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MAD BRIDGE 3: A First for Peggy Olson

It was her big chance, and Peggy Olson knew it. It wasn't every day that one of the girls from the secretarial pool – or even just out of it – could be invited to the afternoon bridge game of two partners, including one with his name on the door. She just wasn't sure why Joan Holloway, the other woman in the game, had been asked. Although everyone knew that she ran things on the floor of Sterling Cooper, where nothing happened that the well-endowed redhead didn't know about.

Peggy saw her mission as sharpening her game, something that she couldn't do with her mom's friends in Bay Ridge or at the All Saints weekly duplicate. Top-level instruction was needed. And since she simply didn't have the time to hang out at the Mayfair or the Cav to watch the big boys in action, she'd have to learn by proxy from bridge books.

Which presented another problem: Mrs. Olson didn't mind a few hands of cards here and there, but she thought that her daughter should devote herself to more serious things, like finding a husband, or if that didn't work, getting deeper into religion. “Aren't there any nice Catholic boys there at your office in Manhattan,” she'd ask every time Peggy stayed home on Saturday night. “You ought to go down to the church and...”

Peggy solved the problem by cutting the insides out of some old religious texts that were laying around the house, and slipping bridge books inside. In that way, “Selected Works of Thomas Aquinas” had Marshall Miles's epic “All 52 Cards” inside, while various volumes on prayer contained, among other things, Louis Watson on Play of the Hand, Clyde Love on squeezes, and works by Terence Reese and Charles Goren (she sometimes wondered when, if ever, bridge experts would get modern first names like Barry, Jason, Eugene, Steve and Gavin.)

After a couple of weeks of intensive study, she thought she'd gotten to the point where she could identify expert plays if she saw them, even if she was a long way from being able to execute a Vienna Coup or a Double Squeeze.

But technique wasn't Peggy's biggest problem. That was the constant haze of tobacco smoke generated by Sterling and Draper. They lit one ciggie after another. Sure, Lucky Strike was their biggest client, the mainstay of the agency. But did they really believe the slogan her predecessor had written – “LSMFT, Lucky Strike means fine tobacco?” For her money, it was more like “manufactures fatal toxins.”

During that afternoon's post-lunch session, which had been starting earlier since Draper and Sterling had given up on taking their liquid lunches at some joint down on Madison, preferring to do their drinking in the office. Somewhere between Don's fifth CC and Rog's seventh Black Jack, Peggy picked up a tantalizing assortment.

A Q6 Q5 KQT87642

Eight clubs! That's what she'd dealt herself. She tried to brush the smoke away from her eyes, to make sure the tobacco fog hadn't messed up her vision. She was first to speak, a neat British term she'd picked up in a Reese book, but what should she say?

With all those clubs and not a lot of defense, she considered a preempt. But should it be four clubs, or maybe five? After all, she did have 12 high-card points, plus a lot more for distribution. The old business of two for a singleton, one for a doubleton and something more for a long suit certainly didn't give adequate expression to this potential powerhouse.

Or maybe she should just ask for aces, using that thing Rog had taught her the other day; what was it called, Black Forest? Redwood? She finally settled for 1, planning to jump the next time.

But things took an unexpected turn when Roger, on her right, overcalled 1 and her partner Don came in with 3NT. Should she let him play there? Things would be fine if he had the ace-small of clubs and the suit was there for the running. But what if it wasn't? The expected spade lead would knock out the one sure NT entry, and those red queens sitting in front of the bidder seemed of dubious value now. On the other hand, partner was strong. He might have two aces, or even three, making slam extremely possible. Nothing she'd read in any of her “secret” bridge books had prepared her for this kind of situation.

One thing was clear: Her side had lots of trick-taking power, which made going down unthinkable. Better be safe, she thought, and decided to bid 5. No one bid any more (for better or for worse, thought Peggy) and Roger led a small spade. Here is what Peggy saw:

Don
KJ53
A75
A9876
5
Peggy
A
Q6
Q5
KQ1087643
W
N
E
S
1
1
3NT
P
5
P
P
P

Five clubs, it turned out, was more than enough. There was the A to lose, perhaps the J as well, and two red-suit losers – though one could be made to vanish on dummy's K. On the other hand, Peggy could be pretty sure where all the missing honors were located.

Her first move was to bang down the K. Seeing Joan Holloway's 9 when everyone ducked gave her hope that the J was going to fall on the next round, but she was disappointed when Roger won the ace and his red-headed partner in bridge and other things showed out.

His heart return ran to Peggy's Q. The former secretary spread her cards on the table. “I'm going to dummy with the A next, then pitching my diamond loser on the K. I've still got the J to lose, but that's all. Making five!”

All of a sudden she grinned. “Do you know what? Roger was end-played. It's my first end-play.” She clapped her hands in glee.

Roger
Q9762
KJ3
K4
AJ2
Don
KJ53
A75
A9876
5
Joan
1084
109842
J1032
9
Peggy
A
Q6
Q5
KQ1087643
W
N
E
S
1
1
3NT
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Don scratched his forehead and poured himself, and his partner, another double. “Actually, it was a multiple end-play Peg.”

At this point Roger Sterling, never the one to be overly supportive of junior employees, was true to form. “Don't get too excited, honey. Even a player of my stature had nothing to do. I was, in effect, end-played from the opening lead, and end-played again whether I won the first trump trick or ducked it. It may have been your first end-play, but it was completely automatic. ”He reached into his pocket for the pack of Luckies. “Now, does anyone have a light?” he asked.

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