A standard phenomenon of every bridge tournament is a pair of what the experts refer to as "little old ladies." They frequently are neither little nor old and do not always behave like ladies. But they all have one thing in common: a knack for combining a bit of innocence and a bit of luck to come up with a play that confounds their opponents.
A recent L.O.L. story comes from a regional tournament in Dallas. The victim of the little old ladies was John Simon, a man who plays well enough to captain the St. Louis team that gave our International squad a stiff battle in an exhibition match earlier this year. Simon is also chairman of the American Contract Bridge League's Good Will Committee, so when the following incident took place all he could do was bravely be a man of good will.
South's bid of two-no-trump helped Simon decide to bait a trap. How could he have known declarer would be able to turn it against him, all because she was so eager to fall for it?
Simon suspected that South held four diamonds, including the king-queen-10, and the chance of setting the contract appeared to rest upon West's holding the king of spades and the queen of hearts. Hoping to be able to set up two spade tricks and to win two clubs as well, Simon grabbed the ace of diamonds and returned a low spade. South ducked, and West won the trick with the queen. But West then returned the king of spades, giving declarer two spade tricks. This also made it plain to Simon that declarer must have the queen of hearts to justify her two-no-trump bid. Knowing his jack-10 of hearts must drop, Simon counted nine sure tricks for declarer: three diamonds, four hearts and two spades. The only hope of setting the contract was to tempt South to try for the overtrick that is so important in match point play. So, when declarer led the 9 of clubs and ducked it, Simon won the trick with the ace! He returned a spade, and now apparently all declarer had to do to make the overtrick was to repeat the "proven" finesse against the queen of clubs.
Of course, what would have happened then was that East would take the trick with the queen of clubs and cash the 10 of spades for the setting trick. But South eagerly led a club from her hand, forgetting that she had won the spade trick with dummy's jack. Before West could accept the lead by following suit, dummy sweetly remarked, "No, dear, you are in dummy."
When declarer leads from the wrong hand, if either opponent calls attention to the error, declarer must lead the same suit from the proper hand. But if dummy calls attention to the error, the rules say that the opponents have the option of either invoking the penalty—which would not have helped East-West—or accepting the incorrect lead. The defenders gallantly permitted declarer's lead to stand. But now declarer could easily fathom the only possible reason for such gentlemanly conduct. When West played low she went up with dummy's club king, felling East's queen to make four and an unmatched top score.
Beware when your opponents seem to be unduly kind. Beware even more of little old ladies.