Decline of the expert

April 20, 1959

Time was when the bridge expert ruled unchallenged. But harder days have dawned. The rank and file have gradually moved up on him, and hordes of them are now breathing down his neck. In the halcyon days the expert almost always won. In compiling his string of victories he gained the adulation of lesser players—which is nectar if not ambrosia to an overwhelming majority of performers.

But as the gap has narrowed year by year, the expert has acquired cause for alarm. His winning percentage has dropped shockingly; and though rank-and-filers continue to solicit his opinions, they're apt to argue after he pontificates—which to his way of thinking marks the beginning of the end, a surrender to bolshevism.

All of which is a rather circuitous introduction to a hand that started a recent war in a New York club.

First, let's see what happened, then I can turn war correspondent and give a reasonably accurate report—necessarily censored, of course—of what West said to East, East said to West, and various kibitzers (technically noncombatants—actually very much engaged in the campaign) said to each other and anybody else who would listen.

West's opening lead was the spade queen, and after a very brief thought-session, declarer played low from dummy. East followed suit with the 10, and West next led a low spade. South ruffed East's ace—not neglecting to use a high trump—then cashed the ace and king of clubs and led the diamond queen through West. That defender declined to cover, but to no avail. After the queen held, South led another high trump, smothered West's king with the ace, ruffed a club high to establish the rest of the suit and led the deuce of trumps to dummy's 5. The three remaining good clubs took excellent care of South's three hearts. Five diamonds bid and doubled—six diamonds made, for a very salubrious score North-Southwards.

"Nice double!" said East to West, getting there first in the immemorial fashion of the guilty partner. "I told you I didn't have much when I gave you the shutout raise! Why didn't you sacrifice at five spades? We would have got off for a one-trick set."

"That's right," said a kibitzer. "You lose only two clubs and one diamond."

"Maybe you even make five spades," said another kibitzer. "If North leads the diamond ace and doesn't shift at once to clubs—"

"Listen!" said West, fighting off apoplexy. He leaned across the table. "Maybe I should have sacrificed!" he grated. "Maybe I should have discounted my 15 high-card points—maybe I should have known that the diamond king would be no good—and above everything, maybe I should have realized that it was asking too much for you to play your spade ace at trick one and shift to hearts! I can see now that it didn't mean a thing to you that the diamond ace turned up in dummy, along with six clubs!"

Well, perhaps West was a little rough, as experts sometimes are in bridge-club games—though in social games they are the essence of charm. Yet we are inclined to commiserate with him. His double was sound, and so was his statement that East should have played the spade ace at the first trick and shifted to hearts.

EXTRA TRICK
You can't afford to sit tight at the bridge table and hope for the best. When positive action is indicated by the bidding or an unexpected dummy, take action!

PHOTO

North-South vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

WEST

1 [Spade]
DOUBLE

NORTH

PASS
PASS

EAST

4 [Spade]
PASS

SOUTH

5 [Diamond]
PASS

Opening lead: spade queen

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)