Most Bridge players are not aware that Snoopy and his creator, Charles M. Schulz, were Bridge enthusiasts.
Members of the public did not understand the Bridge that appeared occasionally in the strips, but they put up with this little quirk in the makeup of the beloved cartoonist, who died in February 2010.
In May 1997. four consecutive strips featured Bridge hands, and the American Contract Bridge League made Snoopy and Woodstock honorary life masters. Schulz was delighted. His strip that appeared on Nov. 7 centered on the Bridge deal shown in the diagram.
The same layout appears in Ely Culbertson's ''Gold Book,'' first published in 1936, allowing a pleasant speculation. Did the Bridge exploits of World War I's greatest fictional flyer find their way into the archives of the great Bridge authority two decades later? Or was it the other way round?
In the first frame Snoopy, in flying gear, is sitting on a doghouse decorated with suit symbols. In the second he is engaged in a game with three small helmeted friends. The third shows the diagram, and Snoopy correctly interprets his partner's mumbled bid as a raise to three no-trump.
The reader is left to guess that a spade is led and can see that South has eight tricks. If he routinely attempts to set up a ninth trick in clubs he will almost surely fail. The defenders will establish spades and make at least five tricks in the black suits.
At this point duty calls. ''Sorry, men,'' Snoopy says. ''We'll finish that hand when I return.''
He and the doghouse take to the air, and he boldly faces a barrage of anti-aircraft fire. He is in great danger but succeeds in returning to base.
''Flying Ace Snoopy reporting, mon capitaine,'' he says.
The capitaine, one infers, is not pleased.
''Yes, sir. Everything went bad,'' says Snoopy. ''Perhaps the captain could tell me what I did wrong.''
The chastened flyer returns to the bridge game, where the troops have been patiently waiting.
''He said I should have led a low heart to the queen.''
BY ALAN TRUSCOTT