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Victor Mollo

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In this, the fifth title in the Menagerie series, you meet again the Rueful Rabbit, luckiest of mortals, with an unscrupulous guardian angel at his side; Karapet, the unluckiest player on this side of the equator - and the other side too, of course; Charlie the Chimp, the black sheep of the family; and Walter the Walrus, the point-count specialist. With Papa's arrogance, the Toucan's humility, the Secretary Bird's pedantry and Molly the Mule's rampant feminism, they make every deal vibrate and sparkle. The Hideous Hog remains all but insufferable as he clashes daily with destiny, and in the final episode confronts the prince of darkness himself.

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Destiny at Bay

Destiny at Bay


Victor Mollo

First published by Methuen London in 1987

First B.T. Batsford edition 1998

Second Edition 2001

© Victor Mollo 1987

ISBN 0 7134 8362 8

eISBN 9781849942089

Published as eBook in the United Kingdom in 2014 by


1 Gower Street



An imprint of Pavilion Books Company Ltd

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.

Editor: Phil King



1 Overture

2 The Hog in Charge

Bending the Odds

7NT on One of Two Finesses

A Sadly Neglected Art

3 The Guardian Angel

The Trump Discard

Problems Too Easy to Solve

The Guardian Angel Works Overtime

The Rabbit’s Percentage Play

The Rabbit Philosophises

An Auto-Smother Play

Declarer’s Market

A Raspberry for the Rabbit

Mystery of the Missing Ace

The Rabbit’s Sacrifice

4 The Salamander Cup

The Rabbit Learns American

The Third Man

Enter the Chimp

5 H.H. as Dummy

Grand Slam with an Overtrick

Noblesse Oblige

6 Karapet and the Witch

The Gloating Kibitzer

Papa Loses the Ace of Trumps

Karapet’s Lucky Hand

The Unforgivable Insult

7 H.H. versus Papa

Papa Teaches the Hog a Lesson

A Slam on a No-Way Finesse

The Snipper Snipped

A Trick out of the Blue

Flight of the Aces

Five Bottoms Below Average

West v. South-East

Papa’s Deal with the Hog

A Bottom for East, West and North

An Unusual Transfer Squeeze

An Embarrassing Entry

The Hog Libelled

8 H.H. versus R.R.

The Hog Pulls the Wrong Card

Coup out of the Blue

How many Wrongs make a Right?

Woe to the Winners

7NT on a Trump Squeeze

9 Enter the Ladies

A Squeeze Without a Name

Trade Union for Kibitzers

10 The Hog goes Cruising

The General and his Bird

A Splendid Passenger

Variations on a Classical Theme

Hiding the Lady

The Hog’s Nightmare

A Cheque Bounces Back

Storms at Sea

Improper Advantage of a Proper Pause

11 Ethics, Etiquette and Other Things

A Flurry of Writs

Man Bites Crocodile

A Duty to Partner

The Hog Plays Double-Dummy

A Pack Without a King

Black is White

An Undisclosed Convention

The Judgment of Solomon

Coup of the Green Chartreuse

Avoiding an Endplay

Declarer’s Threat to Dummy

Cynical Suit Signals

12 Monster Points

Multiple Vandalism

Balanced Freaks

13 The Prince of Darkness

14 Epilogue

Author’s Preface

Among our members at the Griffins Club you will recognise many of your friends. And you will meet yourself, too, though here identification may not be so easy.

Oh wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us To see ourselves as others see us

Bridge is a faithful mirror of life, and as the Griffins hold it for you, reflected in the glass you will see the follies and foibles of man shorn of the veils which so carefully hide his ego away from the card table.

On the technical plane there is nothing new in bridge. There never can be. It is the human side which provides inexhaustible material, for the simple finesse, no less than the subtle bidding sequence or savant squeeze, can release the springs, setting in motion the duels, the clash of personalities, the battles of wits and will which make bridge the greatest game in the world.

Most of the hands in these pages will be new to most readers. A few with long memories may recognise a bid or play featured in one of my Menagerie articles ten to fifteen years ago. None are of more recent vintage, with one exception – a deal from Aksel J. Nielsen’s collection, gathered over forty years, which he put at my disposal when we collaborated on Defence at Bridge. I adapted a hand for an article I contributed to Popular Bridge. It was, however, Aksel J. Nielsen’s discovery and in 1978 he used it himself in Bridge With The Three Musketeers. I am happy to acknowledge my debt.

