Beware of anonymous opponents

July 18, 1965

A few years back the name of Charles Lochridge was frequently found in the winners' lists of the big bridge tournaments. Nowadays, since he rarely plays anything but rubber bridge, Lochridge is more noted for a witticism that has become a part of bridge lore. A partner of his who had just butchered a hand was incautious enough to inquire, '"How would you have played it, Charlie?"

Lochridge gave the problem only a moment's consideration; then he replied, "Under an assumed name."

There are times when anonymity would be an advantage. The American Contract Bridge League recently recognized this when it recommended that players should write their names on the convention card which they display to their opponents. Often a player will need to know who he is up against to decide how to play a hand. Here is a case in point:

East-West vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]

WEST

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

SOUTH

[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

EAST

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

SOUTH

1 [Heart]
4 [Heart]

WEST

PASS
PASS

NORTH

3 [Heart]
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS

Opening lead: queen of diamonds

North held the lightest possible hand for a game-forcing double raise in hearts, and South, with a minimum in high cards, had no slam interest and simply bid for game.

A rapid stock-taking revealed to South that there was no way to avoid two spade losers, so making his contract would depend upon losing only one club trick. Declarer planned to strip the hands of everything but clubs and trumps, then force the defense to lead a club for him.

South won the diamond lead with his king, drew trumps, cashed dummy's diamond ace and ruffed a diamond. He got back to dummy with the heart king and trumped dummy's last diamond. Then he got off lead with a spade. East took his ace-king of spades and now had to lead a club or else give declarer a ruff in one hand and a sluff of a club in the other. Stop and think: How would you defend at this point if you were East?

Almost anybody but the most skilled defender would simply return a low club and hope to win two club tricks. But this line of defense would virtually force declarer to make his contract. Presumably he would duck the trick, and presumably West would play the 10 to force dummy's king and hope the club return would let his side win two tricks in the suit. Declarer would have little choice but to play for the minor club honors to be split. He would lead up to his 9 and finesse it, driving out West's ace and making the contract.

But East made a club play that gave declarer the utmost chance to go wrong. He returned the jack of clubs! This was where anonymity would have paid off. Had East been an unknown—or at least unknown to this declarer—South would probably have played him for a normal lead of the jack from a holding of jack-10. But declarer knew that East was an expert, quite capable of leading an unsupported jack or 10 in just such a situation. So, after considerable thought, he paid East an expensive compliment—expensive, that is, to East. He covered East's jack with the queen, forcing West's ace; then he let West's low club return to his 9, finessing against West for the 10-spot. It was a classic example of a good defense being foiled by the defender's own reputation.

EXTRA TRICK
When you are faced with a difficult decision in the play of a hand, consider your opponents. Their skill, or lack of it, may direct you to the proper play.

ILLUSTRATION

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)