According to the most recent U.S. Government classification my number is 0-32.92. This may be less glamorous than the notorious 007, but at least it is fact, not fiction. According to the Government Printing Office's 1,518-page book of job categories created by the U.S. Department of Labor, 0-32.92 means bridge teacher—a profession of which I am proud to have been a member for some 30 years.
In an increasingly recreation-minded world, teaching bridge has become a profitable full-time occupation for a growing group of trained professionals. It is no longer true, if it ever was, that "He who can, does; he who can't, teaches." The teaching ranks include many top tournament players.
This doesn't mean that it is necessary to be a star player in order to be a good teacher. But quite a few of the top instructors who are members of the American Bridge Teachers' Association are Life Masters who will play in the Summer National Championships in Chicago immediately following their convention there August 4-6. Many of these teachers have augmented the standard texts on bridge with lesson texts of their own, including practice hands designed to teach ideas once considered too advanced for the usual pupil.
This week's deal, for example, is an advanced text used by my long-time friend, Dorothy Jane Cook, one of the leading teachers of the Chicago area and a former ABTA president. It illustrates one of the rare occasions when it is safe to use a suit preference signal while following suit to partner's trick.
If you were East and your partner led the ace of clubs, what would you do? Obviously, this must be a singleton. Partner has ignored leading the suit you bid. Instead, he has led the suit bid by the North player, and in cashing the ace of that suit he must know that he is probably setting up tricks for the declarer. Therefore, he must be hoping to get one or more club ruffs. And probably he is hoping to put you in quickly by leading a diamond. But you don't have the top diamond!
To make him lead a spade, you must play the 10 of clubs. Partner, if he indeed has a singleton, will realize that you cannot have a singleton, nor is it likely that you have only a doubleton. Hence you must be trying to tell him something. The message should be clear. By dropping the highest card you hold in the club suit you are telling him to lead the highest of the side suits.
So, if partner gets the message, he shifts to a spade, not a diamond. Note that if he had shifted to a diamond, declarer would draw trumps and easily make five-odd, discarding two spades on the long clubs in dummy.
With a spade lead, however, not only do you set the contract, you can set it three tricks. (And here is where the clever teacher builds into this same hand another winning lesson in signal plays.) You win the first spade trick with the ace, not the king. Next you cash the king. This reverse order of doing things tells partner that you have no more cards in the suit.
Now you return partner's original club lead. Just to make matters even clearer, you lead back your highest remaining club, the 7, reemphasizing that you want him to return the higher-ranking side suit. He ruffs the club and leads a spade for you to ruff. You lead a third club for him to ruff. Alas, the party is now over. But instead of declarer making five-odd, he is down three.
Suit preference signaling can be dangerous when it is not entirely clear to partner. If you are not sure that partner can read it correctly, you will be better off not to try to guide him. And, if you are a pretty fair bridge player and are looking for an income-producing career, I recommend that you consider teaching. I did pretty well at the profession—and the opportunity today is greater than ever. So if you, too, decide to become 0-32.92, greetings.