Hazel Nutt — and all the other Nutts

Holiday Blog #11 – A Visit from Prof. Love

T’was the night before Christmas,

And in the Nutt house

Hazel’s family was playing,

Including her spouse.

The dummy was spread with unusual care,

But P. couldn’t help it: he just had to swear

“Why ever would you bid this slam, Hazel dear,

“Surely you notice but eleven tricks here?”

Then from the fireplace there rose such a clatter,

They sprang from the table to see what was the matter.

Then who, to their wandering eyes should appear,

But a jolly old man with smart eyes and no beard.

“Don’t worry, dear Hazel, I am here to please.

“I see that this slam can be made on a squeeze.

“For BLUE is at hand, there’s entries galore,

“West will be mincemeat in one moment more.”

He spoke no more words, but went straight to the game,

And looked at the dummy and winked without shame.

The cards from his hand flew away in a trice,

He soon made twelve tricks with what he called a “vise.”

And laying his finger aside of his nose

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

They heard him exclaim ‘ere he drove out of sight,

“Merry Christmas to all, and please don’t you fight!”

Holiday Blog #10 – The Nutt Convention

Recently I was barred from playing strong two bids at my local club.  The NBL (Nutty Bridge League) has apparently banned this convention since it is never played, is entirely too natural and would be confusing to participants.  I did offer to provide a defense (don’t bid – opener has a lot of high card points) but this was turned down by the league.

So I have come up with an alternative that I am sure won’t make anybody happy anyway.

We bid our distribution starting with the shortest suit.  So one club shows one club, two diamonds shows exactly two diamonds and no shorter suit.  We do this regardless of high card points although with a very weak hand and some distribution we will open at the three level.  Pass is used to show an unspecified void.  With no suits shorter than three cards (meaning we are 4-3-3-3 or we have 14 or more cards, which does happen at our club) we open 1NT if we have 10-14 and 2NT with any other point count.  We call this the Nutt Convention.

The NBL was desperate to bar this convention but has yet to find a suitable ground so we have at least until the next board of directors meeting after the snow melts.  Here is the Nutt Convention at work.  Sitting South I held not vulnerable against vulnerable.





So naturally I opened 1.  North checked the back of his cards and then bid 2.  Jumping to the two level shows around opening values and interest in playing game opposite a hand with short clubs.  I rather liked my hand now so I raised diamonds.  Since I would not bid diamonds on more than two, partner now knew that I had to have at least ten cards in the majors (with 2-2 we open the higher ranking short suit).  Since I had raised a short suit we were now in a game force.  Partner’s 3 bid set the suit and showed slam interest.  After bidding Blackwood we were soon in slam.  Partner held





Anyone interested in more details of this wonderful system need only write me for a full description.   Someone said I should call the system Santa Claus.  I am not sure if this is in the spirit of the season or something else related to gifts.

Holiday Blog #9 – Christmas at Frank Stewart’s Bridge Club

One problem with reading as many bridge books as I do is you soon run out, unlike other genres (how I envy cookbook fans at this time of year!). So after finishing The Complete Book on Overcalls and I Love This Game for the fourth time, I’ve been browsing the main site for backlist titles that (gasp!) HAVEN’T been turned into eBooks yet.

One of my favourites is Frank Stewart’s Bridge Club, which follows a year’s worth of deals at the author’s establishment, a club frequented by colourful characters like Cy the Cynic and Unlucky Louie (don’t tell anyone, but I suspect Mr. Stewart made some of the names up). Here’s an example from around Christmas:

Dealer: East

Vul: E/W

J 9 8 4 3
K 7 6 3
7 4
West East
10 7 6 2 A Q 8 5 4 3
A 5 7
2 Q 10 8 5
Q 10 8 6 3 2 A 9
K Q 10 6 2
A J 9 4
K J 5


West North East South
1 2
2 3 Pass 4
All Pass


Opening Lead: 2

‘Did you ever get your Christmas tree up and trimmed?’ I asked Cy the Cynic between deals.

‘It’s just a scraggly pine,’ said Cy, ‘and all I used to decorate it was a shotgun shell. I now have a cartridge in a bare tree.’

