By now you have had an opportunity to see the first two shows in my series of Sunday afternoon TV bridge matches on the ABC network, and some of you viewer-readers have already come up with questions about our style of play.
Obviously, in half an hour of telecasting—minus a few minutes for that important angel, the sponsor—only a limited number of hands can be shown. So, even though all the matches are played at rubber bridge (not duplicate), the players must adjust their strategy to resemble the style of the sudden-death games usually enjoyed on commuter trains.
When time runs out, we are concerned only with "who's ahead" and the margin of the difference is not considered. Obviously, this dictates the tactics on a hand which seems destined to be the last. For example, here is a hand from a practice match between show contestants played under sudden-death rules.
In the usual rubber game, the most venturesome South would not dream of bidding four hearts. However, in the practice matches the players followed the conditions they'd be meeting in the actual match. South, Arthur Glatt of Lincolnwood, Ill., and his partner, Harold Ogust of New York City, were some 400 points behind and the clock made it clear that this was going to be the last deal. Glatt figured that his side could not earn enough points against a four-diamond contract (he was right). So, in a do-or-die effort, he stabbed at four hearts. West didn't expect to get rich on his double, he just wanted to tell partner not to sacrifice.
East overtook his partner's queen of diamonds and led a second round, which South trumped. Declarer was sure the heart finesse would succeed and not at all certain about the spade finesse. Yet it was essential for him to play the jack of spades before he led trumps.
To see why, let's suppose that Glatt led a heart immediately, finessing dummy's 10. After cashing the heart ace, how would he get back to his hand? A club lead would let East get in with the queen and wreck the contract with a third round of diamonds. The ace of spades and a low one to the jack, or an immediate lead of a low spade to South's jack would be countered by a low club lead that would force North's king or allow East to get the lead at once for the killing diamond return. Declarer could get one discard on dummy's spades, but he would be left with two losing clubs.
But Glatt foresaw this difficulty and met it by leading the jack of spades—not a heart. If West did not cover, declarer would abandon the suit for he could now take the heart finesse, cash the heart ace and get back to his hand by trumping a third spade.
West did cover, but it did him no good. North won with the ace, and South now abandoned the trump finesse which he was certain would win. Instead, he cashed dummy's ace of hearts, led the 10 to his king and played the spade 7. A successful finesse against West's 10-spot permitted South to discard one club on dummy's spade queen, and he was able to set up another discard by trumping the fourth spade to establish the suit.
By yielding to the pressure imposed by time, Glatt made the winning bid and brought home the contract.
Desperate gambles, while sound for sudden-death play, are not recommended in ordinary rubber bridge. The big loser in the long run is the player who tries to get even by bidding as if there were no game tomorrow.