By Victor Mollo
Victor Mollo's death deprived us of one of the world's most talented and prolific bridge writers. He was best known for the Hideous Hog and instructional books but also wrote in other areas. The last piece he submitted to The Bridge World was itself a remembrance of people who will be missed.
The death of Roger Trézel, following that of Jean-Michel Boulenger, has robbed France of two of her greatest players and most colorful personalities. Holder of three world titles, Trézel's partnership with Pierre Jaïs was second to none during two decades of international bridge. Even Italy's invincible squadra azzurra couldn't produce a greater pair.
Many of Trézel's inspired bids and brilliant plays have featured in his obituaries. Here are two that will be new to most readers. I owe the first to José Le Dentu, who recalls in Le Figaro a swashbuckling grand slam played by Trézel in a big money game at l'Automobile Club in Paris.
K 7 6
A J 7 4
A K Q J 3
Q J 10 9 3
Q 9 3
10 7 6 2
8 4 2
Q 8 4 2
10 8 5 2
A K J 10 9 7 6
In keeping with the Canapé system, then much in vogue in France, North opened one diamond and later showed strength. Trézel, his foot on the accelerator, drove on fearlessly to seven hearts. He was the first to plead guilty to recklessness, but he was in form; everything that night was going his way. Could there be a better reason for taking a chance?
West led the spade queen, won in dummy. The trump finesse worked, but when West showed out on the heart ace it became painfully clear that only a triple grand coup could bring the contract home. That required four entries to dummy--three to shorten the trumps to East's level and one more to go back to the table for the coup de grace. Alas, only three legitimate entries were available, the club ace-king and the diamond ace. So, before the opponents could see what was afoot, Trézel set out to conjure up another. After cashing the spade ace, to prepare for a ruff in hand, he led the diamond six and, when West played the diamond four, finessed the diamond jack. Now he could ruff in hand three times, first a spade, then two diamonds (or a club) and return to dummy for the kill. With two cards left he remained with the heart king-jack over East's queen-eight and the lead was in dummy.
Of course, realizing that if declarer needed the finesse he would take it anyway, West should have gone up at once with his diamond queen. It is a textbook situation but not always easy to recognize at the table. Besides, not every West reads textbooks.
My second deal was given to me by Roger Trézel himself more than 20 years ago. I asked him for two or three examples that would help me convey his image to the reader. He invited me to take my pick. Would I prefer a smother play, a squeeze, a devil's coup, or a lively set-up with human interest? I chose the last. Trézel's selection included a deal that arose in a charity event many years earlier.
A Q J 7 4
Q J 10 4
A K 7
10 9 8 2
A 9 7 6 2
Trézel was young and ardent, and when a ravishing girl in a low-cut dress took her place on his right, he had considerable difficulty in concentrating on his cards. Sitting West he soon found himself in six hearts. The lead was the club eight. Fearing that it might be a singleton, Trézel went up with dummy's ace, on which the exciting young woman with the daring d'écolletée dropped the king. Now the contract was safe and it would have been folly to take the trump finesse, for if it failed the club return would obviously be ruffed. Trézel duly began by cashing the heart ace--and dropped North's bare king! It was the coldest of tops.
During the interval Trézel overheard the young woman's partner complain indignantly to a friend.
"On Board 9 that brazen young man dropped both our singleton kings. All the time he was looking unashamedly into my partner's cards. Couldn't keep his eyes off!"
Roger Trézel will be sadly missed--and not only in France.