Swinging with the Griffins

“Seven notrump doubled and made by North-South in one room, redoubled and made by East-West in the other? Most unusual. Are you sure?”
Oscar the Owl, our senior kibitzer, who had missed the first half of the match between the Griffins and the Unicorns, was hearing about the highlights.
The match, an unusual event, combines rubber bridge scoring with the mechanics of a team-of-four event. The cards are pre-dealt and played simultaneously by both sides. When a rubber is up in one room, play stops in both, the participants in the incomplete rubber taking 300 for game and 50 for a part-score. Then the new rubber begins.
A feature of the match, unique in competitive bridge, is that we allow goulashes. After a thrown-in, there’s no shuffle and the cards are dealt three or four at a time. This leads, of course, to wild distributions and requires a special technique.
An early thrown-in was followed by a goulash on this board:

Dlr: South ♠ —
Vul: N-S Q J
Q 4 3 2
 ♠ 9 7 4 3 2 ♣ 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 ♠ —
10 9 8 7 6 5 42 A K 3
J 10 9 8
♣ — ♠ A K Q J 10 8 6 5 ♣ A K Q J 10 9
A K 7 6 5
♣ —
2♣ Pass 2 Pass
4NT Pass 5♣ Pass
5NT Pass 6♣ Pass
6♠ Pass Pass 7♣
7♠ Pass Pass Dbl
Pass Pass 7NT Dbl
All Pass

A purist might raise an eyebrow at the bidding, but the Hideous Hog has announced unanimously that his own sequence was impeccable. As soon as he picked up his hand, he knew that the predestined contract was 7♠ — not only because it could well be a make, but also because opponents, with freakish distributions of their own, might bid up to the seven level.

The grand slam in spades would hinge, of course, on the diamonds and there was no possible way of finding out whether partner had what was needed — the queen or five small or maybe a doubleton and a couple of trumps. All HH could hope to do was to confuse the opponents in their discards. By showing four aces, via his Blackwood 5NT, he was conjuring up the picture of a hand with two non-diamonds. One void doubtless would come to light on the lead, but the other might masquerade as an ace long enough to induce a helpful discard.

Papa the Greek passed cunningly until he could see exactly where the Hog was going. Then, relying on a certain trick in the Hog’s side suit, he pushed him into the grand slam.

Up to that point, both the Hog and Papa had bid with subtlety and imagination. Alas, they had reckoned without the Rueful Rabbit. Hearing Papa’s double, preceded by 7♣, he felt certain he was in the presence of a lead-directing double. His own club holding fully confirmed the diagnosis. So he promptly converted to 7NT. After all, the Hog had shown four aces, while his own ruffing value, with spades as trumps, was slender to say the least.

Now the spotlight turned on Karapet, sitting West. What should he lead?

The Hog had stopped in 6♠, until driven to seven by Papa. So he had a potential loser somewhere. What if he had the AQ? A heart lead could be fatal, for left to himself, declarer might have no entry to dummy to take the finesse. A spade lead, on the other hand, could do no harm. Result merchants may argue that a lead that swings 27 ticks cannot be good. Karapet’s reasoning, however, was not without merit.

The play was straightforward. Having to follow to eight spades, Papa couldn’t retain in his last five cards four diamonds, the master heart and the master club. Writhing in agony, on the eighth spade, he threw his last club. The Hog now crossed to the Q and led a club, squeezing Papa in the red suits.

In the other room, Charlie the Chimp and Secretary Bird, Emeritus Professor of Bio-Sophistry, sat North-South against Timothy the Toucan and Walter the Walrus. Here the bidding took a very different course.

2♣ 4 Pass 7
7♠ 7NT Pass Pass
Dbl Pass Pass Redbl
All Pass

Bouncing excitedly in his chair, Timothy the Toucan raised at once a barrage as high as he dared. Barrage or no barrage, Walter the Walrus, with 30 points — plus two 10s — wasn’t to be trifled with. Even 7, he felt, was somewhat of an underbid.

In case a mathematician should quibble with the addition, a breakdown of the figures might be helpful. Walter counted 18 HCP, 2 more for the long clubs and 5 for a void in spades, 25 in all. Unfortunately in rearranging his hand to make the black suits alternate with the red, he included the void twice — once when it was on the left, over the hearts, and once on the right, over the diamonds.

Over the Chimp’s 7♠, the Toucan had a problem. If the Chimp made his grand slam, and TT had no reason to doubt it (to him the Walrus’ 7 call sounded suspiciously like an advance save), he would score 1500 plus 700 plus 210. He certainly had honors, probably 150, which would bring the grand total up to 2560. That would be more than 2500-point penalty he would incur if he made no trick at all in 7NT. And why shouldn’t the Walrus produce a few tricks somewhere. So, Timothy the Toucan decided to sacrifice. The Chimp doubled and the Walrus, as befitted a man with 30 points, redoubled loudly.

The Secretary Bird crossed and uncrossed his long wiry legs, but the ♣8 was the only lead that suggested itself. It was some time before the Toucan could count his tricks. But after checking carefully, he claimed 14 — six clubs and eight hearts.

A swing to Griffins of 5120.

“What do you get for a redoubled overtrick?” enquired a young kibitzer, who had only promoted himself from watching rummy.

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