Truth:The Ultimate Deceit

“That settles it — I am going.” declared the Hideous Hog, putting down his glass of Corton ’59. “If I stay behind, that odious Greek will tell everyone he is the best player on board. What if someone believes him? The Oriana would never live it down.”

The Griffins were closing down for a fortnight and many of the members had booked a bridge cruise to the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

H.H. had worked out to the nearest 100 pounds how much it would cost him to be deprived of the Rabbit, Timothy the Toucan and Walter the Walrus, and his first thought was to set the loss against capital gains. Unfortunately, he had forgotten to declare them. “One can’t think of everything,” he explained. “I’ll have to let those tax moguls put it across me once more.”

H.H. was still of two minds about going when he heard that Papa and Karapet, the unluckiest man in Armenia (and elsewhere, too, of course) had booked already.

“I have no choice,” he said simply. “I have a duty to the passengers.”

Worse even than the vision of Papa strutting around the ship, gloating and blustering, was the thought of not being there to witness his delectable misfortunes. What if one of those gloriously humiliating situations came up in which Papa the Greek begins by outwitting his opponents and then draws rings around himself? Here is such an example:


Walter the Walrus led the ♠3 to the Hog’s jack which was allowed to hold. So was the queen which followed. Next came the ♠8 to the ace and Papa took note of W.W.’s cards — the four and the nine.

There weren’t enough tricks without the clubs, so Papa’s first step was to lead low to the dummy’s queen. Going up with the ace, the Hog returned the ♣3.

Papa took stock. The contract clearly hinged on the diamond finesse. Where was the queen?

W.W.’s play in spades, the lead of the three followed by the four, proclaimed a four-card suit. Had Papa been playing against himself he might have suspected a five-card suit or a tripleton, for it was beneath the Greek to lead true cards, and on the theory of restricted choice, if no false card were available, he tried another suit. But an unimaginative pedestrian, like that Walrus, clearly had four spades and that meant the Hog had four spades, too. Why, then, didn’t he play his last spade? The only possible reason was that he intended to mislead Papa about the queen of diamonds.

The Hog knew that Papa knew that the Hog had another spade. And each one, in turn, knew that the other was familiar with this articular maneuver in which East pretends to be out of a suit so as to make declarer think that West started with five, thereby inducing him to take a vital finesse the wrong way.

“A straightforward double-cross,” said Papa with a contemptuous smile. “Our friend pretends to have the queen of diamonds, so he pretends not to have a fourth spade, because he knows that I know he is pretending. It’s a clever way to protect his partner’s diamond queen, and against any other declarer the ruse no doubt would have succeeded.”

Having diagnosed the situation, Papa laid down the ace of diamonds and with a meaningful look at the kibitzers, inserted dummy’s jack on the next trick. This was the full deal:

 

The Hog slowly drew out the queen, gathered the trick in leisurely fashion and stacked it neatly in front of him. Then, after pretending to search through his cards, he produced the ♠2.</p?

“Not a double-cross, Themistocles,” he said with what was doubtless intended as a smile, “a treble-cross. Why should I tell a lie when I can deceive you so much better by telling the truth?”

“An ideal opponent, that Greek,” said H.H. as he looked back on the deal over a glass of port. “To let him play bridge without me for 16 days is too great a sacrifice.”

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