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. More than a thousand bets were taken before the 4:00 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). After 63 boards the Eskimos had a 10-IMP lead, so the reindeer had one more chance. On the final board, Donner dazzled the crowd at Table 1:

Board 64
E-W Vul
S Q 5 4 3
H 4 3 2
D K 3 2
C 4 3 2
Sliko
West
Pass
Pass
Blitzen
North
Pass
Pass
Miko
East
3 S
Pass
Donner
South
6 H
S 2
H 7 6 5
D 7 6 5 4
C K 8 7 6 5
Table S A J 10 9 8 7 6
H
D Q J 9
C J 10 9
6 H South
Lead: S 2
S K
H A K Q J 10 9 8
D A 10 8
C A Q

After two passes Miko opened 3 S, a routine vulnerable preempt. Anyone can bid 4 H with the South hand, but reindeer go for the gusto: “Six hearts!” roared Donner. While he could only be sure of nine tricks, Donner made a Christmas wish for three more, and it was almost granted when Blitzen produced a hand worth two. Never fear! Where there’s 11 tricks there’s usually 12, or so goes the reindeer creed.

Sliko led his spade, an obvious singleton, to Miko’s ace, and a spade was returned hoping for a trump promotion. Donner of course ruffed and proceeded to lead all his trumps — kibitzers wondered if he had lost his mind — to reach the following ending:

S win 5 S Q 5
H
D K 3
C 4
S
H
D 7 6 5
C K 7
Table S 10 9
H
D Q J 9
C
South leadsS
H
D A 10 8
C A Q

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

The silence in the room was broken. “Great play!” said one kibitzer. “Amazing feat!” said another. “But Donner doesn’t have feet, he has hooves,” added a jokester. A savvy viewer remarked, “Mush will play it the same way; it’s a routine squeeze. The only question is whether he’ll bid 6 H.” Well, let’s see:

Board 64
E-W Vul
S Q 5 4 3
H 4 3 2
D K 3 2
C 4 3 2
Randolph
West
Pass
Pass
Slush
North
Pass
Pass
Rudolph
East
3 S
Pass
Mush
South
6 H
S 2
H 7 6 5
D 7 6 5 4
C K 8 7 6 5
Table S A J 10 9 8 7 6
H
D Q J 9
C J 10 9
6 H South
Lead: S 2
S K
H A K Q J 10 9 8
D A 10 8
C A Q

Mush bid it! Randolph also led his singleton, but here the play differed. Rudolph finessed the S 6 letting Mush win his singleton king. Evidently, Rudolph had just read about “finessing against dummy” and wanted to test it out, not realizing he could see 12 spades.

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, “That’s the last time you’re going to pull this stunt on me! OK, guys, grab him!” Ten Eskimos wrestled Rudolph to the floor, but the satisfaction was short-lived. Randolph came to the rescue, and a few well-placed hooves and antlers sent the Eskimos running for cover.

Rudolph mused, “Why do we bother to play cards when we can win any match like this?”
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© 1998 Richard Pavlicek