Have you noticed how many bridge players have a tendency to emphasize their hard luck? It is a distinct form of hypochondria. An ordinary hypochondriac is one who enjoys bad health. A bridge hypochondriac is one who enjoys bad luck. He appears to take great pride and derive immense pleasure from the claim that he is a "bad holder." It is strange how easy it is for him to forget the many good cards that have come his way. Take, for instance, the story of the hand that follows. It was told at a hypochondriacs' clinic where despondent bridge players had assembled to relate their most unlucky experiences at the card table. Only a bridge hypochondriac would consider the holding of such a huge hand as South's as a stroke of evil fortune.
The bare bones of this brief but bizarre auction require some explaining; actually, it was only the official part of the bidding that took place as set forth above. What happened first was that South was so excited by his glorious hand that he overlooked the detail that it had been dealt to him by East. Without waiting for that worthy to speak, South launched into a bid of two spades—out of turn!
The rule book having been duly consulted, South's bid was canceled, East's right to bid first was restored and, as the penalty for South's mistake, North was barred from taking any part in the bidding.
"So," as the narrator of this unmitigated example of hard luck described it, "after East passed, of course I bid seven spades. This was doubled by my left-hand opponent. He led the ace of diamonds and then the ace of clubs. I was down one. But if he had led the ace of clubs first, I would have made the hand."
A certain amount of humor, of cours~e, lies in the complete confidence with which South contracted for a grand slam despite his three losers and his complete sincerity in referring to the incident as nothing more than a case of hard luck.
Yet there was pathos, too, in this situation due to the fact that the declarer really was the victim of a bad break. The fate of South's grand slam bid depended entirely on which of his two aces West selected for his opening lead. Had I been on lead with West's hand I would have produced the ace of clubs. Obviously, the declarer must have a void somewhere; since I had only three clubs and five diamonds, there was a better chance that the club ace would live.
Against me, South would have made his seven spades, and I would have had the hard luck story to tell at the next meeting of the moaners' club.
Extra trick: Should such penalties as afflicted South be invoked in a "sociable" game? Players who write to ask similar questions find me firmly on the side of law and order. Through long experience, I have learned that the only way to keep a game sociable is by impartial observance of all the rules. The moment some laws are waived, all laws come into question. And that is when the real arguments begin.