Half a dozen hands had been played and the hosts were trailing slightly on the scoresheet. Before she was about to deal the next hand, 'Chelle, always the perfect hostess, had a suggestion. “I think it's time for refreshments,” she said. “Shall I order in coffee?”
“Do they still have that Blue Mountain stuff we introduced when we lived here?” asked W. “I reckon that's the best coffee I ever tasted. I'd like a cup of that, sure enough.”
'Chelle glanced in the direction of her husband. The slightest hint of a frown crossed her face. “I'm not sure if we have any left,” she said. “Since we moved in here almost four years ago, the galley has been stocking mild arabica from Mt. Kenya, which he says has a down-home taste.”
“'Scuse me,” interjected Laura, ever the ladylike one. “I'd prefer a cup of tea...”
When 'Chelle glanced at Bar again, her husband was the one signalling displeasure. “I've very sorry,” she said. “We're fresh out of tea. Bar doesn't permit us to bring it in, says he doesn't want any mention of a tea party at 1600.”
After coffee and African-American cake (a renamed version of Martha Washington's famous Black Cake) the play resumed.
On the first deal, W found himself in a tricky contract with lots of options. Holding
♠void ♥KQJ54 ♦J1084 ♣AQ43
he responded 2♥ to partner's 1♠ opener and went on to the heart game after Laura raised his suit. This is what he saw, after the opening lead of the ♣10:
Pondering the dummy, he reached into his jacket pocket again and pulled out the red iPhone. “There are a lot of choices,” he said. “And I've just got to have some advice.”
Bar put his hand gently on his guest's shoulder. “I know how difficult it may be, but no phone calls are permitted during the auction or play of a hand. House rules.”
“I think there's a nonmisunderstanding,” said W. “Those weren't the rules when we lived here, were they Laura?”
Laura was flustered. “Let's not make a big fuss over this Bushie,” she said, using the pet name they called each other. “This is a friendly few rubbers of bridge, not a Yale-Harvard football game.”
W remained insistent. “I think it's a silly rule and I can't agree,” he said. “Let's call Roberts. I'm sure he and his eight colleagues will give us a ruling.”
It was Bar's turn to get flustered. “No, no, we don't need a ruling from the Nine Old Men..”
“And women,” 'Chelle corrected.
“Yes baby, and women.” said Bar. Obviously shaken by the idea of a Roberts decision, he cleared his throat, as he sometimes did when he backed down under unbearable pressure. “Let's compromise. You can call anyone who like, but just this one time...”
W made three phone calls but came back puzzled. Condi, Karl and Rummy each suggested a different line of play. Whose advice should he take?
'Chelle had an opinion. “Go with Condi, honey. She's a sista!” she said.
“She says to ruff a club first, maybe Bar's lead was from a sequence. I'll go with that. After all, she told me never to get out of Afghanistan...” W's voice trailed off as he considered the outcome of that decision.
Winning the ♣Q at trick 1, he cashed the ♣A and played a small club, barely concealing his disappointment when Bar ruffed in front of dummy with the ♥8. “Let's see if she can get me out of this fix,” he said, reaching for the phone again.
This time Bar was firm. “I'm sorry sir, we agreed. Just that one time, you can't ask for more advice.”
A shrug from W. “Ace of hearts please,” he said, addressing Laura. Next came the ♠K on which W, after long consideration, discarded his last, losing club.
On winning this trick Bar was forced into considering a bunch of unpleassant choices: a diamond lead would probably help W establish two tricks in that suit and a spade would let W discard a losing diamond. A heart? Leading away from his ♥10 might allow declarer an undeserved entry to dummy for the spade discard. He finally chose a diamond, on which W played low. 'Chelle was able to win the ♦Q and shifted to a club. But her attempt to promote another trump trick for her husband was to no avail; W ruffed with an honor, drew the remaining trumps in two rounds and claimed. “I still have to give up a diamond, but that's my only loser,” he said. “Makin' four.”
The full layout:
“Well done partner.” Laura was full of admiration. "The discard of the club on the ♠K was the key to the hand, allowing you to make as long as the trumps divided 3-2. Why did you do it?”
“I'm not sure, darlin'. Maybe it was just the closest card when I reached for something,” he said. “But did Condi really give me the best possible advice? And, honest, was that really the best defense?”
Bar was about to answer till 'Chelle intervened. "Shush, baby, this isn't a presidential debate and you don't need to answer," she said.
A few minutes later, when W and Laura excused themselves for a minute in order to make an urgent call back to the ranch at Crawford, to make sure that Dick, who was staying over, hadn't mistaken one of the ranchhands for a turkey again, Bar turned to his wife.
"Baby, were you trying for a trump promotion of my possible jack-small in the 4♥ hand?" he said. "If you were going to do that I think it's better to cash the ♦A first, otherwise declarer can discard a diamond from dummy, ruff two diamonds there and discard the fourth on the ♠Q to make five."
"But that's not the real point of the hand, which is to discard a club, and not a diamond, on the ♠K at Trick Four," 'Chelle retorted. "And that's where Condi gave him good advice, which you'd expect from a sista."
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