Friday, July 5, 2013

Elementary, my dear Watson!

Sherlock Holmes
Dr. Watson was kibitzing his old friend Sherlock Holmes, who was playing a little rubber at their club in London. Watson didn't play bridge. Well, he did play but never with Holmes. In fact, nobody wanted to sit at Holmes's table. Everybody thought he could see through the cards: he always took winning finesses, always found a missing Queen and always made the right switch. Furthermore, Holmes had a nasty tongue that frightened all his partners. At dummy's sight, he would take out his magnifying glass, lean over the table, examining carefully his partner's cards and would almost always say: "My dear friend, even with a magnifying glass, I can't find what you promised me in the bidding."

The only players willing to play with Holmes were Jack the Ripper, Dr. Moriarty and Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. Jack and Moriarty played together, naturally, and the inspector teamed with Holmes, the good against the bad, like when we were kids.

Left of Holmes sat Jack the Ripper. Holmes, 4th seat, opened his hand:

Jack led a heart.

When dummy hit, Holmes jumped on his chair, took out his magnifying glass, leaned slowly over the table and started to examine the cards. He hovered like a helicopter, going from the spades to the hearts, suddenly diving towards those two little clubs. He would then look at the inspector through his magnifying glass. The inspector, not a bit intimidated, opposed a defying grin that only all-powerful government officials can display.

At first glance, Watson could count 6 losers: 2 spades, 2 diamonds and 2 clubs. He was prepared to listen to the chapter of insults that Holmes generally addressed to his partners who grossly misbid. But his cell phone rang. He had to go away to answer and, by the time he returned, the hand was over. He bent down to check the score sheet and saw 100 in Holmes's column. Holmes had made 11 tricks! Holmes sensed his old friend's amazement, turned to him and offered his most mischievous smile.

After the game, walking back to his flat on Baker Street, Holmes explained the hand.
"So, this hand, Holmes, how did you make 11 tricks?" asked Watson. "3 winning finesses, I imagine?"

Watson knew only finesses in bridge. That is the reason why Holmes would not play with him.

"No, said Holmes. I would say maybe one, if finesse means 50% chance of winning. Once the 1st finesse won, the rest was forced."
"Can you elaborate?"

"Heart lead," reminded Holmes. "The bidding has revealed that my friend Jack has 6 spades. Does he have a singleton heart? Not likely. He has 3 or 4. One cannot accuse Jack of being timid in the bidding either. With seven spades, I know him, he would have rebid 3. On dummy's small heart, Moriarty played the Queen and I won with the Ace. The heart Jack was then most probably on my left. To find the club king, I have to locate the Ace of spades first. It is the only play where I need to be lucky, 50%, to be exact. So I played a spade. Jack jumped with his Ace and played back a spade, Moriarty following with the Queen and the Jack. So, for his opening bid, Jack has 6 spades to the Ace, probably the heart Jack, the King of diamonds (with the Jack maybe) and the King of clubs. So, after the King of spades, I played a club to my Ace, picking up Jack's stiff King."
"Bravo, Holmes!"
"Elementary, my dear Watson!"
"So, a beer at the Piccadilly Circus, Holmes?"
"I have not finished, Watson. So far, I have only 10 tricks. How did I make 11?"
"One of them revoked?"
"I played the 9 of hearts, ducked in dummy. Moriarty won the 10 and played a club. I won in dummy with the 7. Everything is in place now for a trump coup."
"Donald Trump? Where, Holmes??"
"Not Donald Trump, Watson, a Trump Coup. This is the position:

King of hearts, Moriarty follows, I pitch a diamond and the Jack falls on my left. The 8 of hearts - which is big, Moriarty follows and I ruff..."
"Why ruff a winner? Have you smoked again?"
"No, Watson. To succeed, I have to reduce my trumps to the same number as Moriarty. In fact, here we have a Grand Trump Coup because I ruff a winning card in order to reduce my trump holding. So small diamond to the Queen."
"Ah ha! A finesse !!"
"No, not a finesse. A certainty. In dummy with the diamond Queen, I play spade, Moriarty discards and I ruff again."
"Again ??"

"Small diamond to the Ace and diamond. Moriarty is finished. That's what we call a Grand Trump Coup. With this coup, you pick up one of opponent's trumps without playing trump. It is a beautiful coup, rare enough to talk about it when it arrives."

At the corner of Oxford Street, they noticed a crowd near Selfridges, one of the biggest department store of London. They rushed over, sensing something had happened. The police, recognizing Holmes, let them through. On the sidewalk was lying Dr. Moriarty, dead, his chest ripped opened.

"What happened?" asked Holmes.
"Jack the Ripper left his card," he heard.
"You can say that again," mumbled Holmes.

On the corpse they found a playing card covered in blood.

"What card is it, Holmes?" asked Dr. Watson.
"Elementary, my dear Watson! It is the card Moriarty had to play to defeat 5 Clubs."

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