No Matter Where You Sit, There’s Game — In Spades!
“How very odd,” observed Oscar the Owl, our senior kibitzer. “On board 23, both sides made game in spades.”
“I’ve only got the hands, not the bidding,” rejoined Peregrine the Penguin, “but I can’t see why either side should contemplate game in spades on this lot.”
A meeting of senior kibitzers had been summoned at the close of the annual match of the Pterodactyls and the Salamanders to deal with the customary spate of protests. The results were impossible, so the hands must have been misboarded — that was the usual argument.
We found no irregularities in the first half of the match — except, of course, in the bidding and the play. Board 23, however, required and investigation, and that is what transpired.
|Dlr: South||♠ 9 5 3|
|Vul: All||♥ 8 6 4 3|
|♣ Q 10 7 5 3|
|♠ K||♠ A Q J 8|
|♥ K J 9 7||♥ 10 5 2|
|♦ K J 9 7 2||♦ Q 8|
|♣ 9 8 2||♣ A J 6 4|
|♠ 10 7 6 4 2|
|♥ A Q|
|♦ A 6 5 4 3|
Papa led the ♣9. Karapet went up with the ♣A, dropping declarer’s ♣K, and returned a heart. The Toucan, his red nose aglow with excitement, bounced in his chair. Ruffing was the best part of his game and he was now in his element.
Going up with the ♥A, he cashed the ♦A, ruffed a diamond, cashed the ♣Q, discarding his ♥Q, and ruffed a heart. A third diamond, ruffed in dummy, was over-ruffed by Karapet who persisted with another heart.
The Toucan ruffed and continued with a fourth diamond on which Papa played the ♦K, a fateful card as was to emerge later. This again was ruffed in dummy with the ♠9 and over-ruffed by Karapet with the ♠Q.
Shutting his eyes, the Armenian tried to visualize the distribution. Slowly every card came into view. On T.T.’s ruffs and discards Papa was marked with four hearts and three clubs. His ♦K on the fourth round indicated four diamonds. Therefore he had two trumps. It followed that the Toucan remained with the king and a low spade and the last two diamonds.
All that Karapet had to do was to force T.T. for the last time with a club. If he exited with a diamond, as seemed likely, Karapet would ruff, lay down the ♠A, dropping the ♠K, and leave Papa to score the last trick by ruffing a club.
As he led his ♣J the Armenian came close to looking lugubrious.
Timothy the Toucan ruffed gleefully, for he could now see a way of going only one down. A splendid result. What he did next didn’t matter much, but the ♠10 seemed as good as anything else.
Papa’s ♠K came as a surprise. Declarer’s fate was sealed anyway, but Karapet was taking no chances. If, by some mischance, Papa played a trump, Karapet would have to overtake and concede a club. Sp, to make assurance doubly sure, he overtook the ♠K and led his last club for the Greek to ruff.
Alas, Papa had no trump to ruff with. No sooner had the Toucan gathered his eighth trick with dummy’s ♣10 than Papa and Karapet were at each other’s throats.
“Why didn’t you leave me on play with my ♠K to cash my winning diamond?” cried Papa
“Because you told me that you didn’t have it.” Your ♦K expressly denied . . . ”
“That was to give you count, to show you we had no diamond losers do you could underlead your ♠A instead of playing the crazy ♣J. But anyway, that’s beside the point. If you really thought I could have another trump — which would put the Toucan’s bidding on a level with your play — why didn’t you let me cash my ♥K?”
“Just in case you, er, didn’t, that is . . .” Karapet knew his was no longer on firm ground.
“What!” roared Papa, “you thought I might make a mistake? Me! It’s an outrage . . .”
This was the remarkable bidding sequence in the other room.
An explanation was sought from the parties concerned, and this is what came to light.
Charlie the Chimp, sitting South, was discussing the previous hand — as usual.
“When your partner bid 1♠,” he was saying, “I was marked with a doubleton, so . . .”
“It’s your bid,” said Walter the Walrus, the Hideous Hog and two young kibitzers.<?p>
“Yes, I know, 1♠. Besides,” went on the Chimp, if I had the ♥A . . . .”
“No bid,” said the Hog.
“Kepp quiet,” roared the Walrus.
Dazed and dizzy with the chatter, the Rabbit counted his points and found them more than enough to raise to 4♠. That he was raising the wrong man didn’t dawn on him until later.
Before redoubling, the Rabbit asked the Walrus politely what he understood by the double: “takeout or penalty?”
“Penalty of course,” bellowed W.W. “What do you suppose I can take him out into?”
The Chimp led a trump. :Lead out of turn, I think,” burbled R.R., who was about to table his hand.
“You may not have come across it before,” observed the Hog acidly, “but it’s not unusual for the opening lead to be made by the player sitting on declarer’s left. And now, if your bid and redouble are justified, you should make at least two overtricks.”
Beads of perspiration stood out on the Rabbit’s forehead as the enormity of his gaffe became clear to him. Singlehanded, on that one board, he was about to lose the match.
And yet, they were 21 IMPs up at half-time. If he could only get out for say three down, 1600 or so, maybe they would still have a chance.
Steadying his nerves with a chocolate almond biscuit, he won the first trick in dummy with the ♠K and crossed to his hand with the ♣A to take three more rounds of trump. With five tricks stacked nearly in front of him, he felt better, and while he still had the chance, he led a heart towards dummy.
The Chimp detached the ♥A, then the ♥Q, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. Somehow his tricks had ebbed away. Whatever he did, he could score only his long trump and his two aces.
The Rabbit doesn’t know to this day what happened.
The Walrus wasn’t surprised. “With my miserable two points I expected a slam,” was his only comment.
“No doubt your other pair will bid it,” snorted H.H.