Problem With Duplicate Identities

Effect: Two cards are freely selected and their identities noted by the group. The selections are then placed face-down on the table. Two more cards are chosen and, when they are turned up, they are seen to be identical to the ones just put aside. The two new cards are buried in the deck and the tabled pair is once more shown. The two cards are found to be unchanged, verifying their strange bllocation.

The faces of the cards can be marked by spectators in the beginning if wished, for no duplicates or gimmicks are used.

Method: The curious plot just described is a problem conceived by Mr. Ehnsley in the late 1950s. One restriction made was that the trick be done with a regulation pack. The problem was aired at a Saturday afternoon gathering in London, and the following Sunday Jack Avis recorded it in his notes, along with a provisional method that Mr, Elmsley demonstrated. This solution is far from satisfactory in Mr. Elmsley's judgment, but I'm describing it, nonetheless, as the problem is an interesting one, and though the solution falls short of the ideal, it is certainly performable and may trigger other ideas.

An impromptu double-backed card is used; that is, the card second from the top of the pack is turned face-up. One simple way of attaining this position is to reverse the bottom card of the deck secretly, then to double cut two cards from the bottom of the pack to the top.

It is also helpful for the trick if a mild convex bridge is installed down the length of the face-down pack before you reverse the card.

Spread the deck, without exposing the reversed card, and have two selections made. As you display them to everyone, casually rest the selections on the pack, face-up with the upper card spread to the right. Bring the right hand palm-up to the right of the cards and extend the fingers beneath the two selections. At the same time, press the left thumb down on the outer left corner of the pack. Thanks to the bridge in the cards, a narrow break Will open along the right edge of the deck, under the reversed card. With the tip of the right second finger, nip the impromptu double-backer against the face-up cards; then perform the Zarrow block addition; that is, draw all four cards as a unit to the right, simultaneously flipping them over, square onto the pack.

It appears as if you have just turned the two selections face-down on the deck. Immediately pick off the top two cards and lay them near you on the table. This is your impromptu double-backer. As you set the two cards down, let them spread slightly at the outer right corner—less than the width of a border, since the bottom card is face-up—leaving two cards in evidence.

The two selections are face-down on top of the deck. You must now force them in some convincing manner. Display their faces to the group, making certain it is noticed that these two cards ar e identical to the pair on the table. Then return the two new cards to the deck and seemingly lose them, but actually control them back to the top. This control should be as economical in action as possible, as the loss of the cards is not important to the audience at the moment; they are eager to see the first two cards again. A false cut pass or some other straightforward false cut would suit the requirements here. After bringing the chosen cards to the top, procure a left fourth-finger break beneath them.

With the right hand, pick up the pair from the table, taking care not to expose the face-up condition of the lower card. Drop these two cards onto the deck and perform a four-card turnover. Immediately spread the top two cards off the pack and toss them face-up onto the table for the audience's examination.

The plot of this effect is unusual, and therefore intriguing. As stated earlier, Mr. Elmsley considers the problem very much a work in progress. It is offered here as a challenge for which it is hoped the reader will discover a more elegant solution.

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