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Original Issue

Two can do the Crist Twist

A retired book editor from Texas has come up with a challenging new two-hand version of the game that is also a good deal of fun for one

Despite such alluring names as honeymoon bridge, two-hand versions of the game have never achieved widespread popularity. Now Clifford Mortimer Crist of Houston, former editor in chief of Alfred A. Knopf's College Department and a longtime bridge player, has come up with a new version, one that has a twofold chance of becoming successful because it can be played either by two people or as a game of solitaire.

The Crist Twist, as Clif's friends have come to call it, is a game of slam or no score at all. The first player to be the declarer (South)—i.e., whoever cuts the higher card—simply builds toward a slam hand by turning up an ordinary deck four cards at a time, selecting one card from each group before turning up the next four. The defender (West), who is fully aware of the declarer's choices—all hands are left face up on the table—must then try to foil his opponent's slam plans as he selects his own hand from the remaining 39 cards, which are now thoroughly reshuffled and turned up in packets of three.

A lost cause? Not quite. The declarer, who is the only player allowed to "bid," has a second chance to ensure a slam when he next draws his dummy from the last 26 cards, reshuffled and turned face up two at a time. But he is not always going to be successful even at that. Crist's game, which at first might seem to depend entirely on the luck of the draw, involves a considerable amount of skill.

For one thing, a packet of four cards will frequently contain several of value to the declarer, all but one of which must be passed up. Or a packet may contain all "useless" cards, one of which he has to take. If this leaves some holes in the declarer's hand, and indeed it might, the defender can be similarly stymied. He, too, must sometimes pass up a valuable card in order to keep an even more essential one. Thus the deciding factor is often the selection of the dummy's hand. The declarer knows exactly which cards West has had to pass up, and with some pretty planning he can establish a dummy that will take care of his losers—or change his strategy and go for a slam contract different from the one he had in mind. The final layout—the remaining 13 cards form the East hand, which the defender plays—can also provide situations demanding real skill.

Sound confusing? It isn't really. Try it a few times, either by yourself or with your intended victim. Since the hands are played openly, there is no harm in giving each other advice—or pointing out errors. And even when playing alone, it can be almost as much of a challenge to try to beat yourself as it is to trounce a flesh-and-blood adversary.

According to available statistics on the game, the declarer will be able to name a slam he can make about four hands in five. The rank of the slam is the key to the competition, and Crist has devised three scoring categories: small slams, which can earn a declarer one point; grand slams in a suit (two points); and a grand slam at no trump (three points). The game is played in rounds of two deals each, but only one declarer can score on each round. The first declarer naturally tries for a grand slam at no trump or in the highest-ranking suit (spades are high, clubs low, as in regular contract bridge) but may have to settle for a small slam. The second player, who becomes the declarer on the second deal and thus has the advantage of knowing exactly what it will take to win the round, must then better his opponent's slam or go scoreless.

To even the chances, the second declarer on each round automatically becomes the first declarer on the succeeding round. To increase the possibilities for scoring and to break ties, honors are also taken into account—six hearts made with 150 honors beats six hearts made with only 100 honors, and so forth—but in the case of an exact tie, neither player scores on that round. Also, the declarer has the right to concede defeat without playing the hand out, for which he scores zero, but should he elect to play and then fail to make his announced contract, the defender scores double the value of that slam. The winner of the game is the first player to reach 15 points.

When drawing his hand, declarer will almost invariably keep any ace or king. As a rule he should also try for a largely two-suited hand as being the easiest to build as well as posing the most difficult problems for the defender to draw against. Having decided which suits he will try for—frequently the choice is forced according to the luck of the early draws—declarer will often properly choose a small card in these suits in preference to, say, a queen of another suit.

The defender, on the other hand, must try to corral enough of the valuable cards remaining to 1) stop the declarer's suits and 2), even more important, thwart the declarer's attempts to reach his dummy. The more key cards outstanding, the more difficult it will be for the defender to garner all of them.

To see how this axiom applies, consider the following deal. The declarer first draws these 12 cards:

[Ace of Spades]
[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]

The last packet, from which he has to select his 13th card, includes two spades, the 9 and the 2, and two clubs, the king and the 2. Assuming that this is the first deal of the game or that making six spades will at least tie the previous slam, which card would you choose?

It is tempting to take the 9 of spades, ensuring that you will win all the spade tricks. But your chance of avoiding two heart losers hinges largely on West's having the bad luck to draw both the king and queen of hearts in the same packet, in which case he could choose only one. Failing this, you might also succeed if you could establish a dummy containing no more than two hearts and enough trumps to ruff one of your heart losers. You may be sure, however, that West will try to take exactly three hearts, including the king-queen, and as many spades as he can collect.

So the 9 of spades is out, as is the spade deuce for the same reasons, and the king of clubs will not improve your chances of avoiding two heart losers, either. But it may be that keeping the lowest card in the deck will save the day. Why? Because this will force West to try to select the king and queen of hearts and the king of clubs along with all the spades he can gather, and there is a good chance that more than one of these key cards will turn up in a single packet. Thus you keep the club 2.

But suppose luck is with your opponent and he is able to build the West hand shown in the diagram. Do you give up on your six-spade contract? Not if you have calculated your play with care.

If West leads a spade, you cash three trumps and the ace-king of diamonds, then lead the jack of hearts. Should West take the trick, any card he returns will let you get to dummy with the 10 of hearts, the queen of clubs or the good diamonds, on which you discard your losers. If West ducks the heart jack, you cash the ace and throw him in with a heart for the same result. Nor will any other opening lead help. A diamond lead alters nothing. Leading the king of hearts lets you win and, after stripping trumps and top diamonds, you lead the jack of hearts. West is cooked whether he wins this heart or the next one.

A low club opening won in dummy sets up a similar endplay. You take the ace-king of diamonds and run all your trumps. If West unguards his club king, you cash the ace and lead the heart jack. Or, if West discards a heart, you cash the heart ace and lead another heart, winning the last tricks with a heart and the club ace.

Deals involving such complex playing problems are infrequent, but they come up often enough to require that some hands be played out. In short, Crist's Twist offers definite possibilities for family play. And it will serve as a good alternative for two experts who would otherwise be forced to make up a game with a pair of arrant duffers or play something other than their beloved bridge.


[8 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]


[9 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]


[Ace of Spades]
[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]


[2 of Spades]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[5 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[7 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]