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A good code can be cracked
Charles Goren
February 09, 1959
Bridge is a game not only of intelligence but also of counterintelligence. The following espionage episode involves a double cross that should not have succeeded. The code in which the defenders were communicating was known to the declarer—and the defenders knew that their messages were being intercepted. West should have looked for signs that his partner's communiqu� had been tampered with. Let us say that South deserved an award of merit and West merited a summary court-martial.
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February 09, 1959

A Good Code Can Be Cracked

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Bridge is a game not only of intelligence but also of counterintelligence. The following espionage episode involves a double cross that should not have succeeded. The code in which the defenders were communicating was known to the declarer—and the defenders knew that their messages were being intercepted. West should have looked for signs that his partner's communiqu� had been tampered with. Let us say that South deserved an award of merit and West merited a summary court-martial.

Though some critics might carp at the manner in which the contract was reached, I personally know of no better way. At any rate, that was the way it happened. While five diamonds could be made with a finesse for the diamond jack, that play is not indicated in view of the combined holding of nine cards in the suit.

No one at the table could have had the slightest doubt that West's diamond opening was a singleton lead. East's only problem was to tell his partner what suit to return after West had ruffed the second diamond; meanwhile, South laid his plan to scramble the enemy's communications. So, when East won the first lead with the ace of diamonds, declarer followed suit with the 5.

The code used by defenders in this situation is a simple one. The player who knows his partner is going to ruff chooses a high card for his lead if he wants to be put back with the higher of the two remaining side suits; he leads a low card if his re-entry lies in the lower suit.

But when East returned his low card—the diamond 9—to suggest a club return, South obscured the message by. following with the diamond 10. West trumped the trick and assumed that his partner held the missing 3-spot and had led his higher diamond to signal that his re-entry was in spades. West therefore led the queen of spades and South easily made his contract, drawing trumps and discarding a loser on dummy's fifth diamond.

While West was the victim of South's delicate counterintelligence work, his real guilt was in letting an ambiguous signal override everything that simple bridge intelligence should have told him. No matter what East's message seemed to say, that player simply could not hold the ace of spades. Unless South held that card, his bidding—enterprising enough as it was—would have been sheer insanity opposite a partner whose first response had indicated a weakish hand.

Without the ace of spades, South could not have bid as he did; but he might possibly have done so lacking the king of clubs. Therefore, whether or not he fathomed South's ruse, West should have returned a low club. The desperate chance that East held the club king was the only real chance the defense had to defeat the contract. And, as the cards were dealt, this low club lead would have done the job. East would win with the king and give West another diamond ruff, for the setting trick. Thereafter, the fact that the club ace would not live was a blow the defenders could bear without great suffering.

EXTRA TRICK
With length in the opponents' trump suit, a singleton is rarely the preferred lead, especially a singleton lead into a suit the declarer has bid. As the cards were placed, the singleton would set the hand with perfect defense—because East held the king of clubs. But against a spade opening lead, declarer, even if he held the king of clubs, would have to guess the diamond situation in order to make his contract. And by not leading his singleton West would have made it difficult for declarer to guess the distribution of the diamond suit.

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