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The Shuffle

A doctor is called away from a bridge tournament to tend to an emergency. There is still the last board to play.  They ask a kibitzer to take his place, even though he knows nothing about the game. They tell him "Just bid what you have and follow suit." He, sitting South, thereupon starts the following bidding sequence:


South West North East
1C pass 2H pass
2S pass 3C pass
3H pass 4NT pass
7D Dbl pass! pass



spade A9
heart AKQ65
diamond AK
club Q 10 54
spade K Q 10  8
heart J 10  97
diamond Q 10
club K J 8
spade 76542
heart 8
diamond J9
club 987632
spade J3
heart 432
diamond 8765432
club A


South took the lead of the king of spades with the ace, cashed the ace and king of trumps, came to his hand with the ace of clubs and played all his diamonds. On the last diamond lead, West was hopelessly squeezed in hearts and spades, and ultimately discarded a heart, whereupon South made the last four tricks in hearts. When the opposition saw South's hand, they called the director, who asked for an explanation of the; bidding, and got the following reply:




"I was told to bid what I have, and I have: one club, two spades, 3 hearts and 7 diamonds!"

(submitted by Mary Martin)




Final contract: Seven Clubs Redoubled, played by South

Opening lead: Jack of Hearts

This is likely the most famous hand in the history of bridge, although it was actually first reported in a game of Whist. The story has it that the Duke of Cumberland (son of King George III) some 200 years ago held the East hand. The wager from his opponents was that in spite of the duke’s incredible hand, he would not win a single trick against a contract of Seven Clubs redoubled. The bet was some £20,000, and, alas, the duke lost his wager for the grand slam cannot be defeated if the declarer plays correctly.

Assuming that West’s opening lead is a diamond or a heart, the declarer trumps, ruffs a spade in dummy, and then returns a club for a successful finesse against East. Now the declarer ruffs another spade in dummy, takes another successful trump finesse, and ruffs a third round of spades in dummy. His remaining spades are now established, and he returns to his hand by trumping a diamond or a heart. After cashing the ace of trumps, he claims.


The famous Bennett bridge murder occurred September 29, 1929, and enlivened Kansas City, Missouri for years.  John S. Bennett, age 36, a personable and prosperous perfume salesman, and his wife, Myrtle, were playing rubber bridge with Charles and Mayme Hofman at a tenth of a cent a point, family against family.  Just before midnight the fatal hand was dealt by John himself:



(Myrtle Bennett)
spade A1063
heart 1084
diamond 4
club A9842
(Charles Hofman)
spade Q72
heart AJ3
diamond AQ1092
club J6
(Mayme Hofman)
spade 4
heart Q94
diamond KJ763
club Q753
(John Bennett)
spade KJ985
heart K762
diamond 85
club K10



South West North East
1S 2D 4S All pass
West led Ace of Diamonds


Mr. Bennett opened the bidding with less than traditional values, and his wife took a shot (sorry about that) at game with a jump to 4 spades.  West led the Ace of diamonds and shifted to the Jack of clubs. South won the K  - the only correct play he made.  He led the trump Jack.  When Hoffman failed to cover he rose with the Ace.  He led the spade 10 and when East showed out he won with the king.

Next, Bennett trumped a diamond in dummy, cashed the club Ace, and led the club 9.  Mrs. Hofman played the queen, Bennett trumped with the spade 5, Hofman over-trumped with the queen and cashed the heart ace.  The Hofmans had their book.

Bennett won the next Heart and was stymied.  Dummy had two good clubs but he couldn't get over there.  Confused, Bennett ran his trumps and had to go down two.

Myrtle goaded John about his poor play and John accused her of overbidding.  One taunt led to another and another until Myrtle jumped up, dashed into the bedroom, grabbed the family pistol, came back and shot John dead.

During the trial some of the jurors became so intrigued with bridge they lost sight of the tragedy.  Some learned to play between court sessions and asked for an expert to interpret the 4 spade hand.  The famous Ely Culbertson was summoned.

"Mr. Bennett overbid his hand," Culbertson announced.  "Of that there can be no doubt, but even with this, so kind were the the gods of distribution that he might have saved his life had he played his cards a little better.  He failed to make a plan."

