ACBL Bridge Beat #121: George Kaufman

George Simon Kaufman was an American playwright, theatre director and producer, humorist, and drama critic. In addition to comedies and political satire, he wrote several musicals, notably for the Marx Brothers. One play and one musical that he wrote won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama: You Can’t Take It With You, and Of Thee I Sing. He also won the Tony Award as a Director, for the musical Guys and Dolls.

Kaufman was also a prominent bridge player. Many of his humorous writings about bridge appeared in The New Yorker and have often been reprinted. They include Kibitzers’ Revolt and the suggestion that bridge clubs should post information that North-South or East-West are holding good cards. Kaufman was notoriously impatient with less-competent partners at the bridge table. According to legend, one such victim asked permission to use the men’s room. Kaufman: “Gladly. For the first time today I’ll know what you have in your hand.”

Oswald Jacoby recalled this deal played by Kaufman in the fall of 1952 – during a presidential election campaign – in partnership with Charles Lochridge.

Lochridge’s fondness for bidding never let a minimal hand stand in the way of a slam.

Dlr: South ♠ 9 6 3 2
Vul: N-S 4 2
♣ Q J 10 8 7
♠ 4 ♠ K Q 8
K Q J 10 7 6 5 3
Q J 10 9 8 6 5 2
♣ 6 5 3 ♣ 9 4 2
♠ A J 10 7 5
A 9 8
7 4 3
♣ A K
West North East South
Lochridge Kaufman
2 3 Pass 4♣
Pass 4♠ Pass 5♣
Pass 6♠ All Pass

West led the K. Success in the optimistic contract seemed remote, but Kaufman found a way to bring home 12 tricks. He won the lead with the A, cashed the top clubs in his hand a played a diamond to dummy’s ace.

Next came the ♠9, covered by East and won by Kaufman with the trump ace. Kaufman played a diamond to dummy’s king and continued with the ♣Q.

East followed, Kaufman pitched one losing heart and West also followed. When Kaufman played dummy’s ♣J, East ruffed with the ♠8.

Kaufman overruffed, ruffed a diamond to dummy, breathing a sigh of relief when East followed, and called for dummy’s last club. East ruffed with the master trump, but Kaufman shed his second losing heart and claimed with three good trumps.

When it was all over, Kaufman uttered these words: “I’d rather sit South than be the president.”

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