Overleaf, Oscar the Owl, our Senior Kibitzer, will introduce you to the leading members of our club. All are alive and well at the time of writing, and we are all young, too, whatever our years, for bridge keeps us so. Victors or vanquished we rise from every deal, like a phoenix from the ashes, spoiling for the next one.

As you get to know us you will soon see that ours is an exhilarating existence. Never boring and never bored we enjoy every turn of Fortune’s wheel. Joie de Vivre, the art of savouring every sparkling moment – that is the way of the Griffins. We invite you to join us.

Chapter One


“If only they’d had bridge in times gone by! They didn’t know what they were missing.” Oscar the Owl, our Senior Kibitzer at the Griffins, was in a mellow mood. The Taylor ’27, following the Latour ’61 with the bécasse au fumet, brought a warm glow to his amber eyes as he philosophised.

“Think of the agonies they endured over that great controversy between free will and predestination, the plots and conspiracies of the Jansenists and the Jesuits, the ruined lives, the feuds and vendettas, spilling over from this world into the next. A game of bridge and they could have put their beliefs to the test without a single soul being damned, reserving all their anathemas for the post-mortems, as we do.”

The Hideous Hog

“Which side would win?” I asked.

“They’d both win, of course,” replied the Owl. “First the Hideous Hog, champion of free will, would deftly side-step Nemesis and set destiny’s designs at nought, then ...”

“But that’s a contradiction in terms,” broke in Peregrine the Penguin, Oscar’s opposite number at the Unicorn where the Griffins play duplicate on Thursdays.

“If something is predestined, it happens. If it doesn’t, it wasn’t predestined.”

“You are leaving free will out of account,” objected O.O. “Suppose that destiny intends a contract to succeed. Declarer in, say, 4 has ten top tricks. The lead is favourable. There are no snags, but the Hog introduces a new dimension, imposes his will and causes declarer to go down. We’ve seen it happen so often.”

“He cheats fate?” I suggested.

The Owl nodded in approval.

“So you don’t believe in predestination,” interjected the Penguin. “You are on the side of the Jansenists?”

The Rabbit

“I didn’t say that,” protested O.O. “I said that both sides would win, free will one day, destiny the next. Outpointed by the Hog, destiny gets her own back through the Rueful Rabbit. Friendly, gentle and unassuming, but scatterbrained beyond belief, the Rabbit rarely knows what he is doing and sometimes forgets the contract he is trying to make or break, but fate decrees, that despite his best endeavours, he should produce an inspired bid or else, without malice aforethought, by the purest chance, the right sequence of plays, and lo and behold, he does. He can’t help himself. There’s a force he cannot control.”

The Guardian Angel

“Perhaps his Guardian Angel ...” I began.

“True,” agreed the Owl, “as we all know R.R. has the most gifted, as well as the most unscrupulous Guardian Angel in the business, but he is, after all, only destiny’s agent. He is not a principal.”

“Doesn’t he at times exceed his instructions?” I ventured.

“Why not forget about angels, Jesuits, free will and predestination, and accept the fact that the Rabbit is infernally lucky,” said P.P.

“I do,” rejoined O.O., “but luck is a dispensation granted by fate. If you believe in luck you believe in predestination. Free will won’t stop you being as lucky as the Rabbit or as unlucky as ... as ...”


“Karapet,” I suggested.

“Yes, a perfect example,” agreed the Owl. “Karapet Djoulikyan, the Free Armenian, looks upon himself as the embodiment of misfortune. It all started, as we have so often been told, with the evil spell cast on his family by the witch of Ararat in 1453 or thereabouts. Everything has gone wrong for the Djoulikyans ever since.”

“Poor Karapet,” I said. “Perhaps one day his luck will turn.”

“I sincerely hope not. Don’t do him out of his simple pleasures,” warned O.O. “Karapet is a masochist and takes as much pleasure in recounting his woes over a Fernet Branca, as does the Hog gloating over his Bollinger. Chacun à son goût. You know what they say, that only a sadist would be kind to a masochist. So don’t deprive Karapet of his cherished miseries.”


“What, then, about his friend, Papa the Greek, a fine player who would be better still if he weren’t so clever. How does his free will fare against predestination?” asked P.P.