Culbertson admired Mrs. Bennett's boost to 4 spades and said he would have made the same bid himself.

The jury was swayed and brought in a verdict of "accidental death."  Some months later a dazed insurance company had to pay double indemnity.  Mrs. Bennett continued to play bridge but encountered some difficulty finding a partner.


4.  MAKING 7NT - Problem to solve from Peter Harris


spade 7
heart AK
diamond AKQ
club AQJ10987
spade AKQ
heart QJ10
diamond J109876
club 2


East is declarer at 7NT.  North led the Jack of Spades.  Can you make 7NT without peeking?

Click here to show answer




5. D-Day Memories of the Bridge Player in Chief

As of this writing, millions in the U.S. and Europe are reflecting on the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy that marked the beginning of the end of World War II. Among the many heroes of June 6, 1944 was Dwight David Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force and the future 34th President of the United States. 

The main architect of Operation Overlord, Eisenhower was under incredible stress in the weeks leading up to D-Day. He was drinking 24 cups of coffee and smoking six packs of cigarettes a day and rarely had more than two hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. He was also squeezing in bridge games at every opportunity. His lifelong devotion to the game has given him unofficial status as the "patron President" of bridge players.

Ike learned to play in 1913 at West Point and indulged his passion as he moved up the military ranks. He was dubbed the "bridge wizard of Manila" while he was stationed in the Philippines, where he played regularly with President Manuel Quezon. During WWII, an unwritten qualification for service on Eisenhower's staff was an officer's ability to play a decent game of bridge. His favorite partner was General Alfred Gruenther, regarded as the best bridge player in the U.S. Army, and they both took the game seriously. After one particularly disastrous result, they discussed the play of the hand in an exchange of letters that went on for two years.

Ike's bridge partnership with Gruenther had an impact on world history. After WWII, Eisenhower became president of Columbia University, an undemanding job that allowed him to spend every afternoon at his Manhattan bridge club. One day in 1948, he was called from the table to take a telephone call from President Harry Truman, who asked him to take the position as head of NATO in Paris. When he returned to the game, he told his bridge companions about the offer. "Who will you take as your Number 2 man?" they asked. ''Well, I ought to take Bedell Smith," replied Ike. "But I think I'll take Gruenther because he's the better bridge player.'' Gruenther later became the head of NATO when Eisenhower returned to the U.S. to run for president.

During his years as President, Eisenhower held regular Saturday-night games at the White House. The games were serious competitions, as Ike considered it a "sacrilege" to play bridge with anything less than total concentration. He was calm and thoughtful during the auction, but could become quite animated during the play of the hand. An old bridge friend described Ike's gusto when taking the setting trick: "The card rises vertically in the President's hand, then describes a 90-degree arc. It hits the table with a thump, upsetting ash trays and opponents."

Mamie Eisenhower loved the game, too. She and Ike rarely played together because he yelled at her when she made mistakes, but bridge was always the featured entertainment at her parties. When someone suggested that she invite Vice-President Nixon and his wife Pat to one of the weekend parties at the Eisenhowers' Gettysburg farm, Mamie rejected the idea. "What on earth would we talk about?" said Mamie. "She doesn't play bridge!"

How good a player was Ike? He wasn't an expert by today's standards, but bridge great Ely Culbertson described his game as "classic, sound, with flashes of brilliance." Oswald Jacoby, his frequent partner in the White House games, said, "The President plays better bridge than golf. He tries to break 90 at golf. At bridge, you would say he plays in the 70s."

Eisenhower showed his knowledge of bridge odds as declarer on this deal, which was the first bridge hand ever published in Time magazine:


Dealer: N       


Vul: Both

♠ K98
♥ AKJ53
♦ QJ10
♣ 83

North East South West
Jacoby   Vinson     Ike    Talbott 
1H Pass 2S Pass
3S Pass 4NT Pass
5D Pass 6S   All Pass  

♠ 52
♥ 82
♦ 9873
♣ K7542

♠ 64
♥ Q1094        
♦ A62


♠ AQJ1073     
♥ 76
♦  K54
♣ AQ



The hand was played in 1953 in a White House game. Eisenhower's partner was bridge expert Oswald Jacoby and their opponents were U.S. Chief Justice Fred Vinson and Air Force Secretary Harold Talbott.

