, the Walrus or the Toucan perhaps, he could come to hand and lead the ♠Q. With K x or even A x, a guileless defender might go up with an honor. The Chimp wouldn’t do that, but there was another chance.
If East had a doubleton there might be a way of bamboozling him. Had H.H. a heart loser, he would naturally try to get rid of it before allowing the opponents to come in with the ace or king of trumps. He could try to conjure up some such picture. If East could be induced to ruff, he would overruff, and on the next trick the king and ace would come tumbling down together.
This maneuver, of course, hinged on finding S.B. with a doubleton in one of the minors and on guessing which it was. The clubs seemed a better proposition of the two because in addition to finding S.B. with a doubleton it might also succeed if he had J x x. The Hog would throw a diamond on the third club and would lead the 10, pretending to have another low diamond to dispose of. It would be less convincing than the mirage of a heart loser, but still worth trying.
So after wining the first trick with the ♥A, he came to hand with the ♣Q and crossed to dummy’s king. Cunning as ever, The Chimp followed with the 7 and the jack.
Of course the Hog realized that it might be a false card, but on the theory of restricted choice it was more likely to be a true one. If the Chimp had a third club, he might or might not play the jack, but without a third club he would have no choice. So the Hog switched from clubs to diamonds. On the third round S.B. duly ruffed with the ♠2. The Hog overruffed and triumphantly brought the ace and king down together on the next trick.
“I knew there would be a play for it,” said the Goose, breaking in through the torrent of recriminations between Secretary Bird and the Chimp.
“I had to squeeze a trump out of him, a variation of the trump squeeze theme,” chuckled the Hog. A good winner, H.H. readily forgave his partners when things went his way. “He took me in completely with that ♣J, mind you,” he added maliciously. Stroking partner and goading the opponents were two sides of the same medal.
Who Endplays Whom?
The Hog has a theory that a freak hand usually finds an echo. Whether this is due to occult forces or to imperfect shuffling, there seems to be some sort of pattern. No eight-card suit will be dealt for days on end, then two or more will come up in quick succession. And so it was this time. The slam was followed by an undistinguished partial which failed. Then this hand was dealt:
|Dlr: East||♠ K J 9 6|
|Vul: N-S||♥ J 9 3|
|♦ A 4 3|
|♣ K Q 10|
|♠ A Q 10 8 7 5 3 2||♠ 4|
|♥ —||♥ 8 4|
|♦ Q J 10 9 8||♦ 7 6 5|
|♣ —||♣ A J 9 8 7 6 5|
|♥ A K Q 10 7 6 5 2|
|♦ K 2|
|♣ 4 3 2|
The Goose didn’t even consider doubling 4♠. At the vulnerability, nothing short of an eight-trick penalty would show a profit over a seemingly cast-iron slam. The thought of Blackwood crossed his mind, but as likely as not, the Hog wouldn’t tell him the truth, so why bother?
The Chimp led the ♦Q. Winning in hand, the Hog laid down the ace of trumps, crossed to the jack and ruffed a spade. Next he went over to the ♦A and ruffed a diamond.
As he gathered the trick, Monsieur Merle, our head waiter, came into the room. “The lobster soufflé will be ready in ten minutes.”
“Can’t keep a soufflé waiting. You’d better make it two more hands,” said Molly the Mule firmly. She knew her rights as a kibitzer and was never slow to assert them.
“Have no fear,” the Hog told her. “We’ll be up after this hand.”
A gleam behind S.B.’s pince-nez sounded the alarm. “Are you making a claim?” he asked ominously.
The Hog snorted but didn’t deign to reply.
“Will you be good enough,” insisted the Secretary Bird, “to make a comprehensive statement, placing your hand on the table face up in accordance with Law 69?”
With a contemptuous gesture the Hog tabled his hand. In the seven-card ending, this was the position.
|♠ K J 9|
|♣ K Q 10|
|♠ A Q 10 8 7||♠ —|
|♥ —||♥ —|
|♦ J 10||♦ —|
|♣ —||♣ A J 9 8 7 6 5|
|♥ K Q 10 5|
|♣ 4 3 2|
“I can count 11 tricks,” said S.B. “Eight hearts, the ♦AK and one club. Which do you designate as your twelfth trick?”
“I propose to lead a club, Professor. I know that all of your cards must be clubs, not only because of your opening bid, but because Charlie would have certainly led a club had he had one, A club returned to dummy’s tenace . . . ”
“And what makes you think I’ll oblige you by going up with the ♣A?” hissed the Secretary Bird. The wild tufts of hair over his ears stood out belligerently.
“If the ♣K holds the trick,” pursued the Hog, “it will be Charlie’s turn to provide. I’ll lead the ♠K, throwing a club. Should Charlie return another spade, dummy’s jack or nine, as the case may be, will be my 12th trick. If he plays back a diamond, I’ll ruff in dummy with the same result.”
“So which shall it be, Professor? Do I endplay you or do you endplay your partner? Perhaps, ” added the Hog with a friendly leer, “you would care to make a comprehensive statement while we attend to the lobster soufflé!”