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It Ain't Necessarily So: A Tale You're Not Liable to Read in the Bible

The Grand Vizier stepped into the throne room just as the sundial reached 11. That was the royal edict, which he followed to the last hieroglyphic. To his surprise, Pharaoh was already there, slumped on the cushions of his throne.

"You are early this morning, Majesty," intoned the Vizier, hoping that he didn't sound too puzzled. He prostrated himself before the seated monarch, waiting for the wave of scepter that would allow him to rise. Pharaoh was too absorbed in his own problems to notice that the Vizier was still face-down on the floor.

"I couldn't get to sleep last night," grumbled the red-eyed sovereign. "And when I finally fell asleep, all I could dream of was bridge, that new game that you and some of the other ministers taught me."

"Bridge is certainly a stimulating game," replied the adviser, addressing the marble of the floor. "But not one to lose sleep over."

"I did play a few hands over at the harem. Those eunuchs are pretty good," said the king with a frown. "But the real problem came after I went to the royal bedchamber. I dreamed that everyone was congratulating me for making a 4 contract, but when I looked at the cards I saw it couldn't be made. I certainly didn't want to see anyone dumping to me again; last time I had to feed two of my best advisers to the Nile crocs."

"But we could not permit you to lose." The Vizier was getting a little uncomfortable down there on the floor. "Now tell me about the hand."

The Pharaoh was ready. He pulled a crumpled slip of papyrus out from under his robe, marked with the North and South hands. "Rise," he commanded, "and cast your countenance on this. The bidding was simplicity itself; a 15-point 1NT by North, four hearts by South, all pass."

North
KJ3
Q53
KQ4
KJ82
South
A6
J98742
A73
103

The Vizier perused the document as though it was a state papyrus. "Doesn't look like a bad contract," he mused. "Only two top hearts to lose if you can locate the ten, and the club finesse..."

"But that's the point, Viz!" Pharaoh's voice had gone up an octave or two, just like it did before he started ordering beheadings. "The lead was the 7, and I played low. East stuck in the queen and cashed the A. There was some kind of commotion after that, and all I can remember is you coming over and congratulating me on a fine play to make the hand."

"I do not see how I could have done that, sire. You have already lost two tricks, and there are still the ace and king of hearts to lose. Unless there was a revoke...."

"But I know I made the hand. I always do." A scowl crossed the pharaonic visage. "I just don't remember how."

"Perhaps I should summon a soothsayer," said the Viz. "I understand there's a fellow in the local slammer who's good at dream interpretation."

An hour later, the prisoner, known as Little Joe, appeared in the throne room. He gathered his tattered cloak of coral, turquoise, and electric green around him as he spoke:

"The problem, of course, is that you are looking at the hand from the North-South standpoint, sire," he said, after a momentary glance at the papyrus. "To make this hand, you have to project yourself into the eyes of the nobleman sitting in the East seat; if you're going to make the hand, his heart holding must be exactly K-10-6.

"If that's the case, visualize the layout from his point of view. To beat 4, partner will have to hold one of the pointed aces, in spades or diamonds. That gives you three tricks; unfortunately, the king of hearts, which in the best of times might have provided the fourth, is in the slot. South, who probably has six hearts to the ace-jack-nine, will finesse against your king, and make his contract."

"Just as I thought," said the king, casting a knowing glance at the Vizier.

The prisoner didn't seem to notice. "East tries a diamond, but partner plays low and the queen wins in dummy. Now South leads dummy's queen of hearts. East, who's been thinking ahead, knows that South will let this one ride, and now there'll be a marked finesse against the king-ten. So he covers quickly with the king, knowing that declarer will win the ace, and hoping that on the next trick declarer will play the jack, in anticipation of dropping the ten.

"And then," said the king triumphantly, "East is very surprised when South does not play the ace of hearts on this trick, and even more surprised when that card comes out of the West hand. It's now an easy matter, of course, to enter dummy again and finesse against the ten. Even the king of Nubia could do that."

He turned his head, to look for the Vizier. But that worthy was already face-down on the floor, struck over with admiration.

The monarch accepted this expression of awe with a wave of his hand. "All in a day's work," he said, heading for the harem. The full deal:

West
Q9542
A
J92
9754
North
KJ3
Q53
KQ4
KJ82
East
1087
K106
10865
AQ6
Pharoah
A6
J98742
A73
103
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0


hanan-sher


Hanan Sher is a retired Israeli-American journalist who lives in Jerusalem.  He has written bridge columns and articles for newspapers and magazines in Israel and Europe, and is reverent only about Terence Reese, Hugo Yorke-Smith, and Marshall Miles.

 

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