“He usually comes off second best, I fear,” replied the Owl. “But then Papa’s greatest pleasure isn’t to win but to see the Hog lose and so prove that he is the better player. It doesn’t happen very often, but he’s a glutton for punishment and keeps on trying. An exhibitionist to the tips of his long tapering fingers he would rather go down by being too clever than make his contract without being clever at all. He does his own thing and so do all the Griffins. We’ve no inhibitions. ‘This above all else, to thine own self be true’. That’s our motto and we all live up to it.”

The Secretary Bird

“Even the Secretary Bird?” asked Penguin incredulously.

“Of course,” replied the Owl. “The Emeritus Professor of Bio-Sophistry is first and foremost a lawyer and sues for the sake of suing. The result is of secondary importance. ‘Tis better to have sued and lost than never to have sued at all,’ is his proud device.

“He dislikes everyone and everyone dislikes him. So no one is inhibited and we can all be happy, in a negative sort of way.”

The Walrus

“And is the Walrus also uninhibited?” I asked.

“Certainly,” said O.O. “Points are to Walter the Walrus what the law is to the Secretary Bird. He doesn’t play bridge; he counts it, and would as soon give a dud cheque as make game without the requisite number of points. It’s a moral issue and the Walrus has the highest principles and lowest IQ of any of our members.”

“Lower than the Toucan’s?” asked Peregrine in surprise.

The Toucan

“The Toucan has no IQ,” rejoined the Owl. “Some men, as Malvolio has it, are born to greatness. Timothy the Toucan is born to insignificance. That’s his part in life and he plays it very well. Meek and humble, he will never inherit the earth, but he is contented, bouncing in his chair, his long nose aglow with Burgundy. ‘They also serve who only stand and wait’,” quoted O.O. “The Toucan, modest, deferential to his betters, which means to everyone, is the best of his kind, and that makes him a worthy Griffin, a member of the élite like the rest of us.”

The Chimp

“The élite?” The Penguin sat up with a jerk. The second decanter was draining away and P.P. was beginning to look distinctly drowsy and to slur his words.

“The élite?” he repeated. “How does that fit in with the Chimp?” the combination seemed incongruous.

“Where would we be without Charlie the Chimp?” retorted O.O.

“Bridge is a microcosm of society and who has ever heard of a society without its Chimps, sailing close to the wind, yet not quite close enough to be blown off course?

“Cunning, crafty, always giving himself the benefit of the doubt, yes, but no more so, surely, than many a man in pin-striped trousers you see driving in a Rolls to the Bank of England. He is not above suspicion, I grant you that, but he is not Caesar’s wife and when all’s said and done, the best families in the land have their black sheep. We Griffins wouldn’t be truly representative without one of our own.”

“B ...she-ep,” muttered the Penguin before subsiding finally into the arms of Morpheus.

The Sunlit Present

“In vino veritas. Very well put,” applauded the Owl. “We Griffins have the best of everything – the best exponents of free will and of predestination, the best angels and the best witches, even the best black sheep. Someone,” pursued O.O. giving me a meaning look, “should bring our club’s history up to date.”

Going Back to the Present

The Owl drained his glass before resuming. “Founded by the Master of the King’s Pleasures to provide amusement for Charles II at ombre and faro, our early days in Vauxhall are shrouded in mist. As a coffee house in St. James’s we were, perhaps, a shade better than the others. Whist later raised us to the fore, but it is to bridge, so true a mirror of life, that we owe our fame and glory. So leave the checkered past behind. Think only of the sunlit present. For many years now,” went on the Owl, “you have been recording in The Griffins Chronicle, and elsewhere too, I believe, the daily exploits in our cardroom. Go through them. Select the episodes which highlight the personalities behind the cards, so typical of the world outside, yet so much more vibrant, more colourful, and just as comical in their vanities and their pretensions. Be kind, be stern, be cruel if you like, but keep nothing back in doing justice to the Griffins. Sleep on it,” concluded the Owl with a wistful look at the empty decanter.

The following morning I repaired to our library to look up early copies of The Griffins Chronicle. It wasn’t long before I came across a series of telling blows struck by the Hog in his war on destiny. I reproduce the articles as I wrote them at the time, setting the scene with the usual preamble, which began so often at the Griffins Bar. This was one of the first:

Chapter Two

The Hog in Charge

Bending the Odds

The Hog threw the book aside in disgust. “The ignoramus!” he exclaimed. “Starts with finessing, one of the most advanced subjects in bridge, and winds up with smother plays and quintuple grand coups, as if they mattered.”

