Hazel Nutt — and all the other Nutts

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.’


Luise LeeDecember 11th, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Fear not, Hazel. Frank Stewart’s Bridge Club will be available as an eBook shortly. It didn’t quite make it in with the latest update of 20 new eBooks, but I believe this book is all set and ready to go for the next update — it will be available in January of 2010.

HazelDecember 11th, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Too late for me, alas; the money was spent. It was, however, well worth it – it nearly provided a full afternoon’s entertainment before I was distracted by a murder of seed-stealing crows in my backyard.

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