Fourth Time Lucky by Zia Mahmood
On 28 October, 2014 At 12:50
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The Guardian, Thursday 22 December 2011
The unluckiest player in the club finally shows how it is done.
As the unluckiest player in the club, Tupic, picked up his cards on today’s deal, a voice addressed him thus. “Here,” it said, “is your Christmas present. Use it well.” He looked around for the speaker, but apart from the four players at the table he could see no one, and none of the other three appeared to have heard a sound. Game all, dealer South.
Tupic swiftly reached 6 and West led the K. “Well”, thought Tupic, “if this really is a gift then the heart finesse must be right.” He drew trumps in two rounds and played a heart to the jack, but East won with the singleton queen and cashed a spade.
“What is the use,” said the voice, “of giving you presents if you are going to treat them like that. Here, try again.” To Tupic’s amazement the same cards were dealt.
This time Tupic correctly cashed the A. But East didn’t play the Q – he played the 10. “Aha”, thought Tupic. “That might be a singleton or it might be from queen-10 doubleton. The latter holding is more likely to have been dealt, so …” Tupic cashed the K next, but both opponents followed with low cards, and on winning the third round with the Q, West took a spade trick to beat the slam. “Honestly,” said the voice. “Fancy falling for a simple false card like that. Try again.”
Tupic had ceased to be amazed at anything, so when the deal reappeared he won the spade lead, drew trumps, cashed the A, crossed to the A and led a second round of hearts, intending to put in the jack whatever East played on the first round. But this time West showed out, and the slam could no longer be made.
“I thought you said this was a present!” Tupic wailed. “It is,” came the reply, “but you have not learned how to use good fortune, which is why you always think your luck is so bad. Once more.” At last Tupic saw how he should play – winning the spade lead he drew trumps, cashed the A, played A and K to discard a spade from the table, ruffed a club, and exited with a spade. If West had a heart to play, Tupic would put in the jack and hope for the best – if not, then whoever won the spade would be endplayed.
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