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MAD BRIDGE 2: What's a Convention?

Draper marched into his office, tossed his briefcase on the couch and poured himself a stiff one. Without bothering to see the opened correspondence that his secretary had piled neatly on the desk, he reached for the intercom. “Get me Olson, pronto,” he barked.

The adman, who many said was the real brains behind Sterling Cooper, was clearly agitated when Peggy Olson entered the room. The guys on the 9:15 from Westchester had been talking about some new bidding systems, using five-card majors of all things. Don's bidding experience was limited to the seat-of-the-pants stuff he'd picked up at his Auntie's house, back when he was a teenager, and Goren's “New Bridge Complete,” which had converted him from honor count to points-based bidding.

Peggy entered quietly, spiral notebook in hand. Though she'd recently been promoted to copywriter, she still had the habits she'd picked up at the secretarial pool, like bringing coffee in to the boss when she was summoned.

“Olson, we've got to get a few things straight,” he said. (Peggy didn't seem to mind that he hadn't bothered to say hello.) If we're going to be partners in the office bridge games, we'd better be prepared. And that means agreeing on how to bid.” Peggy smiled. She'd been concerned that something bad was brewing and was relieved to see that her creative director's agitation was about bridge, not the lousy copy she'd given him for the Mohawk Air account. “Yes, Mr. Dra...I mean Don, you're right. We ought to fill out a convention card.” “Young lady, I want to talk about bridge bidding, not professional meetings. Don't worry about those, we'll get you invited to the Ad Association convention after you have a little more experience...”

“No, Don, bridge conventions are agreements on bidding systems. You have to fill one out, if you're going to play in a tournament,” she replied in her most supportive tone. The last thing she wanted was to make the rising star of the agency feel she was making fun of him.

“Okay, conventions. My friends on the train were talking about two-bids that are weak. Back where I come from, two-bids had to be strong, real strong...”

Peggy smiled again. “They're the way of the future. Not only do the women in my mom's weekly game back in Bay Ridge say so, they're also the rage in the weekly duplicate at All Saints church, and I hear that even the Pope now plays them when he gets a chance to join the all-night game in the Vatican refectory.”

Draper was skeptical. “To me, a two-bid is strong, with enough power to crush rocks into tiny pebbles. Forcing to game, at the very least."

“With all due respect, that's a very Sixties way of looking at things,” said Peggy. “A Sixties way?” Don seemed puzzled. “Need I remind you that its now 1962.”

Draper's bidding may have been Neanderthal, but his dummy play seemed timeless in this hand, from the regular after-lunch game.

Joan
83
963
J1074
Q763
Peggy
Q4
Q82
KQ653
985
Roger
K652
A74
9
AKJ102
Don
AJ1097
KJ105
A82
4
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
2
3
4
X
4
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

Draper had reached 4 with very little encouragement from Peggy, who had never dreamed of playing 4-3 trump fits and wasn't much happier about 5-2's. “Back at All Saints,” she said, “trump suits always broke unevenly. Father Ambrose used to say it had something to do with the trinity, though I can't for the life of me figure what that might be.”

They got there after Roger, who took the East seat because he had grown up on the Upper East Side, had opened hostilities with 1, followed by 1 by Draper, a slow pass from red-headed Joan Holloway, 2 by Peg, 3 by Roger.

At this point Draper, who after his partner's two-level response could smell game as clearly as a Manhattan being shaken across a barroom, bid 4, one of those fancy queue or kew or Q bids he'd heard about on the LIRR that very morning. When Joan doubled to show her club fit, Peggy rebid her diamonds. Don would have no more of that, and went straight on to 4.

The defense started with two rounds of clubs, Draper ruffing the second. Entering dummy with the Q, he put the Q on the track, looking for a flicker of hesitation from his business partner. Roger played low with no hesitation at all. So casual was he that when the queen held, Don deduced that he'd been ready with the duck – a dead giveaway that he held four trumps. Back at Auntie's place, EmmyLou had told him to watch out for the Johns (in this case a Roger) who played a little too smoothly. “They usually have something to hide, honey,” she'd warned. “With those types, I always ask to see the color of their money before we go upstairs."

If Roger had four trumps, thought Draper, he'd better give up on the idea of a finesse and establish some heart tricks. Roger won the second and, as anticipated, continued with the club attack, bringing declarer's trump down to a meager two, the ace and the jack.

“Good try, buddy,” Draper said, turning to his right. “But it will do you no good at all. I'm going to cash the K, then play the A. You may have had a singleton and decide to ruff, but it's not going to do you the slightest good. I'm gonna take three of the last four tricks or four of the last five, no matter what card you play.”

Joan seemed puzzled. “Pray tell, Mr. Draper, how are you going to do that?” she asked, shaking her scarlet locks.

Draper grinned like EmmyLou used to after a trick. “If Roger ruffs, he's only got black cards left. If he returns as a spade I take the winning  trump finesse, draw his last trump and have a heart winner in hand and diamond winner in dummy.   Otherwise it has to be a club. Then I'll discard diamond and ruff in dummy, again leaving me with A-J in trumps over Rog's king-small, in the coup position when I lead the K from dummy.

"And if he doesn't ruff, I'll just play the third diamond to the king, for the same ending.  Unless, of course, he ducks then too, in which case I simply take the spade hook."

Peggy Olson was wide-eyed with admiration. “That was right out of the 21st century,” she said.

Joan Holloway nodded her head. “That's not all,” she said. “By that time, people who are thousands of miles apart probably will be able to play bridge with each other, simultaneously in some kind of electronic bridge tables.”

Roger Sterling, Don Draper and Peggy Olson shook their heads in disbelief.

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