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During last year's Summer Nationals, play in the team event was running very late at some tables despite the pleas of the tournament directors. To emphasize the point, the lights in the ballroom were turned out for a few moments. As anguished cries arose, Dr. Lois Weber, a Chicago chiropractor whose seeing-eye dog has learned his way around at bridge tournaments, asked the others at the table what had happened.
"Good!" she said when she heard the explanation. "Now we're even. Let's go right on playing."
Dr. Weber is one of several blind players who, using Brailled cards, have won expert ranking. Of these, the best known is Dr. Arthur M. Dye, a practicing osteopath in Charlotte, N.C. Dr. Dye is the first blind player to achieve the rank of Life Master, highest rating of the American Contract Bridge League.
Most players are aided in keeping track of cards that have been played by a process of visual memory. The picture of each trick is stored away in the mind and can be summoned back by the player who wishes to stop and take stock. Thus, a good player is careful to watch every card played because he knows the axiom: "You cannot remember what you did not see." Yet there are some players, such as Dr. Dye, who cannot see and still manage to remember clearly which cards have been played. They do it with their ears and fingertips and rarely do they need to ask what cards are left in dummy. This week's hand shows Dr. Dye's skill.
After West opened the bidding with one heart, Dr. Dye, sitting South, reached a contract of four spades. West led his top diamonds, Dr. Dye ruffing the third round. He then crossed to dummy's king of clubs and finessed against East for the jack of trumps, a play that was suggested by East's known shortage in hearts. When the finesse won, he continued with three more high trumps to exhaust East.
Dr. Dye now considered two plans that might bring home his contract. The first was to play two more rounds of clubs, in hopes that West would have to win the third club trick and lead away from his king of hearts. But West had thought a moment before playing the jack of clubs on declarer's lead to dummy's king. Unless he had begun with all three missing honors in clubs, he would be able to escape the endplay by dropping the queen under South's ace. And had he held all three honors, he might have dumped the queen of clubs on the third lead of spades and jettisoned the 10 when South led a fourth trump. So Dr. Dye discarded this plan and turned his consideration to the heart suit.
It was possible, though hardly likely, that East had started with the lone king of hearts. Mathematically more attractive was the chance that he had either the singleton jack or 10. On this reasoning, South led the queen of hearts. West covered with the king and declarer played low from dummy, listening eagerly for East to name the card he would play to the trick.
When East called "the jack," Dr. Dye was home. He won the return of the club queen with his ace, led a heart toward dummy and successfully finessed the 9. The ace of hearts provided a discard for his remaining club, and the blind expert had brought home his contract just as if he had seen every card in the opponents' hands.