Bob Mackinnon

A Double Dummy Unrestricted Choice

In a darkened bedroom James lay in a double bed looking at the ceiling and wondering what he had done to deserve his current state of bliss. When he was a schoolboy his mother had told him to do his homework, because, ‘in this world you only get what you deserve.’ He hadn’t believed it then and he didn’t believe it now. Millions in the Third World were starving while here he lay well nourished with his left hand on the bare bum of the beautiful brunette on his left and his right hand on the bare bum of an equally beautiful blonde on his right. Homework missed or completed had nothing to do with it.

His first encounter with a beautiful bare bum had been during a school excursion to Warwick Castle. While the other boys were in the Grand Gallery enthusiastically viewing swords and suits of armour, he had wandered past a closed door to a room containing a statue of a reclining nude in the naturalistic style of Lorenzo Bartolini (1777-1850), the original work (and the model herself) having once been in the possession of Napoleon III. Boyhood curiosity drew him near. The buttocks were smooth, but cold and hard to the touch. The buttocks he was now feeling were smooth, warm, and soft.

‘Betsy, are you awake?’ said a voice on his right, muffled by a pillow. ‘I just realized I could have made that damn 3NT if I had led a low club from dummy before cashing the ace.’

The person on the left turned over, put her hand on James’ stomach and replied, ‘Ja, it was obviously the only choice. Your Papa would always go up with the kink.’

‘I just wanted you to know that I know.’

‘OK, so now I know you know and I am wide awake. James is wide awake, too, because for the past 5 minutes he has been kneading my ass like it was a loaf of bread.’

‘Tee-hee, mine, too.’

‘So how about it, James? As we say in Chermany, “if you strike the match, you have to tend the fire.”’

It had begun a week earlier and all James did to deserve his good fortune was to write a letter pretending to be a journalist with an interest in women’s bridge. This led to an invitation to meet Heidi Heinz whose billionaire father was sponsoring a woman’s team in the upcoming 1968 Olympiad. That encounter led to a second invitation to their Savoy suite, this time to dine, and thereafter to complete the interview which actually he hadn’t even begun to write. The other dinner guest was to be the young German Princess Elizabeth von Stollenberg, a prospective member of Heidi’s team of women internationals who were to challenge men’s teams in a series of contests with cash prizes donated by Howard Heinz himself, albeit through one of his charities.

The previous evening he had been met at the door by the great man himself who ushered him into the sitting room where stood his gorgeous daughter, Heidi, and an equally gorgeous brunette. Their images cast in bronze would make superb bookends.

‘James Woolwich, may I introduce Princess Elizabeth von Stollenberg’ said his host inappropriately.

‘Is that with two double – u’s as in “Vow”?’ she said in a slightly German accent, offering her hand.

The woman thus introduced made an unforgettable first impression that blew James’ mind. She wore a sleeveless black dress, was slim and tall, but amply provisioned in the upper stories. Her face conveyed determination – a firm jaw line, glistening white teeth encircled by bright crimson lips. Her winsome smile and the steady, inquisitive gaze emanating from deep blue eyes gave the impression of a woman who not only knew what she wanted, but also, despite her young years, knew exactly where to get it.

‘She’s a descendent of Queen Victoria,’ informed Heidi with pride of possession.

‘I’ve got cousins who resemble Victoria closely, but, thanks to my vater I’ve got nice, long legs. He is tall and handsome – too tall to be a U-boat commander which is what he vanted always to be.’

‘I can see that would be a disappointment, your Highness, but perhaps it was rather lucky for us all he didn’t get his wish,’ commented James dryly.

‘Betsy, remember, call me Betsy. I was born on the wrong side of the Neisse, so you could say today I am Polish, but I vant to be an American champion like Dorothy Hayden and live in San Francisco with the Chinamen.’

‘The Chinese community keep pretty much to themselves,’ commented Heinz in a rare understatement. ‘We’re working on a visa, Princess. It takes time to heal old wounds.’