I resisted an urge to conk him and instead went out to get him in this deal. I was South, and we managed to buy the deal at four hearts when Cy was cowed by the vulnerability. I ruffed the second spade and forced out the ace of trumps. West next led a club, and Cy, East, took the ace and returned a club.

I drew trumps and ruffed a club. When Cy discarded, I knew he’d started with two clubs, one heart and six spades (West had led the deuce, suggesting four, and if Cy had held seven spades, even he would have bid more); hence four diamonds. I took the king of diamonds, finessed with the nine, returned a trump to dummy, led a diamond to the jack andclaimed.

‘We’d make five spades,’ Cy said dazedly.

‘It serves you right,’ I told him, ‘for cracking such bad jokes.’

* * *

Of course, all of Mr. Stewart’s hands include anecdotes like that. Here are some other favourites:

‘Got your Christmas tree up and trimmed?’ I asked Cy the Cynic.

‘Not yet,’ Cy said. ‘Some of my lights are on the blink, so to speak. I’m testing them all.’

‘Does it take so long?’ I asked.

‘I do it,’ the Cynic sighed, ‘by process of illumination.’

* * *

Our manager had hung sprigs of mistletoe about the club in deference to the holiday season.

‘I wonder,’ mused a player in a game I was kibitzing, ‘if athletes have athlete’s foot, do astronauts have missile toe?’

* * *

‘By the time the last ribbon on the last package is tied,’ a club player told me, ‘I’m fit to be. But at least I made sure our Christmas cards got sent. Last year I gave them to my husband, who never mailed them.’

‘What was your plan?’ I asked.

‘I sent one to myself. When it didn’t come, I started asking questions.’

* * *

Millard Pringle, a shy little man whose misadventures are legend, seemed troubled as I sat down at his table in a duplicate event.

‘You know,’ he said, ‘this is the time of year when I need plenty of money. Why can’t banks get into the holiday spirit and keep enough on hand? It bothers me when my checks come back marked “insufficient funds” .’

* * *

Not even Yuletide can put a dent in Cy the Cynic’s fundamental distrust of everything and everybody. I asked Cy what the jolly old elf was bringing him for Christmas.

‘You’d be jolly too,’ was Cy’s retort, ‘if you worked only one day a year.’

* * *

Unlucky Louie had forgotten to send his Christmas cards. He hastily dug a box out of his closet and, armed with his list, mailed out two dozen. It was only then he happened to inspect the inside of the card — and was chagrined to read this:

‘This little card is just to say a gift from me is on its way.’

Holiday Blog #8 – Early education

When the kids were young, we used to read stories before bed, well before I had my bridge game anyway. Just after supper (when there was time for supper). Here’s one of my favorites from Mother Goose (it would get the baby to sleep in a hurry when my partner was waiting for me):

Rockabye baby, on the tree top,

When the bough bends the cradle will rock;

When the bough breaks, the cradle will buzz;

but Mother plays Bridge, so what if it does?

That was before it was suggested to me that I take some years off from bridge to raise my children.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?!  But as it turned out it was the best decision I ever made (well, that my husband made), since we had many wonderful years together to learn how to draw trumps, how to count losers, all the things the kids needed to prepare them for the real world.

Anyway, I am delighted to see that there is a FREE version of my favorite Mother Goose book available on that booksybridge site.. er, ebooksbridge?  That’s it.  Here’s the link: www.ebooksbridge.com/mothergoose.  Do your kids a favour and have a look.  They will love it… or at least, you will love it and someday they will understand why.

Holiday Blog # 7 – Hazel Bridge Book Listmania

Somehow eBooks Bridge… or is it Bridge eBooks? Never mind. Anyway, they forgot to ask MOI for my favorite bridge books. But, dear readers don’t despair, here are my favorite favorite bridge books.

25 Conventions You Should Know by Barbara Seagram and someone else: I mean really now, do not just tell me you play Jacoby 2NT and then not know the responses. You have to actually read the book; carrying it in your handbag is not good enough.