“But wouldn’t you say ...” began Oscar the Owl.

“No, I wouldn’t,” snapped the Hog.

Mellowed by a glass of Delaforce ’60, he continued in friendlier vein.

“There are too many players chasing too few coups. What if you do catch a smother or a crisscross? You won’t find one more than once a year, so where’s the profit? Finesses, on the other hand, are there to take all the time and the good player makes a point of bringing them off, while the bad one is, perforce, unlucky.”

“But surely,” protested O.O., “a card is either right or wrong. The ace is or isn’t over the king. The king is or isn’t under the ace-queen and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. They are fifty-fifty chances, so where does the skill come in?”

“When I take fifty-fifty chances,” replied the Hog with hauteur, “I expect them to come off at least four times out of five. After all, it’s only a question of bending the odds.”

Searching through his pockets for a bit of paper, he produced a crumpled letter, which someone had asked him to post, and scribbled quickly on the back of the air mail envelope.














All Pass

“Like the contract?” asked H.H.

“There’s little to choose between 4 and 4,” replied the Owl after due reflection. “Both contracts depend on not losing a spade, though ...”

“No, no,” broke in the Hog, “when this hand came up the Rabbit was North and as you know, he seldom makes ten tricks. So play it in spades. That Q may be bare or else East may have started with Qx, in which case the contract will fall into your lap. Obviously, it’s better than a fifty-fifty chance.”

“And did you bend the odds still further?” enquired O.O. politely.

“Naturally,” replied H.H., “but perhaps you would like to go through the motions with me. West leads the K, then the Q, East signalling with the 10, followed by the 2. Next comes the A. Over to you.”

The Owl pondered. “If East overruffs dummy’s jack of spades, there’s nothing I can do about it. Did he?”

“You go up with dummy’s jack? Very well, East follows with the 4. Continue.”

As the Owl took in the situation, his heart-shaped face relaxed into a smile. “I rather think,” he said, “that we’ve been there before. East gives a false signal because he wants declarer to put up the jack. He is sitting with Q9x and hopes to promote his nine. It’s a brilliant defence, but by no means original.”

“Please play,” said H.H.

The Owl pointed to the 10.

“East covers with the queen,” said the Hog.

O.O. nodded. “As expected. I cross to dummy with a heart and lead the 2.”

“The three from East,” announced H.H.

The Owl nodded once more. “Quite so, and this is where I bend the odds, as you call it, by inserting the eight, and East’s manoeuvre gets him nowhere. Now had he played normally, I might well have gone for the drop and lost the contract. Too clever, that East of yours. I suppose it wasn’t our friend, Papa, by any chance?”

“No,” replied the Hog. “Papa was South and played exactly as you did, as I intended him to play. I happened to be East.” As he spoke the Hog filled in the other hands.

“I forgot to add just now,” went on the Hog, “that while I expect my own fifty-fifty chances to come off four times out of five, so I expect them to fail no less frequently when they are taken against me. Bending the odds, you see, works both ways.

“Consider the position from East’s angle,” continued H.H. “Without the false signal, West will take two top diamonds and switch to a club. Now, whether declarer takes the trump finesse or plays for the drop, he is bound to succeed. There’s just one chance for the defence – that West has the 9. Then East can bend the odds, for a declarer familiar with the classics will say as you did ‘We’ve been there before’ and play accordingly. Of course, Papa recognised the situation and he gave me quite a pitying look as he took the ‘marked finesse’.

“Mind you,” added the Hog as an afterthought, “a subtle defence like that could never succeed against the Rabbit. He isn’t nearly good enough to be fooled.”

“In fact,” ventured O.O., “the hand should have been played by him after all. No hope of promoting, bending ...”

“That,” broke in the Hog, “would have been at best a fifty-fifty chance.” Seeing the Owl’s puzzled look, he went on to explain. “Playing in 4, the Rabbit ruffs the third diamond, draws trumps and turns to the spades ...”

“Bringing down the queen,” interjected O.O.

