1997 - Rudolph, The Real Story
1998 - The Return of the Elves
1999 - A Dentist's Tale
2000 - An Interesting Topic
2001 - Mystery Opponents
2008 - The Yellowknife Sectional
2009 - Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere
Rudolph - The Real Story
(Sing along if you so desire.)
You know Dasher, and Dancer,
And Prancer, and Vixen;
Comet, and Cupid,
And Donner, and Blitzen.
Each year before Christmas
A match they would play,
The elves versus reindeer,
Loser's loading the sleigh.
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
Had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw it,
You would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer,
Used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudoplh
Play in section 'A' games.
Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Dancer came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
Won't you be our fourth tonight?"
The reindeer were trailing
With one hand to go,
And Rudolph was declaring
A skimpy six no.
Just eight tricks on top
And the finesses offside,
But Rudolph came through
Barely turning the tide.
(Could you have made the six notrump contract, winning the match
for the reindeer squad?)
Then all the reindeer loved him.
And they shouted out with glee:
"Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer --
You'll go down in history!"
How Rudolph Saved the Day
Rudolph won the diamond lead and led the spade jack from dummy, covered by the queen and king.
He then led a heart to the eight, nine and ten. After winning the spade return the heart queen was covered
by the king and ace. A diamond was led to dummy for a heart finesse.
Elf Crackle, sitting West, could comfortably discard a club but the last heart squeezed him in three suits.
No matter which suit he discarded Rudolph could repeat the squeeze to take twelve tricks.
Appeal to Santa for Score Adjustment
The elves appealed to Santa for an adjusted score, stating that Rudolph must have had prior knowledge to take such an obscure line of play. Dancer, the reindeer team captain, countered that Rudolph was a disciple of Barry Crane and always played for queens to be over jacks. It is true that the reindeer enjoy a considerable size advantage against the diminutive elves and aided by his bright nose, Rudolph may well have clocked the opposing hands. Regardless, Santa let the result stand.
Merry Christmas 1997 from John and Nina
The Return of the Elves
Those familiar with bridge activity at the North Pole will remember the animosity which reigned between the
reindeer and the elves after last year's match to determine which group would load the sleigh.
Tempers had cooled (as things are wont to do at the North Pole) as the year passed. After relaxing January and February,
the reindeer began training for their strenuous circle of the globe Christmas Eve.
The elves were busy year round creating toys and games. But excitement grew in both camps as this year's match
Both squads fielded their top pairs for the final 16 hands. The critical action took place on board 63 in the open room where Dancer and Vixen faced the Frost siblings, Jack and Dee.
(Some readers may be confused with all positions
recorded as South,
After an intelligent auction Dee became declarer in a club slam. The opening lead was the
Dee inserted dummy's queen which held, Vixen following with the
4. Before playing from her hand, Dee thoughtfully
considered her line of play. How would you plan to score twelve tricks?
but at the North Pole the only possible direction is South.)
Some defenders like to underlead the king in dummy's suit against a slam, feigning a singleton and hoping that
declarer will reject a winning finesse. However, this auction seems to scream for a trump or diamond lead.
Dee drew the inference that Dasher's desperate lead of a spade was because he held the diamond king and no trumps.
A successful cross-ruff would require all nine trumps to be scored separately. This would necessitate Vixen holding at
least three hearts,
not so likely in view of the presumed four-card holding in clubs. Instead, Dee decided to play to establish dummy's spade suit.
For this to succeed the low diamonds in her hand were needed to force an entry with the
so Dee discarded a heart on the first trick. The second trick was a spade ruffed with her low club, both defenders
contributing low spades.
Declarer next led a low diamond towards the queen.
Dasher rose with his expected king and continued the suit, but the defense was helpless. Dee ruffed a third round of
spades (both opponents following),
cashed the club honors in her hand, ruffed a heart and claimed with dummy's top trumps and good spades.
