Main     Almost Bridge 7F57 by Richard Pavlicek    

Hooves Produce Great Feat

Twas the night before the grudge match, and all through the tundra, the bookies were stirring and the bets kept on coming. “Twenty bucks on the reindeer!” shouted a voice in the dark. “Fifty on the Eskimos!” came another to follow. More than 1,000 bets were taken before the 2:00 am deadline, and the morning line saw the Eskimos a 4-to-1 favorite.

Let the games begin! The famous Eskimo team of Miko, Sliko, Mush and Slush challenged the reindeer team of Donner, Blitzen, Randolph and Rudolph for Arctic bragging rights (not to mention the big bucks). Going into the final board the Eskimos had a 10-IMP lead, and along came this deal. At Table One, Donner dazzled the spectators with a bold bid:

6 H by South

N-S Vul
S Q 5 4 3
H 4 3 2
D K 3 2
C 4 3 2
S 2
H 7 6 5
D 7 6 5 4
C K 8 7 6 5
TableS A J 10 9 8 7 6
H
D Q J 9
C J 10 9
Lead: S 2S K
H A K Q J 10 9 8
D A 10 8
C A Q

West
Sliko

Pass
North
Blitzen

Pass
East
Miko
4 S
Pass
South
Donner
6 H

Miko, East, made things tough with a 4 S preempt, but Donner was not one to go quietly. “Six hearts!” Donner could be sure of only nine tricks, so he made a Christmas wish for three more. Well, it was almost answered as Blitzen put down a hand worth two tricks. Never fear; where there’s 11 tricks there’s usually 12 — or so goes the reindeer creed.

Sliko led his singleton spade to Miko’s ace, and a spade was returned as Donner carefully ruffed. Donner then proceeded to lead six rounds of trumps — the kibitzers wondered if he had lost his mind — to reach the following ending:

S Q 5
H
D K 3
C 4
S
H
D 7 6 5
C K 7
TableS 10 9
H
D Q J 9
C
S
H
D A 10 8
C A Q

It was apparent from the discarding that the club finesse was wrong, so Donner next cashed the C A. What was poor Miko supposed to do? If he threw a spade, dummy’s S 5 would be good; so he had to let go a diamond. Donner next won the D K and S Q, then the D A-10 took the rest — making six.

The silence of the kibitzers was immediately broken. “Great play!” said one. “Amazing feat!” said another. “But Donner doesn’t have feet, he has hooves,” added a jokester. A knowledgeable spectator remarked, “I’m sure Mush will play it the same way in the other room; it’s a routine squeeze play. The only real concern is whether he will make the aggressive 6 H bid.”

Let’s have a look. The contract at Table Two was the same. Randolph, West, also led his singleton spade, but then the play differed. Rudolph, East, finessed the S 6 and allowed Mush to win his singleton king. Evidently, Rudolph had just read about finessing against dummy and wanted to test it out, not bothering to realize he could see 12 spades after Randolph’s lead.

Incredible! At first Mush was happy, but he soon realized that Rudolph’s mindless finesse stopped him from rectifying the count for a squeeze. If Mush gave up a club to West, a diamond shift would break up the entries for a squeeze. The contract could not be made. Down one, and the match went to the reindeer!

Mush shouted angrily at Rudolph, “This is the last time you’re gonna pull this stunt with me! OK, guys, grab him!” Ten Eskimos wrestled Rudolph to the floor, but their satisfaction was short-lived. Randolph came to the rescue, and a few well-placed hooves and antlers sent the Eskimos running for their lives. Rudolph gleefully mused, “Why do we bother to play any boards? We could win every tournament like this!”

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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© 1998 Richard Pavlicek