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Farewell, My Lovely - Bridge

 In our last article, we covered the closely fought featured quarterfinal match of the Crime Writers Association annual knockout teams' tournament between the teams of Agatha Christie and Ruth Rendell which the former won thanks to a brilliant defensive play by Miss Jane Marple.

As was the custom, the boards had been pre-dealt and duplicated. This allowed for each hand to be played simultaneously on all eight tables so that, as each hand was completed in the open and closed rooms, scores could be compared and the status of each match published.

Duplication of the boards provided the added excitement of a side competition between the star-studded pairs across the eight tables which was won by actor Robert Mitchum and sleuth Philip Marlowe of the Raymond Chandler team.

There were several very interesting hands, not the least of which was board 7, dealer South, both sides vulnerable


        ♠ 10 6

         9 6 5 3 2


         A J 5


♠Q J 7 4 3

         ♣ 9 6 5

        ♠ -


        A K Q J 10 8 7

9 8 7 6 4


         K Q 10 3

♣ K J

         ♠ A K 9 8 5 2

         ♣ 7 3



         ♣ A Q 10 8 4 2

In the Christie-Rendell match the board was a wash with East at both tables making 5 hearts on careful play after South had shown 12 cards in the black suits during the bidding. Declarer trumped the lead of the ♠A and led a small club towards dummy. South rose with the ♣A and, not wishing to set up two spade tricks in dummy by continuing with the ♠K, led a club to kill the ♣K entry to dummy.

Declarer next played the 9 from dummy and when North played low, let it ride. North won the next diamond with the A but declarer was now able to trump the spade (or club) continuation and still have sufficient trumps do draw North's five small hearts and claim the contract.

In another match, the play to 5 Hearts doubled started off in the same way but at trick 3 South played the ♠K to force declarer to ruff again. Declarer next entered dummy with the ♣K and finessed diamonds. When North won with subsequent trick with the A, he was not able to force declarer to trump a third round of clubs in hand because dummy still had the 5.

In the closed room of the match between the Dorothy Sayers and Mickey Spillaine teams, the flamboyant, hard-boiled private eye Mike Hammer playing for Spillaine similarly found himself a declarer in 5 hearts but made the careless play of the A before tackling clubs. On winning the next trick with the ♣A, South played the ♠K, setting up two spade tricks in dummy. Hammer drew trumps, entered dummy with the ♠K to discard two diamonds on the high spades, but North won the last two tricks with the A and ♣9. One down.

This provided the Sayers team with a rare opportunity for a big swing: In the open room, with Lord Peter Wimsey playing South opposite actor Ian Carmichael, the bidding went as follows:





1 ♠



      2 ♠

4 ♣




4 ♠




5 ♣




One can sympathize to an extent with West's double of 4 Spades – that contract fails by three tricks as South can be forced in the trump suit: West leads a heart which declarer ruffs. The ♠A from the closed hand reveals the 5-0 trump break. Declarer can limit the actual number of spade losers to 2 by next playing a small spade towards the ♠10 in dummy but the problem is that West will play diamonds whenever on lead, forcing declarer to ruff and lose control of trumps.

The double of 5 Clubs is another matter. Even one down is not a good score as East-West can make game in diamonds or hearts and the club game could and should have been made. Lord Peter ruffed the opening heart lead, played the ♣A followed by a small club, losing to West's ♣K. He won the diamond return with the A on the table and led the ♠10. When East showed out, Lord Peter made the mistake of overtaking with the ♠K in the closed hand. He could ruff one spade loser with dummy's trump but in the end had to concede 2 spade tricks to West's ♠Q and ♠7 for one down. Had he ducked the ♠10 to West's ♠J, the subsequent play of the ♠A and ♣K would have left him with ♠9, 8, 5 and West with ♠Q, 7. The lead of ♠9 from hand would have allowed a ruffing finesse against the ♠Q, restricting the opponents to only one spade trick.

The Sayers team didn't fare much better in the second half of the match. In the final set on board 24, East-West vulnerable, East opened the bidding with 1§, Dorothy Sayers overcalled 1♠ in the South seat, West bravely bid 3§ but North had little problem bidding the spade game.


        ♠ K 6 5

        A K


         K Q 7 2


♠ -

          ♣ 10 9 8 3

         ♠ J 10 8 2

Q 10 8 6

           3 2

J 10 4 3


          A 9 6

♣ Q 6 5 4 2

        ♠ A Q 9 7 4 3

          ♣ A K J 7

         J 9 7 5 4

         8 5


Dorothy ruffed the opening club lead and carelessly played a spade to the ♠K in dummy and there was now no way for her to make the required 10 tricks for game.

On all other tables, declarer played the ♠A from hand at trick two and then went about playing for a dummy reversal. The two heart entries to dummy allowed declarer to ruff another two rounds of clubs. Next followed a diamond to dummy's Q which East won. East returned a spade which declarer took with the ♠Q. The K provided another entry to dummy allowing for a fourth club to be ruffed in the South hand with declarer's last remaining small spade.

Thus far 6 spade tricks had been made in the South hand with ♠A, Q and 4 club ruffs and dummy still had the ♠K for a seventh trick in that suit. Together with 2 hearts and a diamond, that gave 10 in total.

When the results were finally tallied the Spillaine team had won by a convincing margin, knocking the Sayers team out of the competition.

As he passed Dorothy Sayers on the way out, Mike Hammer was overheard pointedly remarking to her, rather unkindly one felt, "Goodbye, my lovely."



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Saturday, 18 May 2024

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