You will find members of every profession in both the top ranks and the lower echelons of bridge players, but it is my distinct impression that the numerical superiority at all levels rests with the members of the bar. Since I am an ex- Philadelphia lawyer myself (LL.B., McGill University, 1922), I will not attempt to argue the question of whether this stems from a natural predilection for the game or is so because lawyers feel they can sharpen their argumentative abilities at a bridge table.
Recently I have found that a fondness for contract bridge, as well as adeptness at it, is by no means confined to counsel's side of the bench. Here is a hand played by Aron Steuer, a justice of New York State's Supreme Court. Judge Steuer rarely competes at a bridge club and never in a tournament, but many of those who play in his regular Monday night game are well-known tournament players who have learned to respect the judge's ability.
Whether North should bid three or four spades over an opening spade call by partner is a debatable issue. North chose the lower bid, and the judge bid game anyway. He won the opening heart lead with dummy's king and drew trumps in three leads, noting West's discards of a club and a diamond. Next he cashed the ace of hearts and led a third heart to dummy's queen. He had hoped that dummy's fourth heart might set up to furnish him a club or a diamond discard, but West showed out on the third heart, discarding a second club. At this point, the judge considered what he had seen.
West almost surely didn't have the ace-king of diamonds, else he would have opened the diamond king. Therefore, the queen of diamonds could not be set up by dint of two leads up to dummy, nor could an end play in clubs be managed, since the opponent who did not hold the king could surely get in with a diamond and then lead clubs.
How, then, was South going to avoid losing three tricks in diamonds and one in clubs? Judge Steuer decided that the best chance was to find a favorable distribution. West had showed that he held only three cards in the major suits. This left him with 10 cards in the minors. He had not overcalled—as he might well have with a six-four distribution—and his first discards had been one card in each minor suit, not two from one suit as might have been made with a six-carder. Hence, declarer decided to play for West to hold five-five in the minors—leaving East with a doubleton honor in diamonds. This sound deduction let the judge make game.
He led dummy's fourth heart and trumped it. Then, he led the ace and another club and it didn't really matter which opponent held the king. Actually, West won the trick with the king and made his best return, the jack of diamonds. But declarer refused to cover with dummy's queen. When the jack won the trick, it made no difference what West did next. If he led a low diamond, East could make the king but would have to return a club, which would permit dummy to ruff while South discarded his last diamond. If West cashed the ace of diamonds instead of leading a low one, he would drop his partner's king, and dummy's queen would be high.
Examine all available information before making a difficult decision, and remember the most helpful hints often come from counting out the opponents' distribution.