If Dasher had forced dummy with a heart instead of continuing diamonds, the
Q could have been used as an entry to dummy
at the end. The slam had been made without winning a trick with the
Because of systemic difference the reindeer pair stopped in game at the other table. Declarer had to play well to bring in eleven tricks after a trump lead. The difference was enough to win the match for the elves. The reindeer appreciated the good play of their opponents and harmony has been restored in Santa land. However, if you notice on Christmas morning that a package seems to be dented here or there don't blame the post office. Reindeer hoofs are not designed for loading sleighs.
Merry Christmas 1998 from John and Nina
A Dentist's Tale
We had just settled down for our traditional holiday dinner when Sid, my brother-in-law, volunteered that he had performed
a double extraction the day before.
"Sid", Jill complained, "How can you talk about that now?"
"Well", Sid continued, "I held eight spades: queen, jack, ten, eight, seven, five, .."
Nina interrupted, "Let's talk about teeth".
"At least write out the hand, there's an eggnog factor here." This was a request from Ed, who much prefers bridge to teeth.
Turning over his party napkin - tradition does not require linen - Sid diagrammed the following:
The club queen is led. How should a dentist play the hand?
It is frequently best to delay winning a top trick which you can ruff, but here you would be delighted to have North
waste a trump on the club ace. With South holding club length there are safe club ruff entries to your hand and a
discard isn't required because you have no side losers. There turns out to be another benefit.
North must have doubled holding the club king and the trump ace; he was no doubt rather disappointed when you discarded
a heart on the club ace. But a little care is always a good idea. You should win the diamond ace before leading dummy's
trump - you don't want to guess how to return to your hand. There is a surprise when the spade king is led.
North discards! South allows the king to hold the trick and you must find an entry to your hand.
How do you play?
Because South started with all the missing spades you cannot afford to ruff to your hand with a high trump.
You will lead to the heart queen. But not too quickly. Consider that South will win the next spade and put you
back in dummy by lead a second round of hearts. How will you get to your hand a second time with these cards remaining?
Ruffing to your hand in either rounded suit could be fatal. Thus you must play to prevent South sticking you in
dummy after he wins the trump ace. The odds favor his starting with two or more rather than one, so it is correct
to win the heart ace before leading to the queen. When the queen holds the contract is cold, for dummy will win no more tricks.
"Nicely done Sid, you first extracted dummy's diamond and then you extracted South's hearts."
I offered congratulations on a nicely played contract.
"Well," Sid admitted, "I didn't think about cashing the diamond ace before leading the spade king.
But when North showed out it woke me up. I'm sure I would have gotten it right from there.
But South won the king with the ace and returned a diamond so I didn't get a chance to prove it.
South did hold a singleton club and a doubleton heart, so against best defense it is necessary to win dummy's red aces
before using the heart queen. Now let me tell you about the two teeth I extracted yesterday."
Merry Christmas & Happy Y2K from John and Nina
An Interesting Topic
We were at the table drinking coffee, having just finished the traditional family Christmas dinner.
There was a momentary lull in the conversation.
"So you hold ace, king. queen. nine. deuce, ...", I was never at a loss for interesting topics.
"Oh, no". Nina voiced her opinion.
"I didn't complain during 36 straight days of watching the Florida recount."
"34," Nina corrected.
"Here, Sid and I played this hand on OK." I handed paper to Jill at one end of the table and to Jamie and Ed at the other,
ignoring the interruption, "I have the problem written out."
None Vul, South Deals
You lead the
A, partner follows with the
J and declarer the
3. How do you continue?
"Gore would have won if everyone in Florida knew how to read a ballot."
Nina was conceding neither the election nor the topic of conversation.
"I lead the
Q", Jill was, as usual, the quickest to answer.
"How do you know declarer has only one spade," I proded. "Wouldn't partner play the
J with jack-ten tripleton?"
"He shouldn't." Ed entered the discussion. "In this situation a high card should be count.
With three spades partner would play the lowest. Besides, it probably doesn't make any difference.
A diamond discard will likely be as useful as a spade discard. I agree with Jill.
If you continue spades declarer will ruff, pull trumps and duck a heart. The
Q prevents a duck both now and later."
"Well then, turn the paper over and tell me how you would play the contract after the
Q shift at trick two." This was a two-cup-of-coffee problem.
