Doctors are generally too busy being doctors to spare the time to play in bridge tournaments. However, they are trained observers. They bring to the bridge table a diagnostic skill that is an invaluable asset in both bidding and play. Many of the physicians with whom I have enjoyed a game have the potential to become bridge greats. But, fortunately for us all, they have chosen to give their talents another direction.
Today's deal was defended by a pair of Long Island physicians—a radiologist and a general practitioner who more frequently team in medical diagnosis. Since I am touting their bridge, not their professional skill, it cannot be a breach of ethics to credit them by name. West was Dr. Nathaniel Robin, East was Dr. Irving Kramer.
After dummy was put down, East studied the prospects of finding four tricks for his side. If South had as
many as three hearts, this would be no problem; if he had no more than one heart there was unlikely to be an answer. So East assumed that declarer held two hearts. A third trick was available to his side in the ace of diamonds. The only possibilities of winning a fourth trick were if West held a high trump or if East could somehow get a diamond ruff.
For this ruff to materialize, East would have to overtake the 10 of hearts with the jack, cash the ace of diamonds and underlead the three high hearts in hopes that West held the 9 spot. If East made this play and it turned out that West did not have the 9 of hearts but did have a trump trick, East would be guilty of a gamble that threw away the setting trick.
Which should East play for? By training, doctors follow the conservative course, but desperate cases sometimes require desperate measures. Dr. West came to the assistance of his colleague and advised him which course to pursue.
West didn't need his X-ray equipment to get the entire picture. When East overtook the heart 10 with the jack to lead the ace of diamonds into the teeth of dummy's long suit it was clear that East held all the higher hearts and only the bare ace of diamonds. So West followed suit with his highest diamond!
It did not matter that the best West could give was the 6 spot; East got the message. If his partner held a sure trump trick and did not have the 9 of hearts he could have no reason to play anything but a low diamond. His signal that the diamond continuation was the way to beat the hand must mean that West held a card that would let him get the lead to make the play.
So Dr. East led back the 8 of hearts. Dr. West won the trick with his 9. The second round of diamonds was led and trumped and that brought in the setting trick. With only three cards higher than a 5 spot, West had made each of them prove of vital importance.
South tried to express his admiration, but bridge-playing doctors don't have time for post-mortems. East cut the other deck, handed it to South to deal and said: "Next case."
EXTRA TRICK: Today most experts lead low from three to an honor in partner's suit; some lead low from any three cards. Had West lacked the 9, only a low card opening lead could have saved game in today's deal.