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1600 Games XXIV: Endive or Nosedive?

'Chelle was furious. Bar could tell that she was really spiffed because she made no effort to hide her anger.

“No more organic okra,” she said, stomping her size 12½ on the hardwood floor. “I never imagined they'd sink that low.”

Her husband gave a puzzled look. “Who's 'they,' and what happened to the okra?”

“Those blasted sequestration guys, that's who! As part of their budget-cutting, they've trimmed okra seeds off the budget for my organic garden out back. Kohlrabi and bok choi are gone too.”

Resisting her mate's efforts to calm her down, 'Chelle continued on what was rapidly becoming a filibuster. “You know where I'd like them to go with all that deficit reduction stuff. I see they didn't stop purchasing feed for the elephants over there at the National Zoo.”

Bar tried to maintain some semblance of balance. “It's not all disaster,” he said. “After all, we still have broccoli.”

“Honey, I and the girls love broccoli,” said she. “But it's far from the favorite in the Red states.”

A shrug from Bar. “Neither am I, hun, neither am I.”

'Chelle's mood had barely improved by the time the bridge resumed. As the cards were being dealt, she turned to Anny. “What vegetables do you particularly like?: she asked her guest, knowing that the blonde's only visits to a supermarket were on her hubby's campaign appearances.
“Mitty and moi just adore endive,” replied Anny with insouciance. “We have them flown in from France, together with the zucchini blossoms from southern Italy and the fresh mango chutney from Thailand. The chef says they're simply not available at the local Safeway.”

'Chelle turned to Bar. “She serves endive with insouciance?” she whispered. “That's one veggie I've never heard of.”

“Baby, calm down,” said he. “Insouciance is not a vegetable, it's a fancy word for nonchalance.”

Things calmed down considerably when the cards were dealt. But first 'Chelle made Bar apologize for the fact that there was only one deck on the table – another fruit of that sequestration nonsense. Then came this deal (all hands have been rotated for convenience, in the Southern Strategy in which South is always the declarer.)

1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Mitty thought about his opening lead. Fourth from longest and strongest seemed OK, but hadn't Anny read him something from one of those new bridge books by a guy named Cantor (what was Eric trying to do, make some extra cash as an author?) about leading from a sequence of honors. And he was gratified when his eventual choice, the K, made that Bar character squirm like he hadn't done since the first debate. Bar ducked the first and second rounds and was compelled to win the 8 on the third with the A.

Bar next played dummy's K and another, ducking when Anny followed with the J on that trick. He was ready for a heart return, particularly since Anny had played high-low on the first two hearts, indicating an even number. So he winced visibly when the 7, not a heart, hit the table. Ouch! Had Mitty been dealt five hearts to the KQJ? Wouldn't he have overcalled with that kind of hand?

The declarer-in-chief's reverie of self-pity was interrupted by a nudge from Mitty. “You've got to play a card there, fella. We're all waiting?

Blushing, Bar put a small spade on the table, covered by West's 9 and won by dummy's king. Six tricks were now there for the taking – four diamonds now that that suit had been established, the A and K. The seventh was there for the taking, he thought to himself, leading a small club towards his Q.

But Anny, the lady of the insouciant endives, had other ideas, rising with the ace to play back another spade.

It was all over in an instant. Mitty claimed four more tricks – the ace, jack and six of spades and the jack of hearts, a suit that had divided 4-4 and not 6-2 as Bar had feared.

Bar didn't need Candy Crowley to congratulate his adversaries. “Nice defense,” said he as though he really meant it.

“Not really.” 'Chelle was right there to disagree. “You took a nosedive, honeychile. It wasn't very difficult to make the hand if Anny's 7 was a true card, meaning that she had no higher spades. You can block the suit by playing the Q, either guaranteeing yourself two spade tricks or having time to establish a seventh trick in clubs. Mitty can win the ace and cash his last heart, but then he's stuck. You can run a spade around to your 10 or establish a club trick by force.”

A smile of recognition from Anny. “I've seen that play before, in a bridge book I read with my lunchtime salad the other day. And you really should order in some endives, I'll give you the address of our supplier, whose shop is just across the street from the Credit Suisse offices in Geneva where we keep our household money.”

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