Talk of The General in contract bridge circles and everyone knows you are referring to General Alfred M. Gruenther, former head of NATO and now president of the American Red Cross. In the early days of contract, Gruenther—then a general only to the bridge players he ruled with supreme authority—was to be found bossing every important tourney. Nowadays he seldom has a chance to attend, but he puts in an appearance whenever he can and sometimes even manages to play a session.
To the delight of his old friends in the world of tournament bridge, he recently turned up at a national championship, played in a one-session open event and proved that he still retains the skill so much admired by his wartime bridge cronies. When the event was over, he had another trophy to add to his collection, thanks in part to his skillful handling (at South) of the deal shown below.
At several tables the West player opened with one heart—which made it easier for North-South to bid the game. The opening bid of one club downgraded the potential value of South's king, but the general had full values for his skip to two spades in response to partner's take-out double. Note that North would have passed a mere one-spade response, but, of course, he raised Gruenther's encouraging jump response to three spades and the general charged into game.
West had an unpleasant hand from which to lead, and the general did nothing to lighten West's task later on. He won the trump opening in his hand and led a diamond at once. West played the 7 as a come-on signal, and the king was put up. On the lead of a diamond from dummy, East hopped up with the queen to return the 10 of hearts.
Although the play of the queen seemed South's only chance to win two heart tricks, it was unthinkable that East could have the king of hearts. This was apparent because West needed that card as part of his opening bid, and also because of East's desperate effort to win the diamond lead. If East had the king of hearts, he would surely have permitted West to win the diamond trick to permit a lead through dummy's heart ace. So, wisely deciding that playing that card could not gain, Gruenther saved the queen. Later on, that queen was to save the general's contract.
Dummy won with the heart ace, then a diamond was trumped by declarer, the last trumps were extracted, and a low club was led toward dummy. West could not gain by going up with the ace, so dummy's queen held the trick. The last diamond was ruffed and now the lead of the queen of hearts saddled West with the lead at a moment when he was unable to escape without making the general a present of a trick. Leading the ace of clubs would establish declarer's king and insure that he lost only one club trick. But returning a heart was no better. Declarer ruffed in his hand while discarding a club from dummy. Then, after surrendering one club trick, dummy remained with two trumps to win the remaining tricks.
Sometimes, when there is no hope of gaining trick-winning value from one of your high cards, you can make that high card work for you by using its trick-losing value. You can later recover the trick you have lost by forcing the right opponent to lead to you when he cannot escape your pincer move.