Inferences At Bridge by Marshall Miles (is he really 80 plus? Oh Marshall, we love you!): Why haven’t those nice people at Master Point Press made this into software? Maybe it’s because to really figure out what your opponents have you need to stare at them. It works for me. If you can’t decide whether the finesse is on, lead the card and wait a long, long time. Then if they don’t blink they have the card.

Now Michael Lawrence writes the best books and he has a new edition out:

The Complete Book on Overcalls in Contract Bridge (2nd edition). I gave P. the first edition but he buried it and then couldn’t find it in the spring. Besides, he doesn’t play bridge any more. Great present for a BRIDGE PLAYING SPOUSE.

So P., I am thinking of giving you a book by Roselyn T. It’s called How to Not Play Bridge With Your Spouse and Still Manage to Stay Married.

Now for Wally I am definitely getting him Practice Your Slam Bidding (the software). Wally doesn’t actually read books, but put it on a computer and Bob Nutt is your uncle. Besides, he is against playing any contract below the 5 level.

For myself I thought about Roman Keycard Blackwood the 98th edition. But that would only work if I was stranded on a desert island and had NOTHING else to do. So I went with Sabine Auken’s book I Love This Game. Sabine and I have at least 2 things in common. We are both female and we both love bridge.

Holiday Blog #6 – Crazy Love

I’m worried about Hazel…

At this time of year, she ought to be adding the last few goodies to her stockpiles for the spring, hiding them carefully from the birds and raccoons so they’re waiting for us when the warmer weather arrives. Not that she was ever very good at remembering where they were, when the time came… Nonetheless, she is quite a good gatherer, and even in these bad economic times she’s been able to keep our nest egg intact and even growing a little. Until recently.

In the last three months, she’s seemed preoccupied – not her usual lovable scattered self, but focused, as it were, on some strange purpose of her own. I’ve tried to get some hint about what it might be, but only a few words scribbled on scraps of paper on her desk give any clue: ‘love’, ‘strip’, ‘vise’, ‘compound squeeze’, ‘backwash’, ‘threat’, ‘end position’ and ‘unrestricted’ are all somewhat darkly suggestive – ‘deep finesse’ is perhaps the worst of all.

For awhile I worried that she might have met someone, perhaps someone with whom she could form a new partnership – at least at the bridge table. Then I realized that she had been rather uncharacteristically neglecting her personal grooming (her tail is looking especially bedraggled at the moment), so this seemed unlikely.

The other indicator is her internet usage, which has increased dramatically. Some of the titles of her music downloads seemingly tie into my worst fears:

Love is all around

All you need is Love

Love is a many-splendored thing

What the world needs now is Love…

Love is on my mind

…You get the idea.

Not only this, but she is conducting a voluminous correspondence with someone in Wales (Wales!), lengthy emails filled with these same alarming terms, alongside others that I hesitate to repeat here.

Recently, though, there have been signs she is coming out of it – more music downloads and less of the disturbing activity. So perhaps, with the holidays coming and a warm-weather bridge tournament coming up, we can put it behind us. I don’t care if she’s the only squirrel who can recognize a Type L restricted compound squeeze position, whatever that is – I just want the old Hazel back.

Holiday Blog #5 – Hazel’s Husband Blogs About Bridge

A world of no.

Holiday Blog #4 – Traditions

Some of you may be wondering why, with the leaves turning their lovely red and gold colour and the temperature frosting the soil every night, I decided to contact the Lees and begin writing a “holiday” blog. Well, the Nutt family takes their holiday traditions very seriously. Not merely content with roasting chestnuts or building our own wreaths from twigs and leaves (no holly! The grandchildren could eat the berries and they’re poisonous!), we Nutts begin the season by standing on the roof of our two-storey treehouse and shouting “Merry Christmas!” “Happy Chanukah!” “Joyous Kwanzaa!” or even “Sol Invictus!” Sometimes the neighbours stand on their own roofs and shout back. Most of their replies are unprintable but at least it’s in the holiday spirit!

