Sarasota Journal – Oct 23, 1975
Today’s column contains one more of our stories originally printed in the Bridge World magazine some dozen or so years ago. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is, of course well, you know:
THE COLUMNIST’S LITTLE OLD LADIES
After 19 years of chronicling the feats and foibles of people at the bridge table, I was almost convinced that the Little Old Lady, if not a legendary hoax, had become a vanished breed. Not only had potential LOLs dyed their gray hair and hormoned away their wrinkles, they had salted their sweet dispositions.
And I never could believe in the severity of their ineptitudes mental or physical. An 86 year old I knew competed in dance contests as well as duplicate tournaments. Between rounds of the latter, she practiced the Watusi.
But in various bridge Journals I had kept reading about Little Old Ladies, and I never had given up on meeting some one day — like with the Abominable Snowmen, who have their diehard supporters. One evening recently I thought I’d found a couple, perhaps the last of the almost-extinct species. They drifted up to my table in an aura of lavender and old lace. With prim nodes and traces of curtsys they seemed to be paying a sort of Old World obeisance to my status as a writer. I beamed gentility back at them.
There were three boards to a round in this duplicate game. My partner and I were North-South, and the ladies held the East-West cards, Here was the first of the boards:
The ladies voiced their bids in tender, muffled murmurs. They even had an apologetic air about buying the contract.
Against East’s three no trump, I, with the South cards opened the king of spades. When it held, I continued with the Jack. Declarer threw a high diamond from dummy, my partner overtook with his queen and declarer allowed that to hold also.
My partner quickly saw what would happen if he continued spades: Declarer would be forced to take her ace but would also be enabled to unblock the other high diamond in dummy on the trick. So he wisely shifted to the jack of clubs.
I, too, was aware of the trap my partner had avoided. Very Un-Little-Old-Lady like to have laid such a trap. I decided.
Declarer’s facial expression was unchanging. A sweet smile played about her lips as she studied the board. Declarer took the Jack of clubs with dummy’s king and came back with the ten of hearts, which rode around to me uncovered. Naturally, I ducked. I wasn’t about to set up an entry to the closed hand.
Then declarer called for the ace of hearts and a small heart, clearing the suit, and I was on lead with my king. I promptly returned a small club. Declarer rose with dummy’s ace of clubs and played a small club, which my partner took with his ten. There was no use my overtaking with the queen: I would only set up dummy’s eight.
My partner, however, was forced to exit in diamonds or spades, giving declarer the rest of the tricks for her contract. A neatly played hand, I thought. But then anybody can play the dummy these days, even LIttle Old Ladies. It takes defense to separate the men from the boys — or, in the case, the men from the LOLs.
We could have made slam in diamonds, partner,» one lady confided softly to the other. But I had a hunch few would be there. I was right, I noticed, opening the traveling score slip. No one else so far had made game East-West.
On the second board, convinced that aggressiveness would carry the day against our mild mannered opponents, I pushed to six diamonds doubled against some tremulous opposition on spades. Both sides were vulnerable.
The lady to my left chose as her opening lead the five of clubs. I won the trick on the board and tried quickly to get at least one heart pitch on the other high clubs. If either opponent were to ruff in, I hoped it would be with the small diamond and allow me a chance to «collide» the ace and king of trumps subsequently.
But the lady to my right ruffed by the second round of clubs, not with her eight but with her ace. I discarded a heart, and it did me no good. I had only one heart loser any way with the outstanding hearts breaking three-three.
Well, I went off two for 500 points. Nobody else scored more points East-West. Very un little-Old-Lady-Iike again, I thought, first to force me into a phantom save, and second set me more than one. But I ascribed it to mere happenstance. There was one more board in the set, on which perhaps the ladies would at last fulfill their prototypical roles:
Here my partner and I reached the coziest contract you ever did see — four diamonds. All right, look at it if you don’t believe me! Its unbeatable.
The lady to my left kicked off with the king and ace of clubs and then, after stroking a powdered cheek with a delicate forefinger, continued with a third club. «Nice try for an uppercut my dear.» I thought to myself, but this time I hold too much in trumps».
I ruffed with the deuce on the board, happy to let East waste any small diamond, I knew East had the ace, by the way, because West had preempted in clubs. And what do you think East did? She ruffed the third trick with her ace of diamonds. Shortly thereafter I had to lose a second trump trick to the queen and went down one for our third bad board in a row.
“Why’d you play your ace of diamonds on that third club?» I asked the lady to my right plaintively. She giggled and replied. «I guess when we kill a contract, we like to kill it dead. Were real devils, aren’t we?. Her eyes gleamed mischievously, and the satiny skin around them crinkled with diabolical glee. I had had a, uh, a Hades, of a traumatic, three-pronged experience, and take it from me — I know for certain now — that LOLs are no more phantasmagoric apparitions.