AS IN A MENAGERIE?

After my poor performance in the OBA Sim Pairs, April 2000, there were lots of mistakes to discuss as we poured out our glasses of Medoc, and our post-mortem went on deep into the night. So would you be surprised if I told you I had an amazing dream afterwards?
I was obviously inside a bridge club, but not my local one. Where was I?
If you have read Victor Mollo's books about Bridge in the Menagerie, you would have known the place at once. If you haven't read these wonderful books, do rush out and buy them immediately. Then you too would recognize the four players at the table where I was now a kibitzer.
The self-confident West was clearly the Hideous Hog. His chirpy partner, East, just had to be the Rueful Rabbit. North, with the large ginger moustache, was Walter the Walrus, of course. And South - with the big sad eyes - was the doleful Karapet Djoulikyan, a Free Armenian who looked as if he had been persecuted for generations but feared with some justification that the worst was still to come. He had just finished telling an anecdote that ended, "Yes, the dice are always loaded against me. Isn't there something weird about the good fortune of my opponents? To me anything may happen. And it usually does."
Karapet was the dealer, at love all, on a hand that reminded me of Board 17 in this year's OBA Sim Pairs. He opened 1
and the auction proceeded (as shown) to the final contract of 3 doubled.

 

9 7 5 3
8 3 2
10 7 3 2
A Q

 

6
J 5 4
A Q J 9 6
9 8 5 3

 

A Q J 8 2
Q 9 7
8
J 10 4 2

 

K 10 4
A K 10 6
K 5 4
K 7 6

 

S

W

N

E

1

2

2

2

3

Double

All pass

 

West, the Hog, led 6 and the Walrus put down dummy, saying, "Enough points to raise you to two, partner, I thought?"
The Rueful Rabbit won with A and looked surprised to win a trick. He twitched and hesitated and fumbled. Then, as a dark cloud massed on H.H.'s brow, he nervously dropped his singleton 8. Karapet cast a glance upwards towards the heavens and offered K, but H.H. beat it with his A - inevitably.
At trick 3, the Hideous Hog led Q. Karapet called for a low one from North and R.R discarded 8 to show further interest in this suit.
At trick 4, the Hog led J. Once again Karapet called for a low card from dummy but this time R.R. paused. His mind had gone blank! He had an idea that he had signalled for something and seemed to recall wanting to ruff something, but sadly he had forgotten which suit was trumps - very embarrassing when you were partnering the Hog. He thought and thought until the tears came into his eyes with the result that he could no longer tell whether he held Q97 Q97 or any random mixture of the two suits. He reckoned he had better play a red card, for fear of revoking if he chose a black one. But why waste a big card? He "followed suit" with his 7 and ... um, won the trick.
What now? Better avoid anything red, the Rabbit thought. Instead he turned his attention to the black suits, for he could still just about tell them apart. He could see no point in leading a club around to dummy's menacing AQ. So at trick 5 he opted for a spade and selected J. South, the wistful Armenian, suspected that R.R. had begun with five spades, which meant that the smug-looking Hog would now be void, but what choice did he have? He put in K - and the Hog ruffed. Smugly.
The defence had taken the first five tricks and H.H. was on lead. Smooth as ever, at trick 6 he led out his 9. Karapet called for 10 and now the Rabbit did not hesitate. He "knew" he had to "follow suit" - and his Q was bigger than dummy's 10. So he put in what he believed to be his Q - but in fact he ruffed with Q and Karapet had to use up his K to beat it. Without knowing what an "uppercut" was, R.R. had just delivered one.
At trick 7, Karapet led out A but he could not drop H.H.'s guarded J. So that would be a sixth trick for the defence. The Armenian spread his cards to claim seven tricks, shrugged and sighed deeply, "Ah, two off, I'm afraid, partner."
"Two off? That's -300!" said the shattered Walrus. "Yet we had twenty-two points, and three of the tens."
"Actually," the Hog said, " you're three off. So it's -500. You still have a losing spade that you can't park. The Rabbit's Q must inevitably win a trick sooner or later. You couldn't actually make 1."
"Ah, yes," Karapet muttered, "the black Queen. Of course. Did I ever tell you about the curse?"
Apparently it all began in 1329 with an evil spell cast on the Djoulikyans by the black witch of Ararat.
Karapet was about to tell the full story when I woke up ......


David Bygott