By Ken Masson


Can you picture a bridge hand where you will likely make 6 No Trump if you bid it but go down if you only bid 3 No Trump? This month’s offering is such a paradox.

When it popped up recently on an on-line bridge site, I imagined how it might have been portrayed by the late Victor Mollo in his “Bridge in the Menagerie” series of books. Mollo was famous for imparting knowledge in a very entertaining fashion. Personalities such as the Hideous Hog, the Rueful Rabbit, Charlie the Chimp, Oscar the Owl, the Secretary Bird, and many others, abound in his books and are nicknamed after the animals they most resemble physically and psychologically and who caricaturize common archetypes of real-life bridge players.

The Hideous Hog and the Rueful Rabbit feature most prominently in Mollo’s writing as they are poles apart in bridge talent and social skills. HH is by far the club’s best player, but also an insufferable shark who seeks to humiliate opponents for their mistakes, while RR is a timid man who can barely hold his cards together and can’t always tell hearts from diamonds, but has such incredible luck that even the cards he accidently drops become the right ones.

I wondered how HH and RR would have handled this month’s hand at their weekly duplicate session and came up with this scenario: “What did you do on Board 18?” asked RR. “Board 18? Why would you ask about that” countered HH, “That was a nothing hand, I was in the routine 3 NT, West led the routine heart 10 and before I could draw a breath they took the routine 5 tricks and I was down one. Must be an average board, I assume. What did you do?”

“Well, er, I, er, was in 6 NT” stammered RR which drew hoots of derision from HH: “6NT indeed! How did you get to that ridiculous contract? Down 4, no doubt – well at least you will help my score in the comparisons.”

“Actually, I made a terrible mistake in the bidding – I accidently pulled the 2 No Trump card from the bidding box, instead of the 1 No Trump card. Naturally, my partner drove to slam.”

“Well, serves you right, then” said the Hog, mockingly, “Nothing like minus 400 to teach one to be careful in selecting the correct bid”.

“Plus 1440, I’m afraid - I made the contract” said the Rabbit, apologetically.

“How could you possibly make 6 No Trump? Didn’t you get a heart lead?”

“No. Charlie the Chimp led a diamond. I was now able to score 12 tricks with the aid of the spade finesse: 4 spades, 5 diamonds and 3 clubs. Actually, I could have taken 13 if I had finessed the 10 of Clubs, but I didn’t want to be greedy”.

“What luck!” roared HH. “What possessed the man to lead a diamond?”

“Well, he explained to his partner afterwards that you had told him never to underlead a King against a slam contract!”

If you see any Mollo books in libraries or used-book stores, I urge you to snap them up right away. You will be in for a very enjoyable read.

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