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This article is taken from PN Review 172, Volume 33 Number 2, November - December 2006.

Rectifying the Count Frederic Raphael

Let me begin, as Sir Philip Sidney did his Defence of Poetry, remote from politics or passions. Where Sidney repaired to the stately training of horses in Vienna, I - en bon bourgeois - retreat to the bridge table, a 'pastoral' milieu where neither Jew nor Gentile need be distinguished, save by his ability. My purpose is to generate 'perspective through incongruity', by considering an uncontentious 'scene-act ratio', terms borrowed from Kenneth Burke's Philosophy of Literary Form and his monumental Grammar of Motives, respectively.

Imagine then that we (I perhaps somewhat more schooled in the game than you) are watching a game of bridge. The declarer, at a certain point, in a slam contract, loses a trick by what cognoscenti call 'ducking a round'. You, the innocent spectator, now whisper 'I don't know why he did that', or perhaps 'I can't imagine why he did that.' To innocent eyes, the expert has lost a trick unnecessarily.

In such an instance, I can reply, with confidence, 'I know why.' I then explain that the 'needless' loss of a trick was, in fact, an essential move in card-technique, known as 'rectifying the count'. This involves conceding a trick, which must eventually be lost anyway, in time later to tighten the screw for a 'squeeze', which would not work if the defender still had a 'spare' card to jettison when it came to the end-game.

Imagination or insight can contribute nothing ...


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