“Certainly,” agreed H.H., “but observe how easy it is to block the suit, for unless the jack and ten are played to the first two tricks, dummy’s long spades are dead and declarer loses two clubs.

“It is true,” concluded the Hog philosophically, “that you can’t bend the odds against the Rabbit, but then why bother when he can do it so much better himself?”

7NT on One of Two Finesses

“I hear that you brought home an iniquitous grand slam this afternoon,” said Oscar the Owl, as we sat chatting in the bar.

“It couldn’t have been as bad as all that,” countered the Hideous Hog. “After all, it depended at worst on one of two finesses.”

“A grand slam on one of two finesses?” repeated O.O. incredulously. “Impossible. What if the first one fails?”

“Then I don’t take it, of course,” retorted the Hog. “Who do you think I am? Papa?”

The Owl wasn’t convinced. “Even if you somehow divined which finesse to take, a grand slam on a finesse ...”

“No, no,” broke in the Hog, “I said that the contract was at worst on one of two finesses. In the event, both were wrong.”

“Then how did you know what not to do?” persisted the Owl.

“I tried both finesses,” explained H.H., who was beginning to grow impatient with Oscar’s unimaginative approach, “but since both were wrong, I rejected them and ...”

“I didn’t see the hand,” interjected O.O., “I only heard about it, but I still don’t understand how you took two finesses, found them wrong, untook them, so to speak, and still made the grand slam. Perhaps you’d show me the hand.”

The Hog searched his pockets for a bit of paper. Dismissing a couple of crumpled bills in favour of a charity appeal, he put down the North/South hands.

North/South Game. Dealer North.
























All Pass

“Too ambitious,” observed O.O. “Surely 6 would have been enough.”

“If you expect partner to make twelve tricks, you will, I hope, give me credit for making one more,” rejoined the Hog with spirit. “We can hardly play in diamonds, though, since that would make partner declarer. Mind you, my 6 gave him the chance to call 7 if his clubs were good enough. No one can accuse me of being selfish.”

“Who was partner?” enquired O.O.

“Immaterial,” replied the Hog, “some honest plodder who bids what he thinks he’s got and is right half the time. Can’t remember the name though I expect he had one. What’s more important is that I had Walter the Walrus on my right and on my left, none other than Papa.”

“I can see only eleven tricks,” said O.O. studying the hands.

“True,” agreed the Hog, “eleven tricks, plus the Walrus, and that should suffice, especially as Papa usually manages to find a clever lead. This time he didn’t. He picked on a diamond, which didn’t help at all. So I started with the spade finesse.”

“But...” began O.O.

“Exactly,” agreed the Hog, “the king was wrong. The Walrus, who regards covering honours as a matter of moral rectitude, like revering one’s parents or leading the fourth highest or paying one’s taxes, that is within reason, of course, well, the Walrus didn’t so much as blink. So I went up with the A, crossed to dummy with a diamond and tried the heart finesse. Again the Walrus played smoothly with that vacuous, bovine look which a subtler player might put on to conceal something. Clearly, he didn’t have the K either, so once more I had to go up with the ace.”

The Owl shook his head. “Not so good now,” he remarked.

“On the contrary,” retorted the Hog, “prospects have improved visibly. Had the Walrus been endowed with the king in either major, he might have just had the sense, after a long trance, not to cover and that would have left me a trick short. But once I knew that Papa had both kings, the contract became little worse than an even-money chance. And for once there was a speck of justice in the world for he did have three clubs.

“Can’t think why people use up so much space with print,” murmured H.H. filling in the East/West hands.

This was the full deal:

“As you can see,” went on the Hog, “all I had to do was to play out the diamonds, leaving dummy with four clubs and myself with the J J and A6. The last diamond reduced Papa to four cards and to keep three clubs he had to part with one of his kings. Whichever it was, I would cash the jack of that suit and squeeze him again.”

“What did Papa say?” asked O.O.

“He called it an elementary automatic progressive squeeze which he foresaw as soon as dummy went down,” replied H.H. “The Walrus went one better. Having one miserable point, he knew his fate, he said, even before seeing dummy.”

A Sadly Neglected Art

“Doubling cue-bids, that’s virgin soil, you know,” said the Hog as we sat sipping Madeira. “People know no more about it today than they did in Culbertson’s time. There’s been no study, no research, no ... I thought you were in New York,” broke off H.H. seeing Colin the Corgi saunter into the bar.

