Source: The New York Times February 4, 1985

Alan Truscott.
Alan Truscott.

Many years ago one of the game’s most prolific writers, Terence Reese, coined the term ”oddball.” It was to describe situations in which a defender plays a conspicuously abnormal card to alert his partner to the need for some decisive action.

The most common example of this is the oddball opening lead: If a player who makes orthodox leads chooses the deuce from a suit in which he has shown great length, something funny is happening. But the oddball player has to bear in mind the danger that the information may be of more value to the declarer than to his partner. When that happens, he or she is said to have ”squealed.”

Dealer South None Vul

A J 4
7 6 2
8 5
10 9 6 5 3
5 2
A J 5 4
K 10 7 6 4 3 2
9 3
Q 10 9 3
Q J 9
J 8 7 2
K Q 10 8 7 6
K 8
A
A K Q 4
West North East South
1
3 Pass 4 4
5 Pass Pass 6
Pass Pass Pass

In the quarterfinal stage of the New York Grand National Teams recently, a top-ranked partnership reached a magnificent slam contract as shown in the face of competitive bidding. One club was strong and artificial, and West pre-empted with three diamonds.

When the bidding reached five diamonds North’s pass was encouraging in the partnership style: With a worthless hand he would have been expected to double. This slight encouragement induced South to take a shot at six spades, a surprising action in view of his earlier four-spade bid.

The Missing Clubs

The slam was sure to succeed with any normal club split. It was sure to fail if West held all four missing clubs, but that was highly unlikely in the light of the bidding. As it was, however, the result was in the balance.

West led the diamond two.

South played normally by winning the diamond lead, cashing the spade king and ace, and leading a club to the ace. When this revealed the bad news he crossed to the spade jack and led the club ten for a marked finesse. East naturally refused to cover, and South was reduced to playing a heart. He was down one when West produced the ace.

South had not paid enough attention to the fact that West had squealed by leading the diamond deuce. He was suggesting a club return for a ruff, but this oddball was greedy. If East could win a trick the heart ace would no doubt collect the setting trick without a ruff. If South had recognized the oddball for what it was he would have taken the club finesse on the first round of the suit and made his slam.