Teachers are frequently, and unfairly, the butt of bad jokes, but don't fool around about bridge teachers. They're a sharp and capable bunch. The Card School of New York City, for example, is staffed by a group of bridge players capable of holding their own in any competition the world over. Peter Leventritt, the president, has been a favorite partner of mine for years.
A seasoned instructor, he stresses the importance of preserving one's high cards for the purpose of capturing adversely held honor cards. In the hand shown here, Leventritt, defending with Harold Ogust, another teammate in international competition, bypassed the opportunity to capture a high card—and to good effect.
The bidding sequence is more or less forced. North opened with one diamond, and South had little choice but to respond with two clubs, though he was reluctant to go to the two-level with only a four-card suit. North rebid two diamonds. His suit was not, strictly speaking, rebiddable, but a rebid of two no trump is not to be considered with a holding of only 13 high-card points. South showed the nature of his hand by calling two no trump, and North carried on to game.
Leventritt, sitting West, opened the 2 of spades. Declarer played low from dummy. East won with the queen and returned another spade. Dummy won and led a low diamond. East played the 9, declarer the queen and, without the slightest hesitation, West let the queen hold the trick.
Put yourself in South's place. Apparently East was the opponent with the ace of diamonds. If so, the best chance to set up the suit with only one loser was to take a finesse against West for the diamond jack. When declarer led a low diamond to dummy's 10, Leventritt, of course, played low again, and East's jack won the trick. Back came a third spade, knocking out dummy's last stopper. Another round of diamonds lost to West's ace and by this time the long spade had been established. West proceeded to cash that card for the defenders' fourth trick.
East's first discard had been the deuce of hearts, so West shifted to the 8 of clubs, and East's queen forced the ace. A heart to dummy's king permitted North to cash the two established diamonds. It was clear to East that, if declarer held the ace and queen of hearts, the opponents had the rest of the tricks. So he discarded his hearts and held the king of clubs to win the setting trick.
Why did Leventritt duck the first diamond? If he took the queen with the ace, was it not likely that declarer would still take a losing finesse for the jack and lose two tricks in the diamond suit?
The answer was that West had to keep the ace of diamonds as a re-entry. If he won the first diamond, he would never get in to cash the fourth spade. By playing so that East took a diamond trick while he still held a third spade to return, Leventritt kept the timing advantage with the defenders instead of surrendering it to the declarer.
Usually, a defender cannot do better than capture one of declarer's high cards with his higher one. But winning a trick at the right time is sometimes more important than killing an opposing honor. The privilege of leading at the crucial moment may render it worthwhile that you run the risk of losing the trick altogether.