SI Vault
 
PAPA THE GREEK VS. THE HIDEOUS HOG
Victor Mollo
January 06, 1969
One of England's foremost bridge players and most prolific writers on the subject, the author first introduced the characters in this article in a delightful book, "Bridge in the Menagerie." Their counterparts can be seen at most card tables
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
January 06, 1969

Papa The Greek Vs. The Hideous Hog

One of England's foremost bridge players and most prolific writers on the subject, the author first introduced the characters in this article in a delightful book, "Bridge in the Menagerie." Their counterparts can be seen at most card tables

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

Gathering in the second spade trick with a satisfied air, the Hog drew trumps, played off the two remaining diamonds and exited with his third spade. With a bow he turned to Papa and asked graciously: "Would you care to play into the ace-queen of clubs, Themistocles? You know how I hate taking finesses."

"A jump shift on that collection and a fake cue bid on top of it!" spluttered Papa indignantly. "And some people think he's the second-best player in the club."

When he finished chuckling the Hog cleared his throat and, raising a fat pink forefinger, explained in the usual way how clever he was.

"You don't seem to appreciate my bidding," he said, winking knowingly at the kibitzers, "but I assure you that it's a mistake to bid too well. You give a lot away to opponents, and partner will not understand you anyway—unless, of course, you are fortunate enough to be playing with a Goren or a Garozzo or, er, with me," he added modestly.

"You should remember that for every partner you have two opponents and, in fooling all three, you are, every time, one fool to the good. An excellent bargain. Now take the last contract. Why did you present it to me? Because..."

"Because," broke in the Greek heatedly, "you played as badly as you bid. Fancy risking two rounds of spades before drawing trumps! Wouldn't you have looked silly if the suit had broken four-two? On the second round I would have gone up with the ace and given my partner a ruff, and all the time the king of clubs might have been on side. How could I envisage such bad play?"

"You couldn't," agreed the Hog, chortling, "but that's just it. I could afford to play badly, as you seem to think, because I could rely on you to play well—scientifically, that is to say. Had either of you held an even number of spades, two or four, you would have solemnly signaled to each other—and to me on the way. But you played the 4 and the trey respectively, and I had the deuce myself. As for drawing trumps, I couldn't afford to let you see that I had only four. I had to keep you guessing about my distribution. Had you guessed correctly you would have avoided the end play, but I always had the club finesse to fall back on. But it's better play, I think, to bring off one's finesses whether they are right or wrong. By the way," asked the Hog in his silkiest voice, "purely as a matter of curiosity, where was the king of clubs?"

Also at my club are two gentlemen known as the Rueful Rabbit and Timothy the Toucan, who are the firmest of friends. In secret, each suspects the other of being the worst player in the world, and both, of course, are right. When Goren asked me to introduce them to you, he assured me that there are one or two players in America who are no better—a tall claim, motivated, I suspect, by chauvinism. But even if it's true, I refuse to believe that any wrongdoer in the States has a guardian angel so active, so unscrupulous or so consistently successful as has the Rabbit, for somehow no sin of his goes unrewarded. The deal shown above is a recent example.

The bidding calls, perhaps, for a word of explanation. The Hog doubled, not so much because he hoped to break the contract as because he expected Papa to go back to spades. All know that Timothy the Toucan—he owes his nickname to a long, shiny red nose and a habit of bouncing in his chair—rarely fails to lose two or three tricks in the play, while Papa relies on his superior technique to bring in two or three that aren't there. A rescue operation was, therefore, clearly indicated.

Papa's redouble was no less psychological than the Hog's double. He reasoned that if the Toucan had the audacity to insist on hearts, after hearing the senior partner bid and rebid spades, he must have a long solid suit and an ace or two to spare.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5