Bridge & Humor: Ruefel Rabbit Wins Impossible Slam

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The hand of the day is from a new book by the English author, Victor Mollo, a bridge writer of wide repute who belongs to a fictitious bridge club called the Griffins.

By Victor Mollo
On 17 November, 2015 At 16:21

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The Evening Independent – 9 Ago 1967

The hand of the day is from a new book by the English author, Victor Mollo, a bridge writer of wide repute who belongs to a fictitious bridge club called the Griffins. The other members who frequent the club have animal names which suit their bridge personalities. Hideous Hog, Rueful Rabbit and Oscar the Owl may be un-familiar names to the bridge player — but their personalities will be recognized by all who have ever picked up 13 cards and bid. Appropriately, the title of the book is Bridge in the Menagerie. Oscar the Owl, the club’s Senior Kibitzer, was Mollo’s sponsor when he first joined the Griffins. He was ushered into the cardroom and took a kibitzer’s chair behind a character named Themistocles Papadopolous, a Greek ship-owner, who was known to the Griffins as “Papa”.

Just as Mollo sat down behind Papa, who was South, he heard ‘six diamonds called by East. Papa doubled and West promptly redoubled. Mollo says that he could not visualize a situation in which East-West, without a single ace between them, could be so certain of winning 12 tricks. Just then someone asked that the bidding be reviewed and Papa the Greek almost purred as he recited the full sequence as shown today.

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Rueful Rabbit, who was East, gave the show away by the look of consternation on his face. It seems that he had not heard Papa’s opening bid of one spade and thought that West had opened with an artificial two clubs call. His two diamond response was the artificial negative answer and he was merely catching up on his values when he bid six diamonds. Papa had guessed what had happened by the time the auction reached three notrump.

His pass was a psychological move calculated to make it easy for East and West to plunge into some deeper and deadlier abyss. In his wildest dreams, though, he could not have hoped for a redoubled six diamond contract. Judging the potential set from the appearance of South’s mammoth hand, one would expect that the opponents had propelled themselves into an earth-shattering disaster.

As it turned out, the real disaster resulted from Papa getting off to the obvious “right’ opening lead — the king of hearts. It was the only lead which made it possible for Rueful Rabbit to make his impossible slam. East trumped himself on lead by playing a small club from dummy after ruffing the king of hearts. The queen of hearts forced the ace and was trumped by West. Another club trumped by East felled South’s ace. West’s two losing spades were discarded on the jack and ten of hearts. A trump lead then insured the contract after South’s diamond ace was dislodged. Bridge in the Menagerie fills a void in bridge literature on the subject of psychological bridge.

Alan Truscott, bridge columnist for the New York Times, calls it one of the most entertaining bridge books of all times.

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