|On the night of September 29,
1929 in a fashionable Kansas City
apartment, John G. Bennett distributed the cards in a deal that
would become as legendary as the fateful Dead Man's Hand of
Wild Bill Hickok.*
Opposite Mr. Bennett sat his lovely wife Myrtle. The opponents
were their friends Charlie and Mayme Hofman. They were playing
Rubber Bridge at one tenth of a cent per point. But the stakes would
soon prove to be much higher.
On the hand shown Mr. Bennett opened the bidding 1 which was
overcalled 2 by Mr. Hofman. Myrtle jumped to game at 4 . All pass. John Bennett played the hand going down one. His wife Myrtle then made a reference to "bum Bridge players" and commented unfavorably upon her husband's parentage. John Bennett in turn informed his wife of her poor bidding and mentioned something about her low I.Q. To emphasise his reprimand he slapped her twice across the face.
That did it! An exasperated Myrtle reached the breaking point. She
rushed from the room and speedily returned armed with a Browning
Automatic. In spite of her distraught condition and the Hofmans' horrified protests, her aim was quite good. She shot her husband dead. That sort
of ended the rubber.
At the subsequent trial the defense counsels managed to stack the
jury with Bridge players. The judge being a Bridge player was another
setback for the prosecution. The outcome was fairly predictable:
Accidental Death. Myrtle was acquitted. This verdict (not the expected
one of Justifiable Homicide) made it mandatory that the insurance
company pay the bereaved widow $30,000. It was certainly thoughtful
of John to insure his life against death by accident.
At the time of the ensuing trial the famous bridge theorist Ely
Culbertson published his famous Blue Book. The concepts in the book
raised Bridge bidding to a higher scientific level. After the trial Culbertson
commented, "Poor Bennett, if he had only played my system it would have saved his life! " Maybe; a bad bidder is a bad bidder in any system.
EPILOGUE: Since the shooting nobody has ever seen the Hofmans play
Bridge. And as for Myrtle Bennett, she just drifted off into Bridge history
oblivion. Some of her friends said that she had difficulty in getting a regular Bridge partner. Wonder why? Where ever your are Myrtle, keep on playing!
*black aces and eights and possibly the Jack of Diamonds.
A 10 6 3
10 8 5
A 9 8 4 2
Mr. Hofman Mrs. Hofman
Q 7 4 2
A J 3 Q 9 4
A Q 10 9 3 2 K J 7 6
J 6 Q 7 5 3
K J 9 8 5
K 7 6 2
Mr. Mr. Mrs. Mrs.
Bennett Hofman Bennett Hofman
1 2 4 ALL PASS
In the hand above, with Hofman's opening lead of the J , the
contract can be made. Do you see how it's done? The 9 and 8 of
Clubs are key cards.
In the actual hand played by John Bennett, the trumps split 3/1.
Mr. Hofman had 3 Spades to the Queen and John played for the
drop. 8 ever, 9 never. The unfortunate Mr. Bennett did not make
the contract but lost a trump trick, 2 Hearts and a Diamond, and his life.