Ross Taylor

Sometimes the hand is faster than the eye

My long time friend and business mentor Tom Dawson shared a cute story with me recently. He got a chance to make a New York Times play on defense – electing to lead low from AKQxxx of his bid and raised suit on the opening lead. Of course, he was angling for a ruff. A funny thing happened on the way to down 1.

Tom wrote

“You are vul and you hold      1087    8752    void    AKQ862.

RHO opens 1S; you bid 3C; LHO bids 3D; partner chimes 4C and RHO bids 4D, you pass. The auction concluded with LHO bidding 4S & all pass.

This is clearly a chance to do what you read about from time to time, even though it is matchpoints. So you lead the club 2.”

The full layout was as follows:



Dealer: South

Vul: East West

Tom East
1087 42
8752 A1094
void 1083
AKQ862 10953



A moment’s anxiety (when dummy came down with a stiff club) dissipated quickly as Tom’s partner won the 9, and shifted intelligently to the diamond ten. Tom ruffed, and dutifully led back a heart. East won the heart ace, and completed the carnage with another diamond back for down 1, and a complete top.

Tom went on to write,

” Well done team! It was only when I reviewed the hand records that night I noted that partner in fact had 4 clubs to the 10 & declarer had Jx !!!

Isn’t it amazing that when you are ‘sure’ you’ll lose the trick, the actual play of the cards doesn’t register.”

Yes it is Tom, but I think this sort of thing happens more than people let on. In fact, when I first came back to the game two short years ago, I found myself in a three level partial with Qxx opposite dummy’s two small in the suit led at trick one.

As east “won the trick”, I followed low, and proudly executed a strip squeeze later in the hand to make my contract.

Only at the half way point of the match did someone come up to me and ask me where was the ace of diamonds on that hand. You see, East had played the jack from KJxx of the suit, finessing his partner, and my queen was slated to win the trick. My later heroics simply brought the result back to par!

I realized then my path back was going to be long and sometimes painful. Along the way I suffered indignities like false claims, bidding disasters, and occasional brain cramps on defense or card play – but my very first hand in many years was a play remarkably similar to Tom’s opponent’s.

By the way Tom – nice defense ! (kinda)

PS Tom and his wife Judy have a fantastic collection of playing cards and other card game memorabilia, dating back centuries in some cases. They wrote the definitive book on the subject some years ago. (The Hochman Encylopedia of American Playing Cards)

Here is a link to the book at Amazon’s website.


Howard Bigot-JohnsonApril 27th, 2010 at 6:04 pm

This comedy of a hand was would you believe an exact reincarnation of a hand I was involved in years ago. I too had a long massive club suit headed by AKQJ and a void. I too underled my honours in an attempt to beat 6 spades. Yet again dummy turned up with a singleton and my partner the 9……which held the trick. Declarer having already lost the trick ” in his head “, playing his 8 like an automaton. Then after the diamond return was ruffed by me to put the contract down, I chose not to ask the obvious question. I guess even today he is still unaware of his blunder….. ” defeatist attitude” , lack of concentration……or perhaps a rather embarrassing blindspot.

MY partner forwarded this story to the Yorkshire Post for wider readership, but declarer’s name was carefully omitted.

Ross TaylorApril 27th, 2010 at 8:16 pm

As I suspected Howard, this kind of thing happens more than we realize. It’s going to encourage more and more people to underlead their 100 honours since they have double the chances of success – either partner has the required card or a half wit declarer has it !

Chris HasneyApril 28th, 2010 at 8:38 pm


You’ve got the Jack of clubs in South’s hand. East’s nine would not win the opening trick. Check your layout please, unless Howard’s assumption that South played low! is correct.

Chris HasneyApril 28th, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Nevermind. It helps to read the whole article, lol.

Steve MackayApril 28th, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Hi Ross,

I remember, many years ago, bidding to 6x against Sam McCallum and his partner, perhaps Howard Jacobs or Steve Gittins. Dummy had two low spades and I had Qx. Sam decided it was time to be a genius and led the spade K from some holding such as KJxx. His partner, an expert, knew exactly what to do. Cashing two spades was going to be the only way to beat the contract and so, rather than risk ambiguity, he overtook with his ace and fired back a spade to his “partner’s queen”. I won’t try to plead mercy but I will just say that this was back in the days when silly falsecards sometimes worked. I was right there and smoothly and immediately dropped the queen. Seconds later, I looked up and realized that perhaps this was not the perfect time for such a brilliant false card. Two or three seconds later, the whole table burst out laughing!

John GowdyApril 29th, 2010 at 1:01 am

Now that’s funny !

Ross TaylorApril 29th, 2010 at 8:10 am

Steve’s story I think easily outbests mine and Howard’s. Hilarious!

Perhaps we can get a theme going here – bonehead plays at the bridge table!

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