“Just got back,” replied C.C., “landed at Heathrow an hour ago.”

The Hideous Hog bared his teeth in what was probably intended as a smile.

“In that case,” he told the Corgi, “I will show you a remarkable hand. I had it on Wednesday. Stop me if you’ve heard about it already,” added the Hog, scribbling on the bar bill.

“You’re looking very pleased with yourself,” rejoined C.C., “more so than usual, that is, so no doubt it was a devastating performance, but I saw nothing about it in the American papers. Mind you, they’re very parochial over there ... seemed more interested in their Presidential election than in your superb artistry. No sense of news value.”

“There,” said the Hog, ignoring the banter. “Game All and this is your hand.”

“Bidding or play?” enquired the Corgi.

“Sophisticated bidding, advanced play,” replied H.H.

“The auction is uncontested,” he went on. “You bid 1 and then 3 over partner’s 1. What action do you take when he calls 4?”

“He’s obviously looking for a slam,” reflected C.C., “and that hinges seemingly on not losing two hearts. Very well, I bid 4. What happens?”

“Partner duly bids 4,” replied the Hog. “You can now settle for 6, but it costs nothing to bid 4. Agreed?”

Oscar the Owl, our Senior Kibitzer, was about to blink but the Hog quickly silenced him.

“Please don’t interrupt, Oscar,” he told him severely, “you know what happened. I want to see if Colin draws the same inferences.”

Before the Corgi could say anything, the Hog went on. “Over 4, South bid 4 which West promptly doubled. Now North bid 5. What do you make of that?”

“He could have passed,” pointed out C.C., “so presumably he’s showing extra values. Still, what more can I do than bid 6?”

“You can bid 7,” rejoined the Hog. “If he is showing a good diamond suit, your Q is invaluable. A little imagination …”

“Very well,” agreed C.C. “I’ll bid 7, not because I think it is right, mind you, but because you’re licking your chops, so obviously you made it in some devious way and you want to see if I can do the same. So I am in 7. Proceed.”

“Dummy,” said the Hog, jotting down North’s hand, “was a great disappointment.”

“Apparently, partner was bent on showing the A. With the K to spare and a second round control in spades, he felt that he had to do something big. A questionable manoeuvre with so feeble a suit, but there it is. You’re in a grand slam and West leads the Q. Kindly make thirteen tricks.”

The Corgi pondered. “I can see eleven tricks – six clubs, the AK, the A and a spade ruff. I told you that I didn’t want the grand slam. In 6, I give up a heart and ruff one for my twelfth trick. Now I must hope for a revoke or two. So I play at breathtaking speed, switching suddenly from suit to suit and ...”

“This is no time to be facetious,” broke in the Hog, “or to miscount your tricks. You have twelve on top, not eleven, for with all those entries a dummy reversal presents no problem. You ruff three diamonds in your hand and need just one more trick. The spade finesse, perhaps ...”

The Hog left the sentence unfinished, waiting for the obvious rejoinder.

The Corgi shook his head. “Much as you may like to be in grand slams on finesses, this one, after West’s double is a non-starter.”

The Hog nodded sympathetically.

“Quite so,” he agreed. “Declarer, a very fine player, let me tell you, took the same view. But if the spade finesse was doomed, West might have four or more hearts, and if so, he would surely be squeezed. South played on that assumption.

“One round disposed of the trumps. Then came the dummy reversal, the A and three ruffs in the closed hand, dummy’s trumps providing two entries. Next declarer cashed the K – the A had gone on the first round – and finally dummy’s two remaining trumps.”

“Who discarded what?” enquired the Corgi.

The Hog told him. “Both defenders followed to the diamonds which split 4-4. On the clubs East threw four spades, to be precise, the 6543. West shed the 987 and the 10. He had followed with the J to the K, but the 4 was still out. When declarer played dummy’s last trump, this was the position.

“If West had the last heart, he could only have one spade. Need I say more?” concluded H.H., draining someone’s glass.

“Very well, so the K, now bare, drops on the A. What of it?” scoffed C.C. “A dummy reversal, followed by a squeeze, indicated by the revealing double of a cue-bid. Good technique, if you like, but I would expect any expert to make your grand slam.”

“Except against me,” retorted the Hog triumphantly.

