Two of my best friends are business associates. Lee Hazen of New York, a bridge star who needs no introduction to those who know their top experts, is my attorney; he takes care of most of my business and financial interests. Harry Siegel of Atlanta, a bridge star in his own smaller milieu, runs my enterprises in the field of booklets, scorepads, table covers and a dozen other accessories to the game. Not only is each a genius at handling the problems that fall within his province, but, because they play bridge frequently and have a keen eye for a good hand, they often supply me with material.
For example, below is a hand they played against one another at my Miami home in a friendly rubber game in which each had his wife as a partner. Had I been kibitzing, perhaps I would not have reported this hand, for I do not like to squeal when my friends are guilty of boo-boos. But I was somewhere in the Pacific on my recent Orient cruise, and Lee Hazen, with characteristic modesty, did not hesitate to turn himself in as the culprit.
Despite the warning that the hand is tricky, you may easily commit Hazen's error.
Hazen's opening bid will surprise readers who would never dream of bidding over game (don't forget the North-South part score) except as a slam try. With no partial score, it would be correct to bid only three clubs in order not to bypass three no trump, but in this case four clubs was entirely proper. If you are going to preempt, give it all the hand is worth and do not let a part score lure you into an underbid that will not serve its purpose as a shutout. But even four clubs failed to keep Harry Siegel quiet and Lee had to go to five.
Playing at five clubs, Hazen won the heart lead with his ace, crossed to dummy with a spade and pitched his heart loser on another spade. Next he led the singleton trump from dummy. Are you with him thus far? And, if so, would you finesse or not?
If your first plays were the same as Hazen's, don't bother giving the matter too much thought. You have already blown your chance. Hazen took a winning finesse in clubs but it was not enough. He still had to lose two club tricks and a diamond as well.
The winning play is to cash the ace of clubs at trick two. If both opponents follow, you can play for a quick heart discard on spades or you can continue trumps and plan to discard a diamond later.
But West shows out on the first club lead, and you know you cannot avoid two trump losers. Therefore, you have to play to avoid a loser in the side suits. You cross to the high spade, discard a heart on the second high spade and lead a third spade and ruff it. Only if the spades break can you hope to get rid of your diamond loser. But they do break. You continue by leading the club queen to knock out East's king, and nothing the defenders can do will hurt you. Even if they return a diamond at once, knocking out dummy's entry, you can win the hand by leading a good spade and discarding your losing diamond while East ruffs away his second trump trick.
It's really very simple, isn't it—once you've discovered your danger?