The auction was straightforward, with Ike choosing a strong jump-shift response, then using Blackwood. The opening lead was the D3 to East's DA. Eisenhower saw that he could avoid the club finesse if he could set up an extra heart trick, but that there could be problems with dummy entries if the trumps broke poorly. He thoughtfully unblocked his DK under East's DA. East shifted to the CJ, but Ike knew that setting up three heart tricks was a better bet than the club finesse, so he won his CA. After drawing trumps, he used dummy’s diamond honors as entries to trump two hearts in his hand and then discard his CQ on the established HJ.

Eisenhower's aggressive nature took center stage in this sensational deal, reported by Dorothy Hayden Truscott in the New York Times Bridge Book. It was played in Palm Springs CA after Ike left the White House. His partner was Alfred Gruenther and their opponents were two noted industrialists who had far more money than bidding sense.


Dealer: S       


Vul: Both

♠ 9
♥ KJ82
♦ KQ532
♣ A108

South West North East
  Ike   Gruenther

♠ AJ
♥ 1075
♦  AJ76
♣ Q965

♠ KQ7653       
♥ AQ9        
♦ 104
♣ K4


♠ 10842     
♥ 643
♦  98
♣ J732



1S is probably the "correct" bid with the East hand, but the style in the 1960s was to redouble with any 10+ points, and it worked spectacularly here. Ike was always looking for opportunities to act as the "ax holder over an injudicious bidder," as one partner described him, and he took full advantage of this penalty situation, despite his bare-minimum opener. South, who had obviously seen his partner's off-shape takeout doubles before, was afraid to bid any suit and did not understand the foolish redouble, which was intended as SOS.

Ike led the D6, which should have allowed declarer to escape for down four. However, the desperate South played low from dummy in the hope the lead was from the DJ10. Gruenther won the D10 and shifted to a low spade. Ike cashed his two spades and exited with a club, ducked in dummy. Gruenther won the CK and cashed his four spade tricks, which squeezed dummy down to  HKJ  DKQ  CA. He led a diamond to Ike's DA, and now a heart through dummy's unguarded KJ gave Gruenther three tricks in that suit. Declarer finally scored dummy's CA at the end for down six, redoubled and vulnerable.

It was the biggest thrill of Ike's long bridge career, which he pursued until his death a few years later in 1969. Collecting 3400 points on a bridge deal isn't in the same league as launching a successful military invasion, but for a man who loved our game almost as much as he loved our country, that bridge hand was surely a memory that rivaled those of his D-Day victory.

  -- Karen Walker (June, 2009)


6.  The Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas
Two guests in our house
Were playing some bridge
With me and my spouse.


"Please tell me," she shouted
"Why didn't you double?
Twas plain from the start
We had them in trouble."


"Tis futile, my Dear -
I am taking no stand.
So please stop your nagging
Let's play the next hand."

"Remember next time"
She said with a frown
"To double a contract
That's sure to go down."


So I picked up my cards
In a downtrodden state.
Then I opened one Spade
and awaited my fate.


The guy sitting South
Was like many I've known.
He bid and played
In a world all his own.


"Two Diamonds," he countered
With scarcely a care.
The Ace in his hand
Gave him courage to spare.


My wife, smiling faintly
And tossing her head,
Leaned over the table,
"Double," she said.


And North for some reason
I cannot determine
Bid two Hearts,
like preaching a sermon.


Enjoying the fun,
And turned round to South
To see where he would run.


But South, undistressed
Not at loss for a word
came forth with "two Spades" -
Did I hear what I heard?


The other two passed
And in sheer disbelief
I said "Double, my friend,
That'll bring you to grief."


South passed with a nod
His composure serene.
My wife with a flourish
Led out the Heart Queen.


I sat there and chuckled
Inside o'er their fix.
But South very calmly
Ran off his eight tricks.


He ruffed the first Heart
In his hand right away.
And then trumped a Club
On the very next play.


He crossruffed the hand
At a breathtaking pace,
'Til I was left holding
Five Spades to the Ace.


In anguish my wife cried
"Your mind's growing old.
You should see that Six No Trump
for us is ice-cold!"

By doubling this time
I'd committed a sin.
It just goes to prove
That you never can win.



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