"And don't assume the defender's cards are the same on this side of the paper."
"He had to concede to Bush though. The law is the law." Sid was evidently casting his lot with the Nina topic.
"You have to win the
A, finesse the
Q, pull trumps and hope diamonds split." Jill announced.
"Wait a second," Ed complained, "After winning the diamond finesse I want to lead a bunch of trumps."
"First off, LHO drops the
10 on the
Q. On five trump leads LHO follows three times,
then discards two spades. RHO discards three spades."
"Now I play the
A," Ed took over the play, "What happens?"
"LHO plays the
J and RHO drops the
K." I wasn't going to make it easy.
"You have to decide if there is a better chance that diamonds split or if RHO has both diamonds plus the ten and nine of hearts."
"Nobody defends that cleverly." It was Jamie. She was known to offer assistance to Ed when he was faced with
difficult bridge problems. "Cash the other trump and squeeze RHO out of his fouth diamond, then you can win the
J and toss him in with a diamond."
There was general agreement. "Just another stepping stone squeeze," Jill said,
"How did the deal go when you and Sid played it on OK?"
Sid answered, "John opened one club, the next hand bid one spade, I doubled and fourth hand made a preemptive raise to
three spades. John doubled responsively, I passed and we collected our 500."
"I think the best play is a low heart at trick two." I said, going back to the original problem.
"Declarer will 'know' that a good defender would lead the queen if she had it. He would win the
A, finesse the
Q and hope for three-three diamonds."
"Won't this ever end," Nina was exasperated.
"Yes, Sweetie," I leaned over and kissed my wife, " Merry Christmas."
"Nice bidding." I suppose at Christmas dinner one would expect to hear 'Nice pudding' instead.
But when the entire group plays bridge, admittedly some with more enthusiasm than others, such comments are commonplace.
Partner and I had played a session on the Internet Christmas Eve and I was showing one of the deals.
Six diamonds was a great contract. After partner had shown diamond support and the heart void by jumping to
four hearts the small slam was easy. The danger was getting to a grand slam -
not that seven diamonds would have been an unreasonable contract.
"The lead was the
10. I ruffed and cashed the
K, everyone following. What's the best line?"
Jill was distracted with hostess type duties giving Ed the first crack.
"Two spades, five diamonds, three clubs, and two ruffs in dummy will be sufficient.
Of course, there needs to be a trump in dummy when I take the club finesse."
"And there is the little matter of having two entries to your hand - one to ruff a heart and one to pull the last trump,
assuming trump are three-one and they must be or this wouldn't be a problem." Jill had joined the analysis.
Jamie spotted the key play. "Give up a club immediately by leading the ten.
This also provides the extra entry with the
The group approved of the play and offered Jamie congratulations. "It's not quite over," I interjected. "The
10 holds the trick."
"Who were you playing against?" Sid asked incredulously. I ignored the question, asking another. "So now how do you play?"
Ed was ready, "Cash two spades, ruff the third with the
A, back to dummy with the
Q and ruff another spade."
"That was my idea, but when I led the second spade towards the king, my left hand opponent discarded a heart.
It seemed the defense didn't want to win any tricks. Are there any chances remaining?"
By this time Nina, at the bottom of the enthusiasm list, was giving me the look, so I didn't wait for a response.
"I could have come to the
A and let the
J ride if the diamonds didn't split (they didn't)
but instead ran all the trumps coming down to:
"LHO threw the nine and king of hearts while RHO threw two spades and two low hearts.
The simple play is to win the top clubs hoping the
Q will fall. I could also try to endplay either opponent; by leading the
J to the ace and tossing RHO in with a spade, or by running the
J and then leading a heart. But for either of those to win the opening leader must have underled both the ace and king of
hearts on the go."
"So what happened?" Everyone was interested.
"I had taken a long, LONG time to play the hand. The opponents had already announced that this was the last hand -
they had to go to work - but who has to go to work on Christmas Eve? They said good-night and closed the table.
I never did find out what the layout was."
"Who were they?" Another group question.
"One had the moniker "Rudy" and the other "Nick". I had not seen them on OK before."
Silence, then 'Nice coffee' from Nina.
The Yellowknife Sectional
The Regional at Lethbridge had just finished and I was scheduled to fly to Penticton for their tournament the following week. With nothing on my calendar I decided to travel to Yellowknife for the Sectional. The capitol of the Northern Territories has always held a mysterious appeal for me. Perhaps it is the name; perhaps the location. Now there was the chance to discover if reality approached my imagination and in the process win a few masterpoints.
Lacking a partner I inquired of locals if there was someone who might provide an enjoyable game. Soon thereafter I was being introduced to a fellow in unusual attire, a rough cut green outfit including a strange cap and pointed shoes. My initial impression was that he was to be part of some post-game entertainment. This notion was dispelled quickly. His name was Alfred, or so I thought he said, an elf who had made the trek down from his residence at the North Pole.
We had time to discuss a few conventions and the game got underway. I did notice that on the entry partner wrote only one name - Ælfred - no more than what would be required of Madonna or Cher - well, that and an ACBL membership number.
Nothing unusual occurred on the first three rounds but I couldn't help feeling that would change as we moved to the next table where two reindeer were sitting. It was obvious that Ælfred knew them. The situation became clear as my left hand opponent was introduced as Vixen and Prancer on my right. I couldn't say much about their appearance. I know that antlers are supposed to be unique for each animal in the same manner that fingerprints can be used to identify humans. But if I ever run across either again in a herd I won't be able to tell one from the other.
This was the first board. Neither side vulnerable, North dealer:
Prancer started with 1.
Evidently opening bid requirements are inversely proportionally to latitude.
I doubled for takeout and Vixen redoubled, not having an immediate descriptive heart raise.
Ælfred found an unusual intervention,
Prancer's hand, which heretofore had been of questionable defensive value, took on a new aura.
He doubled and all passed. I would have been a bit nervous about Vixen's decision to pass.
Might partner not have doubled with a good three-card diamond holding?
In any event the final contract was
Prancer led his singleton spade. Ælfred, having made a doubtful bid, redeemed himself by playing the
cards cleverly. He inserted the
from dummy and followed with the
when Vixen won the king. Vixen quickly, perhaps too quickly, led her top hearts. After ruffing the second round, Ælfred led the
10. Prancer discarded from his doubleton club, the
A winning. Dummy's other heart was ruffed by
Ælfred who proceeded to cash the
and lead a second club. Prancer discarded a heart this time as dummy won the ace.
A third round of spades was ruffed by Prancer who exited with a heart. Dummy and Vixen each discarded
their last spade as declarer ruffed. Now came declarer's last spade. Prancer discarded his last
heart and dummy ruffed with the ace. Dummy led a club and Prancer, down to the KJ10 of trumps had to
concede a trick to the
Q. Instead of discarding, if Prancer had ruffed with the
10, dummy would discard and again, declarer would score the
Q. The result
of -100 was about average, although no one else achieved the score in a
3 contract. Can you find a better defense for Prancer?
Ælfred wasted no time in explaining to Prancer that he should have ruffed the third spade with the
10. Then, when the fourth round of spades was led
he could ruff with the 4 allowing partner to overruff with the
7 if dummy discarded.
The afternoon proved to be a very enjoyable session of bridge with the side benefit of learning some interesting
facts about elves. Ælfred scoffed at the notion that elves bake cookies in the hollow of a tree
although he admitted that a threesome do have a consulting contract with Kellogg's concerning the marketing
of Rice Crispies. I asked if he or the reindeer ever went to other tournaments. He said this was the only one,
that there were no airports close to home and when they did try to fly there had been some ugly experiences with homeland
security. I pressed the issue asking why Prancer, Vixen, and the other reindeer didn't simply fly themselves.
Ælfred replied, "The jolly fat guy is the only one who has the magic and he seems to think one day a year of
travel is enough." They make do with home team games and Bridge Base Online.
And what about the mystery of Yellowknife? You'll just have to make the trip yourself.