St. Petersburg Times – 18 Oct 1951

Both vulnerable. North deals

Opening lead: four of spades.

There has been observed a tendency on the part of less experienced players to overemphasize the conventional features of bridge. Each new bidding device is taken warmly to their hearts and employed at every possible and impossible occasion.

Yet the more useful conventions relating to the play of the cards are curiously neglected. A great many players have muddled thru a life-time of bridge without ever having acquainted themselves with one of the, most important conventions of defensive play.

Reference is made to the proper selection of the card to play when returning the suit which partner has led. If leader’s partner originally held two or three cards of the suit, he returns the higher of his remaining cards, but if he held four or more, he returns the card which was- originally his fourth best.

Observe how West was able to put the convention to use in order to read the distribution of the spade suit, West naturally opened the four of spades and East’s king held the trick as South followed with the six. East returned the eight, South covered with the 10 and West was called upon to make the decision which would make or break the defense.

He had the following data with which to work: South has the queen of spades, a fact which was established immediately. East followed with the king at trick one. East did not have an original holding of four spades, for then he would have returned his fourth best. The eight could not be his fourth best for the only higher card, unaccounted for, is the 10.

The eight, therefore, is his remaining high spade. East is marked with another spade, otherwise South would have a five card suit which he surely would have mentioned at some time in the auction. This marks declarer with exactly four spades and a sure stopper. Now if declarer has the king of diamonds there is no hope to defeat the contract, so that sound defense requires mentally placing that card with East.

Inasmuch as it is indispensable to have East retain a spade, West permitted declarer to hold the trick. . . It was perfectly clear to South what was going on but he was helpless to prevent it. The hand could not be won without the diamond suit, so he had to try the finesse, with obvious results.