Many bridge players are mystery fans—a choice of reading which should surprise nobody who has ever played the game in earnest. For most bridge hands include the elements of a good detective story.
Sometimes you will be cast in the role of detective, trying to figure out what the opponents are doing to steal your contract. Sometimes you will be the swindler, trying to fool the opponents when guile is your only hope of winning. And, no matter which side you are on, there is always the need to protect your partner.
To illustrate, let me cite a deal in which I played the role of detective some 20 years ago. If you like mystery stories, you can share this one by looking only at the South hand until you have completed the bidding.
At this point, the reader is invited to take over. What would you bid next?
It doesn't take much imagination to choose the perfectly routine bid of four diamonds. And that is just the trouble with the call. A four-diamond bid would intensify North's fear that the balance of the spade suit is held by the opponents. By showing length in hearts and diamonds, you would imply that you do not have many spades, and North must suspect that the missing spade strength will be bunched against him, even if he reads that West's spade bid was a bluff.
If, as South, you bid four diamonds it would be perfectly natural for North to carry on to five. Unfortunately, a five-diamond contract would be defeated by the very factor that a good detective might have suspected. After cashing the king of clubs, West leads a spade. His partner makes the spade ace and returns a spade to give West a ruff for the setting trick.
So, before you make that "obvious" four-diamond bid, let's do a little detective work. Partner doubled a mere one-spade bid. His double was either a warning against going on in hearts or an estimate that our side could glean more points at one spade doubled than at any other contract. Surely that promised considerable length as well as strength in spades.
Next, the very fact that North neither doubled four clubs nor made some other bid strongly suggested that the power of his hand was concentrated in the spade suit. The fewer high cards North held in the side suits, the more likely that he had considerable length in spades. In other words, you begin to visualize just the sort of hand North actually holds.
West's leaping self-rescue from one spade doubled all the way to four clubs is the clue that clinches your case against him. The spade call must be a psychic bid. But unless you, South, bid the spades for your partner, West's bluff is bound to succeed. Now, what must otherwise seem like a wildly daring bid on a doubleton becomes almost the forced choice.
Against your four-spade bid, West opens the king of clubs. You trump the next club with your king of spades, cash your ace and king of hearts to discard dummy's last club, and then you lead the spade jack. Whether East ducks this trick or not, the only other trick the defense can win is their ace of spades. North can get in with a diamond, or by ruffing a heart or a club, and after drawing East's trumps dummy is high with the help of South's ace of diamonds.