Almost Bridge 7F44   Main

Rudolph’s Throw-in Play

  by Richard Pavlicek

The Arctic Bridge League assembled today for a special investigation of an unfortunate incident at its annual Polar Bridge Fest. This week-long tournament attracts all of the top players, including the notorious reindeer pair Rudolph and Randolph. On the deal shown below they opposed their Eskimo rivals, Mush and Slush, who were eager to seek revenge after the drubbing they took last year.

Rudolph, South, opened 1 H and Mush overcalled 4 C, a rather obnoxious preempt at the vulnerability. Mush later explained that his S Q was sorted with his clubs — a likely story. This would have silenced some North players, but Randolph was right there with 4 H. He knew it was safe to overbid when Rudolph would be declarer — no contract was too high.

Board 19
E-W Vul
S 4 3 2
H A 9 8 3 2
D 5 4 3
C 3 2

4 C

4 H

All Pass
1 H
H K 7 6
D J 6
C K J 10 9 8 7 6
Table S K J 10 9 8 7
D Q 10 9 8 7
C Q 4
4 H South
Lead: S Q
S A 6 5
H Q J 10 5 4
D A K 2
C A 5

Mush “discovered” the S Q in time to lead it, and Slush overtook with the king as Rudolph won the ace. With 10 trumps it is clear to finesse, and since anyone could lead the queen, Rudolph made the more artistic play of leading low to dummy’s eight.

Finessing an eight is nothing! Rudolph showed his real class by next taking a club finesse — low from dummy, four, five — which was just shy of the record he set back in ‘79 by finessing a four-spot. The club play couldn’t win, of course, but a finesse is a finesse. Like climbing a mountain, you do it because it’s there. Actually it served a purpose in keeping Slush off lead so he couldn’t cash his spade tricks.

After winning the C 6, Mush exited with a club to the blank ace, and Rudolph repeated the heart finesse; queen, king, ace. Rudolph next won the D A-K, then he cashed the H J… or so he thought. In fact, he accidentally led the H 5 and, to make matters worse, he called small from dummy allowing Mush to win the seven. Rudolph tried to correct this, but almost in unison Mush and Slush shouted, “The play stands!”

Rudolph knew it would be useless to call a director (they were all Eskimos), so he finished out the hand. Mush was on lead with nothing but clubs left and was forced to concede a ruff and a sluff. “Wait a second,” thought Rudolph, “If I ruff this trick I will just break even for the trick I gave away. Maybe there’s a way to gain something here.” Sure enough, Rudolph came up with a master plan. Instead of trumping he took a “sluff and a sluff,” throwing a spade from dummy and a diamond from his hand.

Mush had to lead another club, allowing Rudolph to throw dummy’s last spade as he ruffed in hand. Making four hearts! Not only that, but the subtle throw-in play to sacrifice a trump trick was the only way to succeed. Mush and Slush soon realized this too, and with fire in their eyes they called “D-I-R-E-C-T-O-R!” Twenty Eskimos rushed to the table and unanimously ruled that Rudolph was down one.

“But… but…” pleaded Rudolph.

“That’s right, reindeer boy,” Mush interjected. “If you don’t like it, we’ll kick your butt.”

At that moment Rudolph lunged into Mush with his antlers, and the whole room broke into a frenzy. Reindeer running amok is a horrible sight, and in five minutes there wasn’t a table standing. Eskimos were covered with hoofprints. Amazingly there were no fatalities.


The investigation committee released its report a week later. Future Arctic tournaments would require all reindeer to practice “safe bridge” by wearing rubber tips on their antlers.

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© 1996 Richard Pavlicek