These holiday calls are followed by the ritual burial of nuts and seeds: walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds and especially acorns are planted, often next to other trees, along a chosen acre of our orchard. This ensures healthy saplings in spring; at least it would if we didn’t forget where half the nuts were buried by the time spring rolls around.

There is also the “car vault.” September always delivers one or two more days warm enough to leave our sports car’s top down, and we can usually ride it with the top up for at least a month after. Upon its retirement to its garage however, the youngest Nutt (currently my grandson, Chester) stands in front of the sports car as it drives into the garage, staring at its headlights as if willing it to stop – only to jump away at the last minute.

Finally, there is the traditional Nutt holiday bridge game, which is followed by the airing of grievances. So as not to offend our family member’s feelings, the grievances are delivered in a high-pitched, twittering noise only the speaker can understand.

So, those are our holiday traditions! What are yours?

Holiday Blog #3 – True Story… So sad

I found this story on the Internet, proving positively that it’s true.  Don’t let this happen to you (or maybe you should?)!

Addiction, Oh No!

By Anonymouse (“Not her real name”)

The word addiction usually conjures up images of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and gamblers losing the rent money. But for me it’s playing bridge on the internet. It is just so easy. I can find a partner any time. At 2:00 in the morning there is probably someone from Australia looking for a partner.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with playing Bridge.  Mr problem is the time I spend feeding my habit.  Sometimes I make deals with myself, “if you clean the floors you can play one game of Bridge.” But that usually backfires because I either win or lose. Either way I want a rematch.

I have tried to cut back on more than one occasion. Last year I even tried giving it up for Lent, to no avail. The problem with an addiction like mine is that I may not ever hit rock bottom and it will never ruin my life. I mean I’m not gambling away the mortgage money when I play. I can still go to work and clean and take care of my family. Well I have to be honest I am not the most meticulous house cleaner, but I don’t think I can blame that on Bridge.

I mean isn’t Bridge improving my ability to think strategically, add up small numbers, and count to thirteen? You never know when you might need those skills.

It began innocently enough. I coordinated games with my friends and we could chat while we played. And now I think that when an addiction consumes as much time as mine, it may be time to try and kick the habit.  And I have to admit that for all the time spent playing, my bridge skills haven’t even improved very much.

The first step in recovery is to admit you are an addict, and that is what I am doing. I was thinking about asking for help to quit, but I am afraid that if I do, I will get it. So I guess my heart is not completely committed to quitting yet. I would really like just enough help to cut down to less than 30 minutes a day.


(This is based on an actual internet report with a lot of editing.  Names and other identifying material have been withheld for privacy…. your reporter, Hazel)

My philosophy is a bit different ….



Your favorite Nutt

Holiday Blog #2 – Recipe for Holiday Cake??

I love holiday cake.  Don’t you?  So now is the time to start yours and have it ready for the holidays.  Here is my favorite recipe.
Holiday Rum Cake

1 Tsp. Sugar

1 or 2 Quarts of Rum

1 Cup Dried Fruit

Brown Sugar

1 Tsp. Soda

1 Cup Butter

2 Large Eggs

1 Cup Baking Powder

3 Juiced Lemons

1 Cup of Nuts

Before starting, sample rum to check quality. Good, isn’t it? Now proceed.

Select large mixing bowl, measuring cup, etc.

Check rum again. It must be just right. To be sure rum is of proper quality, pour one level cup of rum into a glass and drink it as fast as you can. Repeat.

With electric mixer, beat 1 cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.

Add 1 seaspoon of thusar and beat again.

Meanwhile, make sure rum is still alrighty. Try another cup. Open second quart if necessary.

Add leggs, 2 cups of fried druit and beat til high. If druit gets stuck in beaters, pry loose with drewscriber.

Sample rum again, checking for tonscisticity.

Next, sift 3 cups pepper or salt (really doesn’t matter).

Sample rum.

Sift 1/2 pint lemon juice. Fold in chopped butter and strained nuts. Add 1 bablespoon of brown sugar-or whatever color you can find. Wix mell. Grease oven. Turn cake pan to 350 gredees. Pour mess into boven and ake.

Check run again and bo to ged.