A time for a Greek gift

July 19, 1959

An extraordinary number of players appear to delight in doing things the hard way. I sometimes gain the impression that they purposely get off to a bad start for the sheer pleasure of effecting a dramatic return from the dead. As one who admires the sporting spirit in all its manifestations I am ever ready to applaud a shrewd recovery, but my simple nature cries out for more foresight and perhaps a little less daring.

A good or bad start at bridge often consists simply of the opening lead. It is generally agreed that some hands call for neutral leads. These are the hands on which one must take care to avoid the loss of a trick. There are other hands where time is the essential factor. The bidding possibly has suggested that declarer may be able to obtain discards on some good suit, and so an attacking lead is indicated. There is still another type of lead, perhaps more difficult to classify, but which forms the basis of the current offering.

It is our view that the bidding of all the players was above reproach.

It may seem odd that I have endorsed South's four spade bid, since it could have been beaten 800 points. I do endorse it, however, for several reasons. 1) South had seven cold tricks in his own hand, and with North marked short in hearts South wouldn't need much luck to make another trick or two by way of heart ruffs, even if the dummy turned up without a face card. 2) It was likely, from where South sat, that the opponents would make their four-heart contract for game and rubber. Observe that they would have done just that-all East would have had to do was take the spade finesse for a diamond discard. 3) The human element is not to be overlooked. Even though it is true that the bid of four spades could, with ideal defense, have been soundly thrashed, in real life such defense does not always turn up.

West, recalling only that partner had bid hearts, opened the 6 of that suit—and for the rest of the play period he might just as well have been sitting it out. South won with the heart ace, cashed the diamond ace and ruffed a heart, then pitched his two clubs on dummy's top diamonds. A club and heart crossruff followed in close order, and declarer was quite gracious about giving West a couple of trump tricks. Four spades bid and doubled, with five-odd made, gave North-South a very pleasing score.

In order to reap the maximum penalty West had to lead clubs (and East, of course, would return his singleton trump), but such an opening lead must be regarded as double-dummy, and West is not open to criticism for being less than clairvoyant. But it was clear from East's pre-emptive heart leap and South's four-level overcall that freakish conditions might well be present, and so it was indispensable for West to get a look at dummy. The safe and sane way to do that was by laying down the ace of trumps.

There is nothing second-sighted about this observation. Granted, few players even consider the lead of the ace from an ace-queen-small combination, but that is because most players are creatures of habit. West had two spade tricks, and he would still have them if he led the ace. He would not be forced to continue the suit-he would do so only if the view of dummy made it advisable, as it would in this case. It would be logical enough to lead another trump even though it sacrificed the queen; but even if West shifted to clubs he would beat the contract one trick.

EXTRA TRICK
There should be no compulsion about leading the suit partner has bid. Sometimes analysis will show that it should actually be avoided.

PHOTO

Both sides vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

WEST

1 N.T.
DOUBLE

NORTH

PASS
PASS

EAST

4[Heart]
PASS

SOUTH

4[Spade]
PASS

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)