The penultimate round of the Desert Swiss Final had just concluded and the two sides were back at their tables, comparing scores and discussing what had taken place. For a change Granny Becky wasn't complaining about the backache that had worsened after her long camel ride across the desert to the tournament site, her perennial tummyache, or her partner's silly mistakes.
“There are times when you think you've struck oil and haven't.” She sighed heavily as Big Rube interrupted.
“Oil? That black greasy stuff that bubbles up between the rocks and sticks to your feet. Who has any use for it?” said Poppa's oldest son. “I've heard it was left there long ago by some giant cockroaches who roamed these parts, and I really wish they had gone someplace else.”
For a change, Granny was optimistic -- perhaps because she was bored by all that scientific stuff, maybe because she hated cockroaches. “Everything has a value. Maybe they'll find a use for it someday, thought I can't imagine what. But let's get back to the business at hand...”
“...or better yet the business of the hand,” chimed in Simon, a perennial world-player who disliked the pejorative “simple” being attached to his name.
The bidding was simple enough. Granny in the South seat dealt and opened 1♥. The Vizier, next to speak, considered his options: He had 13 points for sure, but nothing looked appealing. “The heart queen was a wasted value and the 5-bagger in spades was ragged, so I chose to pass,” he later explained to all who would listen. Levi raised to 2♥ passed round to the Vizier. That worthy, already on edge because he had failed to make an overtrick in 2♦ a couple of deals earlier, wasn't ready to stick his neck out (literally) this time and passed.
Granny Becky picked up the story. “Dummy came down, and it surely looked like I was a goner,” she said. “There were three top diamonds to lose, plus two hearts and the ♣A. But for some reason – I thought at the time it was because the diamond honors were divided – the Vizier led a spade, and I was able to discard a diamond loser on the third round of that suit.
“After that I led a club, but the Vizier was having none of that. He jumped right up with the ace and cashed two top diamonds, leaving me wondering why in the world he hadn't listened to what the Pharaoh previously said about the Sun God giving you AK in a suit so you don't have a lead problem. Then he played another spade, I ruffed with dummy's ♥8, overruffed with East's ♥J and my ♥K. Now I took my diamond ruff and played dummy's last trump, which ran to the Vizier's queen.”
Now the Vizier, who had nearly blown the defense by failing to lead his ♦AK, made the crucial play to defeat the contract. He played the last spade. Omar the actor, who a couple of rounds earlier had switched places so that Pharaoh could partner Fatma, thought for a moment as the Vizier stirred impatiently. Then he ruffed the last spade with the ♥A and returned the ♦Q, promoting partner's ♥7.
“It was an uppercut as deadly as the one Muhammad Ali will land on the jaw of Sonny Liston in a couple of thousand years,” said Levi, all appreciation for the play that had cost his side vital points.
Poppa Jake nodded wisely. “That was a play that saved the defense,” he said, “and very likely the connection between the Vizier's head and his shoulders. You know what happens when someone breaks one of Pharaoh's commandments and loses, particularly one as simple as leading out the AK.”
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