Bridge World Extra! Newsletter


by Alan Truscott

Here is a simple position:

NORTH (dummy)
D A 5 3 2

D Q J 4

East is on lead in an ending, forced to break this untouched suit, which he knows is 4-3-3-3 around the table. The defense needs one trick. Which card should he lead?

Clearly, the choice does not matter when West has an honor, so East assumes that South has king-ten-something.

(1) In a low-level game, East leads the queen; then, his low-level opponent wins with dummy's ace and finesses the ten, to take three tricks.

(2) In a middle-level game, East leads the four, hoping that South will play the eight from king-ten-eight. Often this works, but sometimes South has king-ten-nine.

(3) In a high-level game--national champions, let's say--South's playing the eight can't work. If South has king-ten-eight he will try the ten, albeit without much hope, because he knows that East would lead an honor from honor-nine-low. So, East gives up on South's holding king-ten-eight; he makes the low-level play of the queen (or jack, choosing at random). South, with king-ten-nine, will play for split honors and lose a trick.

East can be sure of a trick if South has the stronger holding, and has no chance against an alert declarer who has the weaker holding. That is what W. S. Gilbert called, "a most ingenious paradox."


In several places in the September 1938 Bridge World, editorial material suggests that The Bridge World is intended as an open forum for the exchange of ideas about bridge, not merely for Culbertson promotion. Sure enough, the lead article, The Blackwood Convention, by Easley Blackwood, was destined to leave a permanent stamp on the world's bidding habits, indeed to begin a trend away from methods promulgated by the Culbertson organization. Also, in a matter that would eventually have relatively little impact on the history of bridge, a full page was devoted to a reply by F. E. Bruelheide, in response to earlier, critical articles. All this evidence was not misleading. The Bridge World did, in time, become an open forum.

By 1938, duplicate bridge had already gained significant popularity. The staff had to respond to a matchpoint-oriented inquiry about this famous Culbertson deal:

S K 8
H Q J 9
D 8 7 5 4
C A 6 4 3
S 5
H 4 3 2
D J 10 9 3 2
C K J 10 5
S Q J 10 9 2
H 5
D K Q 6
C Q 9 7 2
S A 7 6 4 3
H A K 10 8 7 6
C 8

South, who has shown spades, plays in six hearts. West leads the diamond jack. Declarer's correct play is to lead a spade to the king, then to duck a spade on the way back (guarding against a ruff and trump return). However, as Josephine Culbertson had to admit in the column, this would be a poor play at matchpoints, because the chance of an overtrick is so much greater than the chance of being set.