Larceny at the table

February 27, 1961

Because there is a bit of larceny in each of us, the favorite hand of most expert players is often one on which his good play was part of a successful swindle.

One of the most delightful swindles I ever encountered was perpetrated by John H. Moran, who played for the U.S. against England in the world championship match in 1955. The following hand, however, was played in a recent Canadian championship. Moran's partner was Victor Mitchell of New York; his opponents were two of Canada's finest players—Douglas Drury and Eric Murray.

Moran admits that the contract was not precisely ironclad and, probably correctly, puts the blame for this on his own leap to four spades. Since Mitchell had all four aces, one can hardly be critical of his guiding the bidding to a slam. Indeed, he could have believed a grand slam was not out of the question.

Moran saw immediately that his only chance to make the contract was to concoct a scheme that would seem credible to the opponents. Like many another successful swindler, Moran put himself in his adversaries' place, imagined what they did not expect, and played accordingly.

Dummy's jack of hearts was covered by East's queen and trumped by South. This meant that even with a winning diamond finesse, declarer would be able to get rid of not more than three of his clubs. With a minimum of one sure loser in the trump suit, South had to find a way to avoid a club loser. This required finding a method to force a club lead by the opposition.

Of course, Moran could have led the ace and another spade and finessed against East for the jack. When the 10 forced West's king, the matter of the single trump loser would have been arranged. But West then would have been able to exit with a third trump, negating any chance for an end-play in the club suit. So Moran visualized the cards exactly as they had to be—and as they were.

His first play after trumping the initial heart was the queen of spades. Of course, West could have foiled the plot by covering. But put yourself in Drury's place. Would you cover when, by ducking, you assured yourself of winning a trick with the king later on? Neither would I.

After that maneuver, the rest was a matter of timing and luck. South cashed the king of diamonds and successfully finessed dummy's diamond jack. Next came the ace of hearts, on which South threw a diamond; the ace of diamonds on which he threw a club; then the ace of spades; then the king of hearts, on which declarer discarded a second club.

Now dummy's remaining heart was ruffed, and South led his last trump, discarding a club from dummy. West was in with the spade king and could lead nothing but a club. That gave declarer the two club tricks he needed, and dummy's last diamond furnished the twelfth trick.

EXTRA TRICK
When swindle is your only hope, boldness is the essence of the operation. You must not overlook the fact that your opponents cannot be fully aware of your problems, and you must act swiftly before they become suspicious. If a swindle is inevitable, relax and employ it.

ILLUSTRATION

Neither side vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[King of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]

EAST

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

EAST
(Murray)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Moran)

PASS
4 [Spade]
5 [Diamond]
5 [Club]
PASS

WEST
(Drury)

1 [Club]
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Mitchell)

DBL.
5 [Club]
5 [Heart]
6 [Spade]

Opening lead: deuce of hearts

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)