If you like eight hours sleep at night, I have a word of advice for you. When a bridge tournament moves into a hotel where you are stopping, move out. Modern tournaments being as large as they are, you will have trouble finding another hotel in town that is not also heavily infested with bridge players. It will be worth it though, for you will not be awakened at 4 a.m. by a player who has just solved a problem of the utmost complexity but who has not yet mastered the art of calling the right room number.
If you detect a rueful note in my advice, let me hasten to reveal the cause. It began with the following hand, which—up to 4 a.m., at least—I had absolutely nothing to do with. It was played by Ron Von Der Porten, Lew Mathe and Mr. and Mrs. Morris Portugal.
This deal took place in the Summer Nationals at the Hotel Leamington in Minneapolis. Mrs. Portugal's trump lead was won in dummy. The king of hearts lead was taken by the ace and, unfortunately for the defense, East didn't have another trump to lead. He led a spade that was won in dummy. South trumped a spade, trumped out West's heart queen, and could afford one more ruff to get back to his hand to draw West's three remaining trumps. Now, with the heart suit established, the rest were his.
Nobody likes to waste an ace, so East's taking of the king of hearts was almost automatic. But, when the hand was over, Mathe wondered out loud what might have happened if East had let the heart king hold. To get back to his hand, South would have to use a trump. After he ruffed out the heart queen he'd have to use another trump. When East was given a trick with the ace of hearts either South would be out of trumps if he had drawn West's or he would be forced below West's level if he later had to ruff to get back into his hand. The heart suit could never be run.
Since this is an extremely complex hand, let's draw the curtain for an hour or two while you do your own figuring—just as Morris Portugal did as he tossed restlessly over his apparent mistake. Suddenly the answer came to him, and he grabbed for the phone.
"If I duck the heart," he sputtered when a sleepy voice answered, "dummy's ace of clubs is cashed and the queen pushed through, ruffing out my king. South trumps the second heart in dummy, cashes the jack of clubs and trumps another club in his hand.
"Now he draws West's remaining three trumps, discarding low spades from dummy, and leads the jack of hearts, discarding dummy's last low spade. I'm in with the ace of hearts and declarer doesn't have another trump. But what am I supposed to lead? A spade puts dummy in to score the ace and the good club. A heart puts South in to cash two heart tricks!"
Morris Portugal was right in all but one thing. Instead of calling Mathe's room, he had called mine!
East's best play is still to duck the king of hearts. With declarer marked for a six-six distribution, East could not lose the heart ace anyway. Although declarer could still make the hand, he might have made a mistake. He didn't have half the night to figure it out.