John Wilson: Goren Would Never Have Made That Mistake

Thursday, June 27, 2013 - by John Wilson

My visiting cousin from Atlanta has been walking around our house in a daze.

My wife, who is a bridge fanatic from a family of bridge fanatics, insisted that she learn bridge. 

She's had plenty of practice in trying to drill the intricacies of the ultra-complicated card game into the bedazzled brains of others.

When I was introduced to her mother, she never asked my name. "You play bridge?" she demanded. I mumbled, "Yes mam." Only later did I ask the bride-to-be what exactly bridge was other than a way to get to North Chattanooga.

They were huddled over on a corner table - the hapless cousin who was much more comfortable with Crazy Eights, wedged in between the two bridge icons, getting advice on both sides.

She was told that "clovers" are actually "clubs" and "shovels" definitely must be called "spades".

"Get in your trumps," she was cautioned. 

"Don't ever lead a seven of diamonds in that situation," came from the other side.

"You should have known there were only two hearts still out" - from both.

One thundered, "Never, ever bid when you've got a Yarbrough." Apparently, Yarbrough was some Englishman from long ago with incredibly bad luck at cards. When he got dealt a card higher than a six, he was thrilled.

She was warned about the "unprincipled honor" (also known as an "unguarded honor") - said to occur when you only have one card in a suit and it's a big one but not quite big enough. We can always tell when my wife has an unprincipled honor because she lets out a little grunt of disgust.

The relative was told that aces count four and a "void" is a godsend.

The poor girl heard the other side got 500 points "for the insult," and she could not remember saying a derogatory word.

She was advised that when you bid three it really means nine. I could see her head spinning.

The unfortunate cousin was pretty battered and bruised and seeking any excuse to get out the door and back to her hotel when they did it. She had an exceptionally good hand and they put her in "Deadwood" (also known as "Blackwood").

"Ask for aces," they whispered. When she did just that, they said, "No, no, say four no trump."

Then, "Ask for kings" (without saying the actual words, of course). She was even more confused. There was nothing like this in Old Maid.

Once when they called her "the dummy," she seemed to take offense.

When one of the women gleefully said to the other, "I just cut off your leg," she peeked under the table for the sight of blood. 

Through the ordeal, never was she advised of any of the fun part of bridge, such as how to set up a Yarbrough hand for a player stepped out to the bathroom.

Or the contest to see how many times you can pass the just-finished hand to a distracted person on your right to see if they will "make" them before they finally figure out the trick.

But it was not nearly enough to overcome the sudden barrage of bridge dos and don'ts.

For several hours afterward, I could hear her wandering around the house, intermittently saying "Two No Trump," "I Renege," "Goren would never have played it that way," . . .      

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