‘Ja, my father made a foolish mistake. In 1936 he joined the Nazi Party because he thought wrongly it would help him settle a land dispute. He was never political.’

‘Yes, land claims are tricky – it takes a lot of money and influence to get them right,’ noted Heinz. ‘Most Germans were in the same boat. They are a greatly misunderstood people. General John J. Pershing, like me a German-American, had a tank named after him, a great honour; President Eisenhower is Pennsylvanian German, Werner von Braun is pure German, now living in America, Marlene Dietrich, of course, she did great work during the war entertaining our GI’s, the von Trapp singers, a wonderful family and so melodious, …. I could go on.’

Heinz continued speaking superficially on a variety of subjects, the paragraphs arriving like waves pounding an unresisting beach. He didn’t realize that to please an audience, rather than telling them what you think they don’t know but might, it is better to embellish what you think they think they already know, but don’t. The tide peaked during dinner served in the suite by the hotel staff.

‘You know, James, the Germans and the Brits should never have fought each other in the first place. They are blood-related, although a big difference is that German roads are wide and straight while yours are narrow and crooked, so maybe that tells us something. The Krauts are working hard to rebuild their country, but look at the French. They act as if they won the war, but they are quitters who couldn’t even handle the Viet Cong. They’re too lazy to learn English. Ever try to buy an air-mail stamp in Paris? You can’t do business with the French.’

‘Be fair, Daddy,’ interjected Heidi. ‘Every woman I know would like to own at least one dress made in Paris, isn’t that so, Betsy? Your lovely dress, it’s a Chanel, is it not?’

‘Maybe so, I made it myself from a photo in a fashion magazine. This one was easy to do, except it’s a bit tight across the chest. I’ll show you how sometime, although I don’t think I could copy your beautiful dress with all its frills.’

‘You both look smashing,’ interjected James, to whose eyes the tightness across the chest represented the outstanding feature of an otherwise plain dress.

‘You men are so lucky, you look good in anything,’ said Betsy, and she meant it. ‘I vant to go to America and learn expert bridge, but I need a man to teach me.’

‘Come to New York, join my team, and we’ll have lots of men flocking around willing to teach us. We’ll go on tour and play against men’s teams. We’ve already made plans for Boston, St Louis, and Minneapolis,’ offered Heidi.

‘I am serious – only a man will do and he has to be a real man.’

‘Good luck on that one,’ blurted out Heidi, laughingly.

‘Heidi!’ admonished her father severely, ‘you shouldn’t talk about things about which you have no knowledge – it gives the wrong impression.’

That was rich. Based on his recent encounters with Heidi, James concluded that the daughter probably had more qualification in that regard than her father would like to think. On one topic at least Howard spoke with real qualification.

‘When I built Skyreach, everybody wanted a piece of the action: contractors, lawyers, union bosses, criminal organizations, police, politicians, and even judges. We spread it around, all part of the cost, and together we got the job done with no hard feelings. The project was a common cause in which everyone was invested. And what was the result? The people got a great building in the middle of Manhattan that wasn’t there before, and which will remain for their lifetimes and longer, if that matters to them. New Yorkers are the long-term benefactors and it didn’t cost them a dime – taxes get spent regardless. Think of the pyramids, hard work at the time, sure, poorly paid, sure, but a legacy still drawing revenue after thousands of years. We couldn’t afford to build them today, except maybe in a multi-purpose environment.’

James couldn’t help recalling the famous poem by Shelly about the works of Ozymandias, and was about to recite it, but he was saved from this indiscretion by the appearance of the master carver, a short but stout, moustachioed fellow dwarfed by his enormous toque blanche, summoned to gravely serve the roast lamb, during which ceremony the negative thoughts of the vegetarian dissenter were expunged completely from James’ brain as he struggled with the eternal dilemma – ‘rare or well-done?’

