Ross Taylor

The protégé strikes back

No time to rest on his laurels, the Old Master picked up a very healthy  A72  AQ652  K  KQJ8 opposite his partner’s opening bid of 1 diamond. Both red, his LHO the dealer.

He responded a quiet 1 heart. Partner rebid 1NT. The Old Master checked back with 2D, game forcing, and heard 2 hearts from partner. A 3 heart bid now established the trump suit and set the stage for slam exploration. Partner was not interested however, and signed off in 4 hearts.

The purist in him wanted to explore further with a delicate cue bid, but at this stage of the match, he knew his opposite number’s tendencies – he would simply bid key card blackwood so the Old Master decided to keep pace with the other table.

The response showed only 1 key card – the Old Master mentally shrugged and signed off in 5 hearts, as they were missing two key cards.

Out came a surprising red double card from his protégé (his screenmate), which was passed around back to the Old Master. This was not a favorable development. One minute he was marching towards a slam contract, and now he could envision fighting for his life in 5 hearts doubled, with, presumably, bad breaks abounding.

The Old Master therefore ran to 5NT, clearly a bid to be passed. 5NT undoubled became the final contract and his RHO led the spade 10. The Old Master laid down his still-pretty-powerful dummy to gasps from the kibitzers, but his protégé remained completely impassive, unfazed by the monster on the board.

The Old Master was actually quite pleased with the late stages of the auction. If indeed 5 hearts was slated to go down, his protégé had just offered up a clear chance to win imps on the board, since 5NT must surely have a reasonable play, and it was quite likely the opponents at the other table would get to at least 5 hearts.

But he needed to stretch his legs and his back muscles. Stiffness was setting in after so many days of inertia. The Old Master excused himself from the table, and made for a quiet area to limber up in solitude, and to prepare for the final stretch of hands. This was the layout his partner faced :

Dealer: east

Vul: both

Old Master  
West Protégé
10986543 J
K3 J94
863 J754
3 A10964

Note the audacity and brilliance of his protégé ‘s double! He knew north south were off two aces, and there was an excellent chance of defensive ruffs – maybe even a cross ruff, to beat five hearts doubled. (If his partner had held the spade ace instead of the heart king, he might have collected +800 or even +1100 from nowhere.)

Most in the audience felt the double of five hearts had backfired though, as 5 NT looked impregnable. But they could see all the hands, and declarer could not.

When the Old Master returned to the table, there was a definite murmur afoot, and partner was scoring up down 1. The Old Master would not dream of inquiring what had happened, but the sympathetic chatter around the table was clearly along the lines of   “all he had to do was play hearts and eleven tricks were cold – but how could he? …..Who would expect a 3-2 heart break with the king onside after that snap double of five hearts?”

Likely some form of phantom end play had resulted in the Old Master’s partner going down in his cold contract. It didn’t matter – time for the next hand.

The Old Master looked over at his protégé and caught a slight upturn at the corner of his lip, which he reciprocated with an appreciative nod. Thrust and parry – no one was rolling over at this table. Whatever imps the Old Master had picked up on the prior board had likely been lobbed back at his protégé ‘s team on this hand.

To be continued.


Chuck ArthurMay 17th, 2010 at 6:08 pm

What more can I say? I am enjoying this serial.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 17th, 2010 at 6:36 pm


You’re just proving my point — wasting your time with real estate and mortgages though I guess your poker game is o.k. But your flair for writing is phenomenal. Are there any other great Scottish writers? I’ve never been much into literature except required college reading. The only names I know are Ross Taylor, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.

MichaelMay 18th, 2010 at 1:08 am

Nice work RT.

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