Friday, January 22, 2010

Grendel comes to grief

It was a cold wintery night in the land of the Geats.  The fires in the great hall were heaped high with well-seasoned logs and the flames leapt up into the chimneys.  An unusual truce had been called and two visitors had peacefully entered the gates of Heriot as honored guests of King Hrothgar.  The occasion was Grendel's mother's birthday, January 21st, and with her son, they had come for a friendly game of bridge with Hrothgar and Beowulf.  A card table had been set up not far from the main hearth and around it sat these four very intense players. Grendel's mother was in the hot seat so to speak with her back to the fire.  Well-armed guards were stationed around the table in case there were to be any tricks not made up of four cards.

Still in the first rubber, Grendel had made a routine 4 game when this hand came up:




The auction went as follows:

p1NT 1p2
p2 2p2NT
p3X 3 p
pXX!all pass

1) forcing
2) the "impossible" 2 showing an excellent fit in clubs and game interest
3) "SOP" double: save or penalize

Grendel and his mother were playing Precision with a game-forcing 2/1 major structure, hence the 1NT forcing bid.  After Grendel's 2rebid, his mother saw fit to use the impossible 2♠.  Whether the hand truly warrants it is debatable, but it doesn't come up that often and she wasn't going to let an opportunity to use it go by. Grendel naturally put on the brakes with his 2NT call and his mother than signed off in 3. But they reckoned without King Hrothgar. Bravery was never lacking on the part of Hrothgar and the favorable vulnerability and the fact that the opponents had announced a good fit in clubs but were still only at the three level prompted a "save or penalize" double, a cousin of the "BOP" (balance of power) double and part of the DSIP family ("Do something intelligent, partner"). In other words: take out into a pointed suit with an offensive hand, pass with a defensive hand. Beowulf was happy to pass (the best they could do would be to make 1, now no longer an option.  Grendel's mother of course, thinking originally they might have game was not going to let her big chance go by: "Redouble!", in a voice of thunder.

Beowulf lost no time in leading a trump. Grendel won in dummy with the 8 and called for the heart. Hrothgar played a nonchalant 6 and Grendel stopped to think. Recalling a recent hand with a similar holding and never making a trick in the suit at all, he decided to try the K. "Glad to see you think I'm good enough to duck the Ace", commented the King good-naturedly. Meanwhile, Beowulf quietly took the K with his A and led another trump. Grendel ruffed another heart and paused for more thought.

Things weren't looking too good, but there was still hope. If Hrothgar had started with Txx and four hearts and only two clubs, he'd be endplayed on the fourth heart and would be forced to lead a diamond. Grendel confidently called for the ♠2 and finessed the nine, endeavoring to create the necessary extra entry to hand. If the Hideous Hog or even the Abbott was playing the hand, he mused, the nine would win and nine tricks be almost assured for game, rubber and 370 point bonus to boot! Alas, for our anti-hero, the nine lost to the ten, the last trump came back and there was nothing for it but to concede down 2 for 1000 points above the line for the hosts.

"You should have made that simple hand," said Grendel's mother with quiet but definite venom. "You're the real dummy, not me. Forget about your trashy hearts. With diamonds so favorably placed, you can make 2 spades, 2 diamonds and five clubs. Do you expect me to bail you out of trouble even at the bridge table?"

No comments:

Post a Comment