A good game of hearts

August 23, 1959

I have a good memory for faces—especially those on a deck of cards. But in the course of a few hundred thousand bridge tables, I must confess that I have encountered a host of temporary bridge companions whose identity, to me at least, remains cloaked behind the anonymity of such names as West or North or East. Today's tale was related to me by Mr. South, and I'll try to tell it to you much as I enjoyed it at firsthand.

"You've played the game of hearts, haven't you, Charlie?" he began. I admitted that I had taken an occasional hand in that pastime, where the object is to avoid winning tricks which include hearts, because each one counts against you, and especially to avoid winning the queen of spades because that dark lady counts 13 all by herself. "Let me show you a hand that will remind you of that game—although of course it took place at the bridge table.

"I had eight hearts to the deuce," he began, as he took a deck of cards and laid out this deal:

Neither side vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH

1 [Heart]
4 [Heart]

WEST

1 [Spade]
PASS

NORTH

2 [Club]
PASS

EAST

2 [Diamond]
PASS

Opening lead: queen of diamonds

When a player describes his hand as "eight to the deuce" it usually means that he came up with far less than his share of the world's goods. So I was surprised to see that Mr. South had been reasonably well endowed by whatever goddess directs the distribution of pasteboards. His final contract of four hearts was quite reasonable, though, as events turned out, it would have been profitable for East and West to sacrifice at four spades. Although I had no financial interest in Mr. South's game, I am grateful that the opponents failed to do so, since it would have cost me this story.

"I haven't had so much fun on any hand since I played hearts," he continued. "I let the opening lead of the queen of diamonds hold the trick and West continued by cashing the ace of spades. Then he shifted to the six of clubs. Inevitably, I won with the ace and faced the dark prospect of a dummy containing three good tricks but with no visible means of reaching them."

One thing was certain: West did not have another diamond. Another inference seemed reasonable: since West had only one diamond, it was not unlikely that he held three trumps. Cashing the ace and king of hearts turned that likelihood into a certainty. But West was evidently a player of some hearts experience himself. He had no desire to win a trick with the queen of hearts when he would have no way to get out of his hand except by passing the lead to dummy—thus insuring that declarer would make his contract. So he dropped the queen of hearts under South's king!

Now you are able to see, as I did, why South began describing his hand as "eight hearts to the deuce." I'll let my friend South complete his own story.

"Here is where the fun came in," he chuckled. "To borrow an expression from the game of hearts, I 'stiffed' him in with the deuce of hearts and he was forced to give dummy the lead and let me win the rest.

"When West won a trick with his three of hearts, he looked like a man who had just had to pay for the queen of spades.... And he did."

EXTRA TRICK
Winning a trick conveys the privilege of leading to the next trick. But there are times when that privilege is hardly one to be desired. Sometimes it is difficult to foresee when you are going to be made to pay a high price for the privilege. But often, as in this case, a player can tell that winning one trick is apt to cost him two or more. In such a case, unless one trick is all you need, you should try just as desperately to avoid winning a trick as you usually try to win 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)