When Jim Linhart arrived in Lubbock, Texas for a recent tournament he had a hard time finding a bed. There were rooms in the local hotels, but none of them could accommodate Jim's 6-foot-10 frame. Someone on the housing committee suggested that Linhart go over to the Texas Tech campus and pose as a basketball recruit. However, Jim used up his eligibility in 1959 when he played for St. Mary's of California, which was ranked among the top in the country, and so he had to curl himself up in a regular bed.
At 28, Linhart is accustomed to telescoping his body to fit the available space. He once got a lift in a Volkswagen from his home in Denver to a tournament in San Francisco, and no one who saw it will forget the sight of Jim unwinding out of the car. Yet without such free rides, Linhart could not attend many tournaments. He plans to return to school at Denver University for a law degree. Meanwhile he is assistant manager of one Denver bridge club and teaches at another. And occasionally, at a tournament, he gives a "playing lesson"—euphemistic designation of a play-for-pay session as partner of a master-point hunter.
Like many of the younger western players, Jim is an aggressive bidder who has had to learn to play his cards very well indeed in order to make some of his more optimistic contracts. For example, the hand shown is one he played in a single-session championship event at the Spring Nationals in Cleveland, with Flo Aspell of Tucson as his partner.
West's opening was a weak two-bid. When it rode around to Linhart in the South seat, he gambled that North would hold a heart stopper, some help in clubs and, with the help of the expected spade lead, he hoped to make three no trump.
West's heart lead was disappointing and, after Jim had ducked the first round and put the queen on the heart continuation, the appearance of East's king was also a blow. So was East's shift to the jack of spades. Now the only hope of avoiding disaster was to bring in the club suit without losing the lead to West, a tall order even for a tall man.
Linhart realized that if he cashed the ace of clubs and East had the king that player would unload this winner under the ace in order to create an entry for West. So, after winning the spade trick with the ace, he crossed to dummy with the king of diamonds and led the club 7. If East played a low one, declarer planned to go up with the ace, hoping either to drop a singleton honor in West's hand or to find East with king and one. As you will see, this would have succeeded.
But East did not give South the chance to make this play. Instead, he rose with the club king on the first club lead. Linhart ducked. Now East gave Jim one more chance to make a mistake. Instead of leading a diamond and forcing declarer to play the ace of clubs, East returned a low club, hoping that if the queen were missing South might play East for both the missing honors and take a finesse.
However, Jim spurned this Greek gift. He could see no reason why East should give him an opportunity to take a finesse he could not take for himself, for certainly East could safely exit from his hand with a diamond rather than a club. So declarer climbed up with the club ace, dropped West's queen and claimed three no trump, cheerfully surrendering the last trick to West's king of spades.