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Bridge humourist Mollo: ‘fortune favours the brilliant’

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When I first started playing competitive bridge in London in the late 1960s the name of Victor Mollo was uttered with fondness and reverence – a great bridge player and probably one of the greatest bridge humourists and writers, Mollo’s Bridge in the Menagerie series was the gold standard of its time.

Mollo’s fictional characters played at the Griffins Club and the central character was The Hideous Hog, a brilliant player who put all others to the sword with arrogance, conceit and rudeness, never failing to let opponents know where they went wrong or just how brilliant he was.

On this hand Hog’s partner sitting North was Walter the Walrus, a mediocre but pleasant player who didn’t take the game too seriously (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Walter opened 2NT and HH bid 3 spades - transfers had not been invented at the time.

Walter knew that HH loved playing the hand so he raised to 4 spades – Hog, never one to settle for the ordinary, now leapt to 6 spades with his one point and jack high suit!

As dummy came down Hog snorted “you owe me another trump”, a tactic designed to deflect attention from his lack of points should he go down on the hand.

Left-hand opponent led the club king and the contract needed a lot of luck to make as Hog needed to find West with a singleton or doubleton King of trumps, or find clubs 4-4 to set up the last club for a heart discard.

Hog ruffed the club and took the spade finesse which worked but when East showed out there was a definite spade loser. So Hog set about the clubs - he ruffed a second club, went to a diamond and ruffed another club. Another diamond to the king led to a ruff of the fourth club but when East pitched a diamond things looked bleak and one of the onlookers, The Rueful Rabbit, announced to the kibitzers, “Unlucky, nothing works on this hand’.

Hog, however, was not finished. He went to the Ace of Hearts and ruffed the fifth club and went to the King of hearts leaving this as the last three cards (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

Hog now exited with a heart to East’s queen and East had to lead a diamond – Hog ruffed with the ten and left-hand opponent was dead as there was now no way to score the trump king. The sure loser had magically disappeared and the slam made.

Before Walrus could comment on Hog’s crazy bid, Hog declared to the assembled crowd, “fortune not only favours the brave, but also the brilliant”, after which he ordered another glass of Krug and awaited the next hand. Hard to argue with any of that!

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Published March 20, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated March 19, 2021 at 4:35 pm)

Bridge humourist Mollo: ‘fortune favours the brilliant’

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