♠ 6 5
♥ Q 10 6 5
♦ J 9 6 5
♣ 10 9 7
♠ 8 ♠ Q 9 4 3 2
♥ A K J 4 3 2 ♥ 9 8 7
♦ Q 7 4 ♦ A 10 3 2
♣ 8 4 3 ♣ 5
♠ A K J 10 7
♦ K 8
♣ A K Q J 6 2
Most pairs bid to 5♣, a good contract. The ♦A often would be onside for declarer, and, if not, he might have no side losers. A typical line of play was to ruff the heart lead, play two high trumps, then lead the ♠A K. When West ruffed the second spade, the contract could not be made.
Some declarers improved on this line of play, based on the auction in which West had invariably opened 2♥ or 3♥. They cashed the ♠A, played two rounds of clubs ending in the dummy, and led a spade to the ♠J. When West ruffed, again, the contract could not be made.
The Rueful Rabbit played the board the last round. Most of the other animals had finished play, and were standing around watching. Word had gotten out that if the Rueful Rabbit stayed out of the hopeless game, he would win the event. If he bid 5♣ and went set, however, the Hideous Hog and Wally the Walrus would take first place.
Most players at the club had inflated ideas of their abilities, but the RR was different. He claimed to be the second-worst player in the world. The other animals of the club liked him too much to point out that they disagreed, if you follow what I mean.
West opened 3♥ and there were two passes to the RR. All these kibitzers made him nervous. The RR bid 4♥ showing spades and a minor suit and a good hand. It looked like his partner would bid something and declare. Unfortunately, his partner bid 4NT to ask for the minor suit. The Rueful Rabbit's nose twitched as he bid 5♣. Oh no, he said to himself. Now I must play it with all the animals watching. His nose twitched again.
West led the ♥K, ruffed by the RR. With all these aces and kings, surely there were 11 tricks somewhere, he thought. What should he play next?
The RR decided to crossruff. He'd heard about advanced plays like this, but was never sure when to do it. If he messed up, his partner would yell at him. What should he do?
The RR continued with the ♠A, then reached for the ♠K, but instead the ♠7 fell on the table.
"I mean, um, wait," stammered the RR, as he reached for the low spade to put it back in his hand.
"Too late," hissed the Secretary Bird. "That's a played card."
The Rueful Rabbit's neck turned red from embarassment. Why does this happen, he thought, when so many animals are watching me? It's a good thing I'm used to humiliation.
East won the low spade, but the contract could no longer be defeated. The RR was able to ruff both his spade losers and lead up to the ♦K along the way.
After the game, the Hideous Hog held court in the bar. He was savoring a 1989 bottle of la Rose Figeac, one of his favorites.
"That's the difference between the Rueful Rabbit and most players," expostulated the HH. "Even the worst of them can take their aces and kings. The RR can't even do that, yet he wins more than many. There's a lesson there, but I'm not sure what it is."
"This wine has a certain je ne sais quoi, don't you think?" asked the Hog. "Waiter! Another bottle."
[From the ACBL Washington DC NABC, board #8 here.]