The odds are a man's best friend

February 16, 1959

When a good golfer starts missing the fairway with his drives and finding the traps with his approaches, he does not waste time seeking locker-room sympathy. Instead, he consults his pro.

Unfortunately, this simple remedy is not often followed by the unsuccessful bridge player. For one reason, many players are genuinely convinced that they are dogged by ill fortune; on those occasions (rare, of course) when they hold good cards, their finesses always fail and their suits never break. For another reason, it is not always possible to find a bridge "pro" who can tell the good player where he is slipping.

When no pro is available, the most reliable substitute is to be found in the results achieved by the field in a duplicate game where the same hands are played by a good number of players. (The best way to come by duplicate hands is to write to Alvin handy, American Contract League, 33 West 60th Street, New York City.) To get down to cases:

Both sides vulnerable Dealer, South

NORTH

[Ace of Spades]
[King of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[10 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

WEST

[10 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[9 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

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

EAST

[Queen of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Diamond]
2 [Club]
3 NO TRUMP

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH

1 [Spade]
3 [Club]
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: heart 6

A five-diamond contract could be made even by Aunt Matilda, but three no trump was reached at almost every table. Not many declarers, however, managed to snaffle nine tricks.

One South player did make the contract, but not by his own efforts. He won the heart opening, led a club to dummy and played a small diamond. East failed to rise with the king so West's ace was knocked out before the hearts could be established. But at most of the tables where an attempt was made to set up the diamond suit, East put up the king on the first diamond lead and knocked out South's last heart stopper while West retained the ace of diamonds. How many tricks South went down depended upon how many he cashed before trying to make his contract—either by finding East with the diamond ace or by a successful spade finesse.

The particular luck-bemoaner who inspired this sermon spoke with proper scorn of those who pinned their hopes on the diamond suit. "Obviously, with only one heart stop remaining after the opening lead, it would need some kind of miracle to bring home enough tricks via diamonds. I didn't try any such nonsense. Instead, I gave, myself a 50-50 chance by taking the spade finesse. But with my luck, of course it lost."

"That's strange," his auditor remarked. "Against me the declarer took the spade finesse and made his game."

"You mean you didn't take the queen of spades?"

"Oh, I won the spade queen," was the quiet reply. "But the bridge player I was up against took a first-round finesse with the 8-spot!"

Maybe there was a faint emphasis on the words "bridge player." Anyway, our hero got the point and temporarily stopped moaning about his bad luck. Of course, in this deal he had only himself to blame. He had played for the even chance of finding the queen of spades with West; he could as easily have given himself the 3-to-1 chance of finding West with the queen or 10.

Suppose East had been able to win the first spade lead with the 10. Declarer still had his 50-50 chance of a successful finesse for the queen on the next spade lead. But, as the cards were dealt, the 8 would force the queen on the first round, and South would have the trick he needed for his contract.

EXTRA TRICK
When two important cards are out against you, there is a very good chance that they will be in different hands—not to mention the possibility that both may be in the favorable hand. At any rate, two chances are always better than one.

PHOTO

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)