After the pudding Howard insisted they play Chicago and drink champagne, so they did in an atmosphere of increasingly good spirits. Unlike the wine the bridge was not of the highest quality. Here is the deal on which later Heidi regretted not making 3NT.

 
None
North
N
James
AJ1083
Q
K96
A864
 
W
Betsy
6
87432
J10854
J2
 
E
Howard
KQ754
K109
Q7
K105
 
S
Heidi
92
AJ65
A32
Q973
 
W
Betsy
N
James
E
Howard
S
Heidi
1
Pass
1NT1
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Forcing

Heidi was a cautious bidder when playing against her domineering father. The fear of making a mistake acted as an inhibitor of initiative, thus causing mistakes of omission. James bid out his shape forcing a reluctant partner into a normal 3NT on 25 HCP on an 8-7-6-5 distribution of cards. Betsy took in the implications of the bidding and chose to lead the 3, covered by the Q-K-A. The 9 was run to the Q and the T was returned, ducked. The 9 followed, taken with the J. The principle of restricted choice held out the promise that a second spade finesse would succeed, so a losing spade finesse was duly repeated. A return of a spade to dummy was an embarrassment. Declarer had 8 tricks established but she couldn’t play off the spades without squeezing her own hand in the process. Hoping for an endplay, she created a pseudo-squeeze matrix by playing off the spades, discarding 2 clubs from her hand leaving 3 clubs and 2 diamonds in dummy. She cashed the A and followed with a small club to her father’s K. Howard could cash the T, setting the contract with a diamond still to come.

James could see that even this flawed approach would have worked if his partner had ducked the first heart and near the end played a low club off dummy keeping the club position flexible. Heidi hadn’t planned ahead, sometimes an endearing feature on a warm, starlight night in the Caribbean, but not at the bridge table. The spade suit gave a promise of 4 tricks, but, failing that, a club trick needed to be established and better sooner than later. Timing is everything.

On the last hand of the evening Betsy, a raw talent, showed her potential.

 
Both
West
N
Howard
J7532
2
A10975
QJ
 
W
Heidi
K85
KJ9
J4
K10732
 
E
Betsy
Q104
AQ106
Q83
A85
 
S
James
A9
87543
K62
964
 
W
Heidi
N
Howard
E
Betsy
S
James
1
1
3NT
All Pass

Howard had the strongly held belief that spades are like money: the pair that owns the most spades owns the hand. With the aggression for which her Prussian ancestors were famous, the Princess went directly to game with 3 queens and the ace in her partner’s presumed suit. James saw no better start than to attack with the ace of his host’s suit followed by the 9. As the club suit was key, Betsy was in no hurry to broach the suit. Instead she began by playing top hearts from the dummy, Howard playing his spades up-the-line, by way of a belated apology for his rash action. On the 2 from dummy he played what he hoped was a deceptive Q, but the princess read this correctly, playing off the AK dropping the J. This resulted in 11 tricks made on a deal where an unopposed 3NT might have been defeated on a diamond lead.

‘You should have finessed on the second round of clubs,’ advised the billionaire, annoyed by the turn of events, ‘Reese would tell you that the play of the queen allows the assumption I didn’t have the jack.’

‘Well, this Reese, whoever he is, is mad,’ asserted the princess. ‘If you have a doubleton club, you only play the queen when you have the jack behind it, so it’s just the opposite.’

‘But how did you know Daddy had a doubleton?’ asked Heidi.

‘Well, with 6-5-1-1, surely your father would have made a Roman jump overcall.’

‘I never heard of it,’ claimed Howard. ‘In America there is no way I can show spades and diamonds after 1, and I am certainly not going to overcall 1.’

With that Heinz took his leave, going off to get fleeced by Reese and his crowd, leaving James to complete his interviews with Heidi and Betsy. Little did James guess how much progress he would make that night, nevertheless, in the coming week even more extensive research would be needed before pen touched paper.

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