It is sometimes my province to criticize a play, but I am rarely called upon to praise or pan the histrionic ability of the players. Just this once, however, I am going to be a drama critic.
Strictly from the standpoint of bridge-table ethics, any actor is a bad actor. Therefore, for those incorrigible devotees of Thespis who cannot be dissuaded from donning sock and buskin, I commend the dead pan of Buster Keaton rather than the expressive pantomime of Charles Chaplin. The emoter who hopes to gull expert opposition oftener than once is deluding only himself.
The scene has now been set for East's ill-starred role in the following production. Curtain going up:
You might suspect that only incredible timidity could account for South's rebid of three clubs at his second turn. How could he risk the possibility of being passed out there with a hand that might easily produce a slam? You would know the answer if you knew East and had heard the dolor of his passes.
East is a ham actor who gives away the show by overacting at every opportunity. With a poor hand, he bids in a cheery voice; but when his passes groan like echoes from the sepulcher, beware. He's loaded!
South was Leland Ferer, a native of Omaha, Nebraska and a business associate of mine. He knew that North would probably keep the bidding open—but he counted on East's saving the situation even if North passed. Meanwhile, he could let the cautious tempo of the bidding suggest that he was stretching for game.
Given another chance, South chose to contract for game in no trump—a nomination which fails to gain this department's vote. With a heart lead clearly advertised, making the no-trump game hinges on dropping the king of clubs, whereas five clubs breezes home even if a club trick must be lost. However, South was playing to score a killing, and East fell into the trap.
West's lead of the spade 7 assumed that partner's double called for the lead of dummy's suit. Nothing was to be gained by ducking, so declarer ran up with the ace. He took the club finesse and, when the king fell on the second club, East's hand was subject to the torture of having to make no less than six discards.
Dummy let go all four remaining spades, both hearts and the small diamond. East peeled three hearts and two spades but the final discard stretched him to the breaking point. A diamond would establish North's entire suit; the heart ace would surely promote South's king. East's only hope was that West held the 6 of spades, and he discarded the spade king. But declarer cashed the spade 6, winding up the debacle.
As South raked in all the tricks and recorded 1,250 points on his score, West offered a tongue-in-cheek apology. "Sorry, partner," he said to East, "I could have saved two tricks by leading the 2 of spades instead of the 7. Charge 400 points to my account."