A Bridge Phantasmagoria
His surroundings were completely unfamiliar. There was a heavy mist or perhaps it was smoke, as large frightening flames could be seen not so very far away. As he continued his walk, he suddenly came face to face with an imposing edifice. A notice read “HADES BRIDGE CLUB - ALL WELCOME.”
Thoroughly intrigued, he entered through the open portals and addressed the receptionist. “I thought I knew of most clubs, but this is new to me. Is it possible to a have a game?”
“Certainly Sir, if you can prove your credentials.”
“Is this sufficient? He inquired, proudly producing his Life Master’s Certificate.”
“You are very welcome, please proceed along that corridor to room 13 and you will find three gentlemen awaiting you.”
That seemed strange, how did they know he would be there?
When he got to room 13 there were indeed three men there, all dressed in black leather jackets and gear similar to certain notorious bikers.
“Visitors always sit South and the stakes are £10 per hundred,” he was told. That seemed pretty steep, but confident in his own prowess, he acquiesced.
“We play as to a duplicate score card, and the bidding is straight Acol. Does that suit you Alfred?” He agreed, but how did they know his name?
The first board was dealt.
Love all: North deals.
With East-West silent he quickly got to Four Hearts as follows:
West led the queen of clubs and East won the ace and returned the jack. He put up the king, only to have it ruffed by West, who exited with a spade. He bitterly regretted not simply raising 2NT to 3NT. It would be humiliating to lose four club tricks, so what to do? Seeing his only chance, he cashed the ace of spades and after drawing trumps, he won the ace of diamonds. Next the jack of spades was overtaken by the queen and the queen of diamonds was tabled. When East played small he discarded the king of spades.
“Bravo,” said West conceding the contract.
And now for the second hand.
East-West game: East deals.
Over One Club from East, he bid Two Spades and North raised to Four Spades. West led the two of clubs and West won and switched to the nine of hearts. This cried out singleton and he could see what was being cooked up for him. Clearly East had three trumps to the king and after winning the king of spades, he would put his partner on lead with a club and get a heart ruff to set the contract.
“No you don’t,” he said to himself. He won the ace of hearts and cashed the ace and king of diamonds and then got to dummy with the ace of spades and led the jack of diamonds. East covered, but now he discarded a club, exchanging a club loser for a diamond loser. There was no way East could get to his partner’s hand and so the losers were restricted to a club, a diamond and a trump.
“Well played,” applauded North.
Now on a high, he avidly picked up his cards for the third deal.
North-South game; South deals.
This was unbelievable. Thirty-two points, easily confirmed by counting the missing cards - Ace-queen of spades and the two red jacks. He opened a forcing Two Clubs and to his surprise, West overcalled Two Diamonds. After two passes he doubled for take-out and again West overcalled, this time with Two Spades. North came to life with Three Hearts and East pre-empted with Four Spades. His brain was working overtime. How could they bid like this unless they had ten spades between them, leaving his partner void, so he made the master bid of Seven Hearts which was in fact a make. West however continued to Seven Spades and, thoroughly frustrated, he could only double for penalties.
West ruffed the heart lead and ruffed a diamond in dummy. Finessing the ten of spades, he again ruffed a diamond, and after finessing the queen of spades, West ruffed a diamond for the third time to establish the suit. He returned to hand by ruffing a club with the eight of spades and his ace drew South’s king. The diamonds were run to make all thirteen tricks.
He was thunderstruck. They had made the grand slam with a combined total of six points. All his hard earned winnings had more than evaporated. Hoping for something better on which he could exploit his skills, he picked up his cards for the fourth hand.
Game all: West deals
Never in his life had he seen such an array. Only 29 points this time, but a grand slam in hearts or no trump should partner have the missing ace. After three passes, he opened Two Clubs angling to be doubled when he later bid the slam. Once again West butted in Two Diamonds and when North and East passed, he lost patience and went straight to Seven Hearts. He redoubled a double from West, risking a first round ruff.
West led the ace of diamonds and dummy’s void was less than reassuring. He ruffed and laid down the ace of trumps, only to find that the remaining trumps were stacked with West. Try as he might, he could only make his six trump tricks and so was seven down at a cost of 4000 points.
“You could have made 1NT or a part score in clubs or spades,” said a gloating West.
“This is hell,” he shouted.
“Didn’t you know,” they cackled fiendishly.
Realisation came. The Hades Bridge Club- they knew his name and he had been expected- The Hell’s Angels gear and the frightening flames. HE WAS DEAD. But why here? He had been no worse than the next man. He started to scream then came to with a start, bathed in a lather of sweat.
What a relief to recognise his own bedroom.
This awful experience created such a deep impression on his mind, that years later, when he became a famous film director, this type of theme became his favorite.
His surname? Yes, Hitchcock.
The third hand in ‘Nightmare’ is based on what was known as the Duke of Cumberland Hand and was a phenomenal hand at whist. The Duke, son of George III, King of England, was an inveterate gambler for high stakes. The story of the Duke of Cumberland hand, as related by Professor Richard Proctor in ‘How to Play Whist’ (1885) was that the Duke was inveigled into making a bet of £20,000 (nearly half a million nowadays) that he would not make a single trick, and of course, he lost.
The fourth hand, also a famous trick hand during the days of whist, was known as the Mississippi Heart Hand. An equivalent hand was given by Hoyle in 1747 and a later version by Thomas Matthews in 1804. It was reputably used by the cardsharps of the Mississippi steamboats, who hoped to persuade South to make a heavy bet on the odd trick, with hearts as trumps.
As doubling and redoubling could go on indefinitely, the stakes, even in a low stake game could soar dramatically and it is reported that a certain Charles M. Schwab paid out some $10,000 on this particular hand.