“Against you?” asked the Corgi, “but weren’t you the brilliant South who ...”

“You seem to be under a slight misapprehension,” retorted the Hog. “The brilliant South was Papa. I was the brilliant West who beat the unbeatable grand slam before it had even been bid. This, you see, was the deal:






















All Pass

“You look nonplussed Colin, surprised no doubt, by my double of 4. Evidently you have never considered what is involved in doubling cuebids.

“East,” went on H.H., “doubles to indicate a lead. But when West knows, as in this case, that it will be his own lead, should he really double to place the high cards for declarer?

“Of course not. If the slam is a lay down, it doesn’t matter what West does. If it isn’t, he should try to mislead declarer, not to provide him with helpful information. In this context a false double is the equivalent of a false card.

“Without my double,” continued the Hog, pointing a fat, pink forefinger at the Corgi’s midriff, “Papa would have taken the spade finesse, a fifty-fifty chance, and made his grand slam. The squeeze required not only the same fifty-fifty chance, but also length in hearts with West. Much as Papa likes to be spectacular, he wouldn’t have bent the odds against himself to that extent. I had to do it for him.

“Remind me,” added the Hog, pocketing absent-mindedly Oscar’s cigar piercer, “to write a monograph sometime on doubling cue-bids. It’s a sadly neglected art.”

Destiny had had the worst of the opening exchanges, but it wasn’t long before a series of deadly counter-attacks, led by the Guardian Angel, put her ahead on points.

Chapter Three

The Guardian Angel

The Trump Discard

“If a little learning is a dangerous thing, too much can be fatal,” said Peregrine the Penguin, Senior Kibitzer at the Unicorn and one of the most loyal supporters of the Griffins Bar.

“Yes,” agreed Oscar the Owl. “He thinks it’s more honourable to go down, trying to engineer a smother play, than to make his contract by a simple finesse.”

We were discussing the Rabbit’s newfound zest for esoteric bridge, his disdain for ordinary plays and his search on every deal for complex stratagems and coups.

Rare books from Bibliagora appeared on his bookshelves. Existentialist Squeezes in the original Mandarin had a place of honour next to the Predictions of Nostradamus. Achilles Heal’s The Hundred Greatest Plays – by the player who made them, was on his bedside table.

And as the Rabbit acquired higher knowledge, so he sought eagerly for opportunities to put it into practice. A good occasion was this hand which came up at the club recently.

Love All. Dealer North.










All Pass

The Hideous Hog, who had been waiting to cut in for several minutes, walked impatiently round the table to look at all four hands.

“You should be in after this,” whispered O.O. encouragingly.

“On the contrary,” retorted H.H., “I shouldn’t, but I probably will be.”

Before he could explain this cryptic remark, the Toucan led out the K, then the A. As he was gathering the trick, the steward came in to call the Rabbit to the telephone.

“As any child or Toucan can see,” resumed the Hog, “the contract is unbeatable unless the defence can come to two trump tricks. The Toucan’s best chance, therefore, is to find the Rabbit with the J and to make him ruff a heart with it.”

“But he hasn’t got the J,” objected the Owl.

“True,” agreed the Hog, “but his actual trump holding is just as good, for he can ruff twice, with the seven and eight, driving out an honour each time.”

“A double uppercut?” suggested O.O.

“Precisely,” agreed the Hog. “But that, of course, requires a modicum of intelligence on the Toucan’s part, for if he continues with Q the Rabbit will have no inducement to ruff a winner. To ensure the promotion he should lead the deuce, but, of course, he will never think of it, and even if he did, the Rabbit would doubtless ruff low. So, you see, the contract will be made. An injustice, on the face of it, but I will be in and you will be able to watch me instead of my having to watch them, and the good will outweigh the bad, so to speak.”

“Excuse me,” apologised the Rabbit, returning to the fold, “that was my City astrologer telling me which shares I should have bought yesterday. They’ve gone up already. With Jupiter in the ascendant, and Mars...”

The Q from the Toucan interrupted the soliloquy.

The Hog snorted as if to say, “I told you so.”

Suddenly R.R. stopped talking to himself. Dipping his left ear, his nostrils aquiver, he extracted the 8 and with a trembling hand placed it on the Q.

The Walrus overruffed and played the J. Rising with the ace the Toucan continued with the J. Unhesitatingly, the Rabbit ruffed with the