Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Menagerie Revisited

Simon Stokes reminded me of the wonderful Menagerie books by Victor Mollo as I sat down to play against him and his delightful partner, Verity Joubert. Some of the bridge in the books seems a bit dodgy by today's standards, but the characterisation of the individual players (The Hideous Hog, The Rueful Rabbit, Papa the Greek and Karapet the free Armenian, to name but a few) has never been bettered. So, without sounding at all like Karapet Djoulikyan, who constantly bemoans his appalling luck and even more appalling partners, it is nice to relate a board when something went right.

This was Board 5


East    North    West    South
           Pass     Pass     1
3(1)    Dbl       3NT(2)   4  
Pass    Pass     5(3)    Pass
Pass    Dbl(4)    Pass    5(5)
Pass    Pass     Pass

(1) Stop-Ask. Requests partner to bid 3NT with a heart stop. By implication shows a 7 or 8 card solid suit (usually a minor) with little outside strength.
(2) Showing a heart stop
(3) Rightly judging that his side likely had, at most, three defensive tricks against 4, while partner was likely to hold two or more hearts. Therefore confident that 5♣ would not go more than two off and, if doubled, a likely score would be -300 against the -420 or -450 from a making 4 contract.
(4) My double was based on more than just heart support, partner
(5) South has to decide whether to take the medicine of a small penalty or push again for game. Feeling that she had something in hand and that the auction had not developed favourably, accepting the push to 5 does not seem unreasonable. 

The bidding had been revealing. East could see that it was most unlikely that a club would cash at trick one, whereas partner might well have the A, so he led his singleton spade. Declarer won on the table with the ace but when she played a trump, West won and gave East his spade ruff. Declarer still had an unavoidable diamond loser, so that was one off - giving E/W all the matchpoints.

I don't suppose that Verity has a drop of Armenian blood in her.

Victor Mollo: Bridge in the Menagerie: The Winning Ways of the Hideous Hog by Batsford (reprinted 2003)

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