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MAD BRIDGE 9: California Here We Are

Peggy Olson knocked three times before entering Don Draper's office, a habit she'd acquired back when she was still the senior adman's private secretary. “I've just been reading the ACBL Bulletin,” she told her former (and current) boss.

 

“Not much interesting there, other than those endless lists of everyone whose ever won more than three master points.” His expression seemed more bored than usual.

 

Peggy wasn't taking any of that ennui stuff, not today. “There's also news. I read that there's a big Regional in Los Angeles the weekend around which you've planned your entire trip. They're really huge, with hundreds and hundreds of tables. They call it Bridge Week.”

 

“Sounds interesting. Did you also check on the schedule for that Sunday?

 

“Of course, you know I always do my homework,” said Peggy. “The Mixed Pairs. Now if you could find a partner...”

 

Draper's eyes flickered, like they did when he was having a Big Idea. “I could use someone to help me with the presentation. Maybe we'll have you come along. We could play in the Mixed.” He paused before delivering the punchline. “But you know, out there they consider the Mixed a three-session event.”

 

It took Peggy a moment to catch where Don was headed. “Three sessions? Schedule only lists two,” she said. Then she turned bright red; the term wouldn't become part of the popular vernacular for a couple of decades, but Peggy realized that she was being sexually harassed.

 

“I'm only prepared for two,” she stuttered.

 

“Then two it will be.” He shrugged. “I'll tell Joan Holloway to make your reservations.”

 

A FEW DAYS LATER, Peggy's first impression of California was one of puzzlement: Sunny? The haze over LA made her think of London, another place she'd never been. Matter of fact, this was Peggy's first venture out of the city where she was born and raised, not counting the time she'd gone with her mom to a church retreat on the Jersey shore.

 

But there was little time for sightseeing. “Drop any idea you might have of stargazing, or cruising the Sunset Strip,” Don had said. “We're here for business, and to play bridge.”

 

They were North-South for the first session. When they got to their table, their first-round opponents were waiting – a petite woman whose rinsed hair was an almost perfect match for her pale blue pantsuit, and a man, obviously her husband, in a flowered shirt and a ridiculous-looking thing they called a bolo tie around his neck.

 

Things got off to a quick start. On the first board, Mr. String Tie managed to rack up three no-trump on a hand where he started out with nine top winners. Then on the second Peggy, sitting South, picked up the following:

 A3 KQ7 J873 AK32

and heard Mr. Bolo/String open one spade. Lady Blue Hair barely paused after Peg's take-out double. “Four spades,” said she, in a voice that seemed loud and definitive. (It was the Sixties, and bidding boxes didn't exist except, perhaps, in someone's imagination; if they had, she'd have slapped the black and white card on the table in a way that made it crystal-clear to partner that he'd better not open his mouth again).

 

That was passed around to Peg, who hadn't seen enough. If Blue Lady's message was preempt-preempt-preempt, Don had a card or two. Maybe even three. She felt that her 17 HCP points was worth another double; Draper responded with four no-trump.

 

That didn't sound like an ace ask. Peggy also ruled out her partner, with two spades at the most, wanting to play in that spot; obviously he was amenable to the contract of her choice. “Five clubs,” she said, in a voice that seemed, to her at least, a little less convinced than that of the LOL who was her LHO.

 

Draper
5
8642
A52
QJ876
Peggy
A3
KQ7
J873
AK32
W
N
E
S
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P
 

Blue Lady started with a small spade to String-Tie's J and the Olson A. Peggy followed with a club the Q, a small heart to the K which held, A and a club to the J, drawing the last enemy trump. On the next heart lead from dummy, East rose with the A and continued with the J to Peggy's Q.

 

Peggy had now reached a crossroads, seeing this layout and able to afford the loss of only one more trick:

 

Draper
8
A52
87
Peggy
3
J973
K
W
N
E
S
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P

She was pretty much able to reconstruct the opponents's distributions: East was 5-3-4-1, West 5-3-2-3 – assuming, of course, that the Blue Lady's preempt was based on five spades (her having six would mean that her partner, who seemed longer in tooth than in imagination, had opened a four-card spade suit when holding five diamonds!). But what diamonds did Bolo hold: If they included both the king and the queen, she should ruff her last spade to enter dummy and lead diamond towards the J, end-playing East. If he held only half of the royal “marriage,” her only real chance was ace and a little diamond, putting West in with nothing but spades left, giving Peggy a ruff-and-discard and the contract.

 

A glance at Blue Lady didn't give Peggy a hoped-for clue. Peggy ruffed her last spade. “Ace of diamonds,” she said, pointing at dummy. With no hesitation at all, Blue Lady played the Q to this trick. Had she been dealt the KQ doubleton? That seemed unlikely.

 

There was nothing left to do but play another diamond, to East's 9. It wouldn't hurt, Peggy thought, to put the J on this trick; if West had the stiff K-Q it wouldn't make a difference anyway. And if it held....

 

Blue Lady followed with a small diamond. Her husband reddened visibly when Peggy faced her cards to claim.

 

“You threw away the setting trick,” he fumed. “In all my born days, I never see'd anything......” 

 

“You don't understand, Dearie.” Her tone was patient, almost condescending. “Holding on to the queen would have allowed me to be end-played on the next diamond, forced to give up a sluff-and-ruff. I was just avoiding that embarrassing situation. Getting end-played like that would make me the laughing stock all the way to Orange County.”

 

Blue Lady
K10642
1095
Q6
1054
Draper
5
8642
A52
QJ876
Bolo Tie
QJ987
AJ3
K1094
9
Peggy
A3
KQ7
J873
AK32
W
N
E
S
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

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