Right rule, wrong play

May 05, 1963

Bridge players will go to a great deal of trouble to learn the variations of bidding systems and fancy coups, but all too few of them are willing to apply just a little bit of that time and effort to learning the rules that govern the game they play. Players unacquainted with The Laws of Contract Bridge can lose a lot of points to bridge-table lawyers. In the hand below, such a lawyer tried his best to thwart a grand slam, and it is both ironical and rare that he thwarted himself, instead.

The bidding was straightforward enough. Whether South, holding a void, should have invoked Blackwood is questionable. He can make a grand slam with only one ace if it's the right one. However, North was able to show two aces and one king—surely enough to take care of South's possible diamond losers—and South bid the big slam.

South made the slight technical error of winning the opening diamond lead with dummy's king. He took two rounds of trumps and, with this evidence that the spade suit was breaking, he laid down his hand and claimed the contract. While North and South were congratulating one another on their bidding, East demanded that declarer play out the hand. This was entirely within his rights. Under the laws of bridge, so was East's insistence that declarer was not now allowed to lead another trump, since declarer had not stated his intention of doing so at the time he claimed the hand. But, unhappily for East, he was a better bridge lawyer than player.

After considerable argument that of course he had intended to draw the last trump, South protestingly played the hand out. He cashed his four top hearts and his ace of diamonds. Then he led his fifth heart and ruffed in dummy. He discarded his last diamond on the ace of clubs and now, having nothing left in his hand but trumps, after he had ruffed himself in he was at last permitted to lead the remaining high spade, removing East's jack. But notice that had declarer been permitted to draw East's last trump when he wanted to, North would not have had a trump left. Since the hearts broke so outlandishly, South would have been left with a losing heart trick. As it was, thanks to East's insistence on a technicality, South brought home all 13 tricks.

Changes in the bridge laws last month further spell out defenders' rights in a case where a declarer has claimed a contract is cold. They can, at their choice, cither bar a trump lead or require it if an adverse trump remains outstanding. The latter option, owing to South's failure to preserve a squeeze position by winning the first diamond in his own hand, would have beaten this slam.

ILLUSTRATION

Both sides vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

[Ace of Spades]
[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[— of Clubs]

EAST

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

SOUTH

1 [Spade]
3 [Heart]
4 N.T.
5 N.T.
7 [Spade]

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH

2 N.T.
3 [Spade]
5 [Spade]
6 [Diamonds]
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: 2 of diamonds

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)