In the prespace era, Albert Einstein found few people who were capable of understanding the fourth dimension—time. People could see length and breadth; they could see and feel thickness. But who could see time?
Not many, actually, even today. This is not true, however, of a certain breed of bridge player. Many, of course, still measure a hand in terms of the finite things they see on the face of the cards, for example, high-card power, trump length or distributional power. But a surprising number of others have a highly developed sense of the fourth dimension. Here is a hand in which time played an important part. It was defended by Mrs. Gratian Goldstein and my close associate, Leland Ferer, co-winners recently of the pair championship in the Florida Regional tournament.
Ely Culbertson dubbed the one-two-three-four sequence of arriving at game "papa-mama" bidding, because it was typical of some husband-and-wife games. But there are some hands in which no better bidding is available—sometimes this innocent sequence affords an advantage in that it gives little helpful information to the enemy.
At several tables, at the same four-heart contract, South won the first trick with the diamond ace and led the queen of clubs, taken by East. The normal diamond return was won by West with the 10 and he shifted to spades—but too late. Declarer put up dummy's ace, crossed to the club king, trumped a diamond in dummy and led a third round of clubs.
South ruffed this trick and, when both opponents followed suit, he was no longer dependent on dropping the queen of trumps. He cashed the heart ace, led to dummy's heart king and played a good club. East was able to ruff but only with the high trump, and South got rid of his losing spade. Thus, having lost only one club, one diamond and the high-trump ruff, South brought home the four-heart contract.
When Mrs. Goldstein and Ferer played West and East, the opening lead was again a diamond, and here also South led a club to the second trick. But when Ferer won with the ace, he immediately shifted to a low spade and thereby gained an all-important time unit. West's king forced dummy's ace. Declarer got the same good break in clubs and the same bad break in trumps—but with this big difference: he couldn't get back to dummy in time because the North hand still had a low diamond.
Mrs. Goldstein's opponent did the best he could. After ruffing the third club, establishing the suit, he returned the jack of diamonds, hoping to keep East, the hand with the high trump, off lead and salvage a diamond ruff from the wreckage. But Mrs. Goldstein won with the queen of diamonds and was able to put Ferer in with the spade queen. The heart queen then drew dummy's last trump, and declarer wound up losing another diamond trick, to go down two.
Don't be in a hurry to cash tricks in one suit before you establish tricks in another. Collecting your winners too soon can give your opponents the timing advantage and set up their communication from hand to hand. But time is a tricky dimension; it requires nice judgment to know when to cash every possible trick and when to delay.