The center of contract bridge interest next weekend shifts across our northern border to Montreal, and along with hundreds of fellow Americans I will take myself there for the Canadian-American championships to be played at the Sheraton-Mt. Royal, May 15 to 18.
As an alumnus of McGill University, an affectionate nostalgia grips me whenever I re-enter Canada. This lasts until I sit down at the bridge table. Then my Canadian friends proceed to put a severe strain on the affection by doing their best to beat my alleged brains out. And the best by their best is very good indeed.
Rating high among that best are my good friends Eric Murray of Toronto and Douglas Drury of Vancouver. Both are Life Masters of the American Contract Bridge League, of which the Canadian bridge leagues are now a part. I remember very well—but not fondly—what they did to me in the following tournament hand.
I was West. Since I cannot cherish the memory of partners who have to pass out my one bids, I no longer recall the unfortunate player who sat East. Because of Drury's brilliant play, East never had a chance to get into the act, although I am still proud of the coup by which I attempted to bring him to life.
My opening lead was the normal one—jack of spades. Dummy played low, and East's 3-spot left me in no doubt that Drury's king was a false card. So, when I won the king of clubs I could see that there would not be time to bring in the spade suit. Declarer would surely win three spades, three clubs and—to justify his two no-trump response—he must have the king-queen of diamonds, bringing his total up to nine tricks.
This left only the faint hope that my miserable partner had been dealt a jack—specifically, the jack of hearts. So, on winning the first club, I shifted to the queen of hearts. As you will observe by referring to the diagram, this wildcat venture struck oil in that East did indeed hold four hearts including the jack. After dummy's king of hearts won my queen, I would get back with the ace of clubs, cash the ace of hearts, then lead the deuce to partner's jack, and East's remaining heart would produce the setting trick.
However, that wasn't what happened. Drury could assure himself a heart trick no matter who held the ace by covering the queen with dummy's king. If East took the ace, his remaining 10-9 would be a certain stopper. But South resisted the temptation. He simply made me a present of the queen of hearts, and thereby cut communications between the defending hands.
There was still a forlorn hope. I continued by leading the two of hearts, hoping that Drury might play me for the queen-jack and partner for the ace. But declarer never gave it a thought. He scampered up with dummy's king to win the trick and bring home a handsome and a well-earned game.
The fourth dimension in bridge is the same as in Einstein's theory—though nowhere near as difficult to demonstrate. The three trick-winning forces—high cards, long cards and trumps—are strongly controlled by the time factor. In the deal just described, West, by reconstructing South's hand, could see that he did not have time to follow normal defense. His play of the heart queen was an attempt to enlist time on his side; it was foiled by South's timing of the moment when he chose to win his high card in hearts.