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1600 Games XVII: Fearsome Foursomes

There was a brief silence at the other end of the line, something that 'Chelle had become accustomed to since she and Bar moved into the big house on Pennsylvania Ave. But this seemed a little different.

The woman who answered the phone cleared her throat. “Er, Gerry can't talk right now, he's busy chewing gum. Perhaps I can help you.”

“If this is Betty, Bar and I would like to invite you over for an evening of bridge. It will be teams of four, Ron and Nan and Jim and Roz have already accepted. We'll send the Caddy limo over at 7:45...”

Betty was nonplussed. “That would be nice, but we'd prefer a Lincoln, if you don't mind. Gerry likes to keeping things in the family, even if we arem't really related.”

At breakfast a few days later, 'Chelle reminded her husband of their bridge date that night.

“Dinner first, as usual?” he said. “What's on the menu.”

“Just beverages and snacks this time. Pink lemonade for Betty, goobers for Jim and Roz. Nan and Ron, they're from California, so I've ordered a avocado mousse on bagel chips with sliced yucca-smoked salmon and wasabi and chipotle mayo on a bed of watercress.”

A wistful look crossed Bar's face. “No deep-dish Chicago pizza?”

“You know better.” 'Chelle waved a scolding finger at her partner. “There will be something from my garden on the South Lawn -- a quinoa salad with steamed rutabaga, amaranth, shredded kohlrabi and alfalfa sprouts on a bed of organic arugala. Just delicious – and healthy too.”

Bar knew better than to comment.

He also had no objection to 'Chelle's suggestion that they team with Roz and Jim, against Nan-Ron and Gerry-Betty on the other side. “Reds vs. Blues, that sounds good to me,” he said.

The players were about to take their seats when Ron raised his hand. “If you don't mind, I'd like a little pre-game huddle,” he said, motioning Betty and Gerry towards one side of the oval-shaped room. “Nan has something to say to our squad.”

The four members of the Red squad formed a kind of huddle, with the diminutive Nan in the middle. She patted her husband's shoulder. “This is a vital match, against our old rivals, the Blues. It's especially important to Ron. Let's go out and win one for the Gipper.”

3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

At both tables both Souths, who apparently had prepped for the match by reading Gumperz's seminal work on preempts, chose to open 3. “Gump says you should be a trick stronger when you're vulnerable,” Jim later told 'Chelle, when she wondered why South didn't simply open 1. Gerry was too preoccupied humming the Michigan fight song (“Hail to the victors, valiant”) to answer.

The play at one table, where Gerry-Betty faced Bar and 'Chelle, was relatively simple. Bar chose the 4, a traditional fourth from his longest and strongest, as his opening lead. Gerry won the ace (discarding a club) and finessed in hearts, covering dummy's nine with his 10 and continuing with the A and q. On winning the lead, 'Chelle made the obvious shift to the Q. In the end, declarer also had a diamond to lose, but was able to claim the rest for his contract.

At the other table the defense got off to a better start. After fumbling with his cards for a minute or two Ron put his finger on the 4. Winning that trick with the K, Nan saw that hubby's lead was fourth best, and decided that, with trump control, it was best to go for a ruff. Back came her small diamond. Won in dummy, Declarer discarded a club on the A and overtook the 9 with the 10. Ace and another spade disclosed the unfavorable trump division and Nan, in with the K, had her dainty fingers on the Q. “Wait a minute, girl,” she said to herself. “If Jim covers, as he's pretty sure to do, Ron will win the ace and, knowing that I've promised the J – and that I always keep my promises – he'llreturn a club and the contract will make.”

She decided, for once in their long life together, to deceive her husband. She put the Q back in her hand and replaced it with the J. On winning declarer's king with his ace, Ron – “knowing” that his partner didn't have the Q, returned a diamond. After ruffing, Nan produced the Q to defeat the contract.

“Great lead Gipper, way to go!” Nan enthused. “Great opening lead, which gave us a chance to beat the contract.”

Her husband shrugged. “It wasn't all that spectacular,” he said. “You may have tried to trick me, but I pretty much knew that you, and not the declarer, has the Q, just by counting points. Declarer had already shown up with the AQJ of spades and the K. With the Qas well, he'd have opened with a one-bid, not a preempt, as surely as the man upstairs made little green apples,” he said.

“And of course,” added the Gipper, “the contract could have been defeated right away if you'd shifted to the club queen at trick two. If you'd had any way of knowing, of course, that my club holding included the AT.”

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