One way to get expert advice

February 07, 1966

From time to time I am accosted by a complete stranger with a request to resolve a bridge argument. I usually mumble an affirmative and prepare to hear something like: "Last night I held five hearts to the ace-king and three small clubs—no, it was...." When the problem is finally stated, it is my custom to tactfully indicate that the hand was quite difficult and that both players were at fault. They usually are.

But I understand such questions, for novices rarely have the opportunity to ask an expert, nor are they likely to have the chance to play with one. Now a satisfying substitute has been developed at New York tournaments and is being widely adopted elsewhere. Novices are invited to enjoy a four-part program. First, an expert gives a half-hour lecture. Next, the novices are asked to play in an event of their own, limited to players with fewer than 20 master points. When the game is over, each player receives a printed analysis of what could or should have happened on each deal. Finally, there is a short exhibition match between two pairs of experts who try eight of the deals the novices have just played. The audience follows the experts' bidding and play as relayed from a room nearby and projected on a screen. In addition to discussing the action as it occurs, at the conclusion of each deal a panel of commentators apportions a share of match points between the expert pairs by estimating what their result would be worth in a major tournament. This keeps the experts trying their best.

At one such event in New York recently, Sam Stayman and Victor Mitchell met with misfortune in front of the novices. It occurred against Ira Rubin and Phil Feldesman, in the hand shown here.

South's double of the weak jump over-call was a "sputnik" bid, intended not for penalties but to show some scattered strength. The result was that North-South reached a very optimistic game.

East played a high diamond on the first trick, and West continued the suit, forcing North to ruff. Superficially it seems that South can make his contract by ruffing another diamond and leading twice toward dummy's spades. The trouble is that South does not have sufficient entries to his hand. So, after long study, declarer led a low spade from dummy—an ingenious play that offers several extra chances of success against certain spade distributions, including finding West with both the queen and jack. East ducked, South played the 10, and West won with the queen. West knew that a diamond return would help declarer, and he also feared that a heart return would do likewise. South had tackled spades himself, so West reasoned that clubs was the best hope. A club shift would have cost nothing if East held either the queen or the 9-8. But South was able to win the trick with the 9, ruff his last diamond, cash dummy's high hearts and come to his hand with the queen of clubs to draw the last trump. One of declarer's spade losers went away on the fourth club, and the nearly impossible game was made.

The commentators had no problem awarding a top score to Feldesman-Rubin. The zero they were headed for went instead to Stayman-Mitchell, and the novices got a close look at how even the experts can sometimes handle—and mishandle—a key play.

East-West vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

[King of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

NORTH
(Rubin)

1 [Club]
3 [Diamond]
4 [Heart]

EAST
(Stayman)

2 [Diamond]
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Feldesman)

DOUBLE
3 [Heart]
PASS

WEST
(Mitchell)

PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: ace 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)