Phryne before the Areopagus by Jean-Léon Gérôme, c. 1861
Phryne, Greek courtesan from the 4th century BC, mistress of master sculptor Praxiteles, was so beautiful that she served as a model when Praxiteles decided to give shape and face to the goddess Aphrodite.
Accused of impiety, Phryne appeared before the Heliasts, Athenian judges who sat at sunrise (the Greek word Helios means sun).
Her lawyer defended her to the best of his capacity, but failed to really convince the judges of her innocence.
Running out of arguments, he decided to undress the beautiful courtesan. The Heliasts, dazzled by her amazing beauty, immediately declared her innocent, as a woman of such beauty could only be a prophetess of Aphrodite and she must have been telling the truth.
Thus, truth is always beautiful, and beauty is always true.
You play 4♥, with opponents silent in the auction, and LHO leads the Queen of diamonds.
Count your losers: 1 spade, 1 heart, 1 diamond and 1 or 2 clubs. 5 losers, that’s a lot.
You probably can ruff a club in dummy, which eliminates a loser, but you still have to find the Queen of hearts.
After ruffing a club in dummy, you need to find the heart Queen. So with this line of play, you make 1 spade, 5 hearts (subject to finding the Queen), 2 diamonds, 1 club and 1 club ruffed: 10 tricks.
But this line doesn’t appeal to you, it lacks flexibility, it is not natural, it is complicated.
Moreover, after playing Ace of clubs and a club, opponents will return a diamond, establishing a trick in that suit.
You win the second diamond, ruff a club and then what? Spade to your Queen? Opponents take their king and cash their diamond trick and you still have to find the Queen of hearts. No, this line is not elegant. There must be something simpler, more natural, more... beautiful.
While you think, opponents waiting patiently, Phryne walks in your mind: to convince the judges, she just unveiled her charm and beauty.
You cannot stop thinking that the answer to your problem lies in these simple words: beauty seduces because it is the truth, and truth dazzles with its beauty. The judges, before the perfect curves of divine Phryne, could only agree: she was so beautiful that she could only tell the truth.
Perfect forms are perfectly smooth, without rough edges: curves, bends, harmony, music, perfect, eurhythmy. Your mind plays with these thoughts: just remove the veils and the truth will appear, naked, indisputable.
You count again but this time, your winners: 1 spade, 4 hearts, 2 diamonds and 1 club: 8 winners.
If the King of Spades is on your right, you will make your Queen, 9 tricks.
It means going to dummy to play a spade to your Queen. Then you must return to dummy a second time to cash the Ace (after unblocking the Queen in your hand).
Suddenly, your heart races, and the emotion you feel convinces you that you have finally seen the truth.
And this line is so beautiful, so smooth, it appeals to you immediately. You are certain this is the right course of play, the only one, the true one.
You play a small heart to dummy, LHO plays small, you insert the 10, it wins! Then, as in a dream, small spade to your hand.
RHO rises with the King and returns a diamond. You win your King, unblock the Queen of Spades and play the Jack of hearts.
LHO covers, dummy wins as RHO provides the 9. You then have the opportunity, what am I saying?, the luxury of playing a small spade that you ruff with the King of hearts.
Next you play a small heart to the 8 in dummy, cash your 2 good spades and claim 11 tricks !
What beauty, what incredible magic. The four hands:
You see that your first line of play (club ruff) would not work, getting overruffed by RHO. Even if you ruff with the 10, you go down.
Often, at the bridge, we refuse to see, to submit ourselves to the evidence, we choose to be blind and deaf.
Often, the cards tell us how to play, how to handle them: we just have to watch and listen.
Do cards have an inherent beauty, an underlying harmony, that we have to discover and follow, like a piece by Mozart or Bach?
Complicated lines of play resemble the convoluted language of lawyers, tedious, tortuous, where sentences end up not saying anything.
What is complicated is never beautiful. The Heliastes understood all that.
They refused all the lawyer’s quibbling which obscured the truth. When Phryne showed herself in all her splendour, they had to accept the evidence of the truth.
At bridge, cards always tell the truth. What about lawyers? Well...
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