Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bidding Problem

Here’s an interesting hand to bid from the Spingold. I had a promising collection in 1st seat white/red, AKQxxx Kxxxx x x, which got better when partner responded with Jacoby 2nt. What is your plan? Assume standard Jacoby where 4x=5-card suit and at least a sound opener. I don’t think any of the popular modifications exactly solve this hand either.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Update on the mysterious origins of the fatal hand

I was curious enough to get in touch with the author, Gary Pomerantz, who was kind enough to send a prompt reply:

Hi Jonathan, Thanks for your very nice email. On the night Jack Bennett was killed, the Hofmans were interviewed by Kansas City police. Both Mayme and Charles Hofman indicated that they could not remember the distribution of cards in the so-called "Fatal Hand." Myrtle was delirious on that night, and into the wee hours, and was given a sedative. To my knowlege, she was never asked about the distribution of cards. My Best, GP

I agree with Mr. Pomerantz that this makes it almost certain that the deal was a fabrication. What I gather, though, is that he doesn't have any first or second-hand accounts of the actual concoction, but as far as he knows it first appeared in The Bridge World so he assumes they were the ones who made it up. He is very likely to be right. If there were any bridge-playing cops on the scene (not so far-fetched in 1929) they *might* have been able to reconstruct the deal, but one would expect there to be a record of such a thing happening, and The Bridge World might have mentioned that, so I really doubt such a reconstruction happened.

The fatal hand

I just read "The Devil's Tickets" by Gary Pomerantz, a very entertaining book published a couple of years ago (targeted to non-bridge-players) which details both the famous Bennett bridge murder and the rise of Ely Culbertson as the nation's bridge guru. I've seen the "fatal hand" which led to the murder many times in bridge publications. Interestingly, this book states that aside from the bidding, the fatal hand itself is a fabrication! The participants were social players who wouldn't have been able to reconstruct the exact cards, especially since the declarer was dead.

Unfortunately, though the book is mostly footnoted, the author gives no source for the claim of fabrication, which I nonetheless tend to believe. He says that the hand was constructed by Sidney Lenz and first appeared in The Bridge World as part of Culbertson's never-ending search for publicity. It has since been reproduced many times. If someone has the latest Bridge Encyclopedia, I am curious whether there is any mention of the supposed hand being a construction.

Too bad Hercule Poirot wasn't on the scene with the police; he would surely have reconstructed the hands accurately, even though the tricks were gathered rubber-bridge style. Yes, I also recommend "Cards on the Table" to those who have missed it.