Better Than a Peek

February 03, 1958

One peek is better than two finesses" runs the cynical bridge adage—a mistaken appraisal that completely overlooks such factors as astigmatism and opponents who do not properly assort their cards.

Entirely aside from the question of ethics, most experts prefer opponents who hold their cards close to the chest. This is more than a matter of pride. The truth is that a good player would rather trust his insight than his eyesight. To clear up this seeming paradox and illustrate how much surer it is to see with the mind's eye, here's a hand with a history.

Opening lead: heart ace.

This deal was played in a tournament at a convention of bridge teachers. North and South were among the famous experts who had been invited to give the teachers the thrill of topflight competition. East and West were a pair of teachers whose bidding could be trusted to be exemplary, as indeed it was.

There is a fifth character in this little drama—the kibitzer, South's wife, seated at the South-East corner of the table.

After taking her ace of hearts, West led the 8. East won with the king and returned the jack, forcing South's queen, West and North discarding low spades. Obviously, if he lost the lead once more, declarer would be a dead duck; but he could make nine tricks and the game if he could bring home six tricks in clubs. So South led the club 9, agonized only briefly when West played low, and played the ace from dummy, causing East to lose her singleton king and her temper.

Turning upon the kibitzer, she accused: "You kicked him."

"I resent that," South retorted, full of ruffled dignity and injured pride, and his wife sat back to hear him defend her honor. She is still waiting.

"You must think I'm very naive," South continued heatedly.

"I hardly had to be kicked into knowing you had the king of clubs."

Indeed, it was more obvious than either a kick or a peek could have made it. West had already played the ace of hearts. She could not have held the king of clubs as well or she would have given no thought to passing her partner's opening bid. East simply had to have the king of clubs, and South's only chance to make his game was to find it unguarded.

Extra trick: Don't stop counting points when the bidding is over. Point count can be of considerable help even during the play. As in the foregoing hand, for example, a player who passes partner's opening bid of one in a suit cannot have as many as seven points.

When a player who passed initially turns up with an ace and two kings, you can be sure he does not have another ace, and it is most unlikely that he holds another king. If one—or even both—of these high cards is missing, you may assume they are in the other unseen hand.

If declarer's opening bid was one no trump, count his points and at some point in the play you will know exactly what else he has and what your partner must have. If he bid correctly, his hand includes not less than 16 points and not more than 18. Thus, if you know 15 of his points, he cannot have a missing ace; if you know 16, he cannot have another king. You may play your defense as confidently as if you actually saw these missing cards in your partner's hand.

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION

BOTH VULNERABLE EAST DEALER

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST
[Ace of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

The bidding:

EAST

1 [Heart]
Pass
Pass

SOUTH

Pass
2 no trump
Pass

WEST

Pass
Pass
Pass

NORTH

2 [Club]
3 no trump

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)