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1600 Games XXIII: The Lady or the Tiger?

“I've been thinking. It's a good idea but we haven't realized is potential.” Bar was reflective as the match against Anny (who'd recently begun insisting that she and her husband be referred to in alphabetical order) and Mitty resumed after a hiatus of more than a month. There had been, as Escoffier (or was it Mario Batali?) used to say, other fish to fry -- the Inauguration, the Super Bowl, Michael Bloomberg's birthday and Hanan Sher's move from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

Mitty was miffed. “I assume you mean raising taxes on people with incomes above the poverty level,” he said. For the first time, there has a hint of outright hostility in his tone.

“That's not the issue,” said Bar. “No, I'm talking about renaming bridge conventions, to make them more relevant in today's demographics.”

Anny nodded in agreement. “Some of the ideas were pretty good. But others kind of missed the mark.”

Bar: “I think so too. Henry Bethe -- you remember him, 'Chelle, he's the gent you didn't get bridge lessons from – made some interesting suggestions.”

'Chelle: “Pray tell.”

Bar: “Mahogany to replace Blackwood. He says it's the blackest wood he knows.”

Mitty: “That's clever, might even be accepted in Mississippi. Are there more?”

Bar: “Apollo in place of Sputnik, cuz it's an American space vehicle. And he thought about substituting Socrates for Stayman, because Socrates asked questions. But on checking, he discovered that modern education virtually ignores ancient Greek philosophy.”

Mitty was warming to the conversation. “Apollo is nice, but maybe it's too American. After all, bridge is an international game. How about ISS, for the International Space Station?”

Anny and 'Chelle spoke up almost as one.

Anny: “Those are good ideas...”

'Chelle: “But, they could do with some refinement. Maybe...”

Anny: “There's someone out there who has other suggestions. I hear ”

'Chelle: “There are clever folks on Bridgewinners...”

Anny: “Let's see what they have to say on the subject. But first, let's play some bridge.”

It wasn't long before Anny was dealt A32 AJT964 T7 85.

In keeping with her new contemporary self-image, she considered the multi 2, which she considered ultra-modern, little knowing that it was a Sixties invention of Terence Reese. Instead she opted for a weak 2, ignoring the classic advice not to pre-empt with two aces in yet another sign of her rebellion.

After Bar overcalled 2 Mitty furrowed his brow. He held four spades to the Q-J, four small hearts, the doubleton diamond queen and the three top club honors. It looked as though the defense had at least five tricks. But maybe his RHO could be nudged a trick higher, where defeat would be all but certain.

“Three hearts,” he called in a firm voice, waiting for 'Chelle or Bar to take the bait and bid one more, for the road which he knew would turn out to be a very dead end. He tried to hide his disappointment when 'Chelle passed, and had even greater difficulty doing so when his wife, showing spunk he had never expected when he first met her in Bloomfield Hills all those years ago, went all the way to game.

4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

The opening lead was the A, followed by the K, after which Bar shifted to a safe-enough club. Assuming that the trump honors were divided 2-1 the contract appeared to depend on the success of a spade finesse. Anny would use one top club now to take a heart finesse and another to make the spade play whose chances of success seemed lower than slim or none.

Winning the A, Anny suddenly realized there was another chance – or better yet, two. Bar was marked with five spades, the suit in which he had overcalled. If the hearts divided 2-1, one opponent or the other could be end-played.

The first step was to cash the top club honors, discarding a spade from hand. Then a heart to the A, Bar contributing the Q. If Bar was now left with the singleton K he could be thrown in to lead away from his K or concede a ruff and discard which would also give away the contract. If the now-master trump was 'Chelle's, the lady's presumed singleton spade had to be extracted by playing the A before the trump exit.

Anny glanced around, hoping to get a read on her opponents. To her right sat the 'Chelle, composed and ladylike. On her left Bar's poised posture somehow reminded her of a tiger ready to strike she'd seen when she and Mitty had gone on a safari in Kenya. Should she choose the lady or the tiger? Her husband's advisers, for what they were worth, weren't around, and she'd have to decide on her own.

It took a full 90 seconds for her to make her choice. Then she sighed as she put the A on the table, and signed again on the next trick, when 'Chelle won the K. “Looks like I have to give you a sluff and a ruff,” said 'Chelle. “But why did you play the hand that way?”

“I picked the lady over the tiger,” said Anny. “Wouldn't any feminist?”

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