By Prof Tony Campbell CBE

WELCOME back to the Carte Blanche Club where anything goes.

It was a hot July this year, and with the club closed because of Covid a group of them decided they needed a holiday.

So, four of them chose a long weekend at a hotel in Anglesey with a lovely sea view. Tommy Noitall, Lucky Lucy, Fragile Florence, and Wild Willy. On the first night, after a delicious dinner of scallops, ribeye steak with dauphinois potatoes and a pear and almond tart, they heard a loud ‘Table up’ from Tommy Noitall as he left the table and walked swiftly into the small room off the main lounge where a card table was already set up. They cut for partners and found Tommy Noitall was playing with Fragile Florence, and Wild Willy with Lucky Lucy. After the first rubber, they decided to have one more before an early night, as they were all tired after the long journey. It was game all until the last amazing hand.

The Auction

Tommy Noitall insisted that he played Lucas twos, which Florence found difficult to follow. But as Tommy knew it all she had to agree. The origin of Lucas is unknown, but it appears to be a variation on the Dutch Muideberg convention invented by Onno Janssens and Willem Boegem, named after their village in Holland. Tommy as South had a Lucas two bid on the last hand and therefore opened two hearts, showing at least five hearts and a minor with six to nine points. Lucky Lucy didn't know what this bid meant but bid four spades anyway. Wild Willy gasped and reached for his glass of twenty-year-old cognac. After a large sip he threw down the five no-trump bidding card vigorously on to the table! Tommy Noitall smirked and passed. Lucy paused. She remembered that Tommy had once used this bid with her some years ago and had to explain what it meant at the end of the hand. It had been invented in 1936 by the American bridge guru Ely Culbertson, asking partner to bid seven if they held two of the three top honours in the agreed trump suit, or sign off in six with only one. This grand slam force was originally named ‘Josephine’ after Culbertson’s wife. After a long pause and a stare from Tommy Noitall it suddenly clicked. She reached for the seven-spade bidding card and placed it on the table.

The play

Her partner had shown a heart suit, so Fragile Florence had no hesitation in leading the two of hearts. They all leant down and whistled at dummy’s amazing hand with its 20 points. ‘Bit of a risky bid, Willy, wasn’t it’, Tommy exclaimed, smiling to himself as he could see the contract was going one off for certain. ‘Quiet please Tommy,’ Lucy said firmly ‘I am trying to concentrate.’ She could see twelve certain tricks – eight spades, and three aces and the king of clubs in dummy. But where was the thirteenth trick coming from? On the bidding the heart finesse was bound to fail, and Tommy as South must have at least the king of diamonds. After a long pause Lucy won the first trick with dummy’s ace of hearts. Maybe she should just play off all her spades and hope the defence would discard wrongly. So, she played the queen of spades from dummy, and then another spade to her ace, followed by a string of other spades, until there were just six cards left. Tommy was beginning to squirm. He could see he was in trouble. Lucy still couldn't see how she could make all the remaining tricks. But played she played the seven of spades anyway, leaving her with one last trump. Florence as North discarded another small diamond. But what should Lucy discard from dummy? She had already thrown dummy’s jack of diamonds on a previous trump. Without much hope Lucy discarded the seven of hearts from dummy. Tommy, without hesitation, threw the king of diamonds. ‘Sorry Willy,’ Lucy whispered. ‘It’s hopeless.’ However, without any hope she played the two of diamonds to dummy’s ace. To her amazement it dropped Tommy’s queen. ‘Wow,’ Lucy gasped as she could see now the contract could be made. She played the ace and king of clubs, discarding two losing diamonds, and crossed back to her hand by ruffing the seven of hearts from dummy. She then won the last trick with the ten of diamond making thirteen tricks in all – eight spades, one heart, two diamonds and two clubs for a score of 2220. ‘Phew,’ Lucy exclaimed. ‘Well played partner, I knew it was there if you had the ace and king of spades,’ Wild Willy said with a gloating look at Tommy Noitall. ‘Yes, fair play, Lucy. Well played,’ Tommy responded generously, ‘It was a triple squeeze. I couldn’t discard the king of hearts as dummy had the queen, and if I discarded a club then the eight of clubs would be declarer’s thirteenth trick. An amazing hand to end our first evening here in this beautiful spot. Good night all.’

The Carte Blanche Club is inspired by the late Victor Mollo’s ‘Bridge in the Menagerie’ articles in Bridge Magazine that stimulated me as a student over 50 years ago.

What have we learnt?

1. The Lucas two bids are useful as these types of hands occur more often than some other distributions.

2. The Grand Slam Force is a bid rarely used. But surely Wild Willy can be excused for his bid as he could see almost certainly thirteen tricks if his partner held the ace and king of spades.

3. When you are looking for that extra trick by playing out a long trump suit, watch the defences’ discards carefully and think about how a squeeze may give you that precious extra trick you need.

Penarth club results

Results from the Penarth-Sully session Wednesday 20th July; 1. Irene Thomas and Carolyn Matthews (57.5%); 2. Anita Charles and Tisch Beere (51.3%); 3: Martin Thomas and Val Hetheridge and Martin Thomas (50.0%); The results for Friday 23rd July will be included in next week’s article. The current first three positions in Peter Sampson’s ladder are: 1. Meryl Skipper and Joy Seculer; 2. Peter Millar and Mick Green; 3. Mike Downey and Roy Holloway.

Further information

If you have any views, hands, and information you would like to share, please email me, Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance.