My mother, a longtime bridge player, often said, “When I lead a suit and you don’t return it, you have to be void or dead.” Another commented, “Don’t return your partner’s lead unless you are void or have a death wish.”
Now I was always taught to follow my mother’s advice, but this is one time she was really wrong.
I had a partner years ago who must have received the same advice from her mother. When dummy showed something like A Q 10 8 in a suit, I would lead that suit for her to be able to take a trick with her K J 9 that I suspected she had from the earlier bidding.
If declarer went up with the ace, that was OK, because my partner would still get her other cards. Whatever other card declarer played, my partner would cover it and take the trick.
Whenever she won the trick, she would immediately lead it back, finessing herself, exasperating me and delighting the declarer.
The equally exasperating thing about bridge is that you must learn the rules, and then you must learn when to break them.
There was a hilarious poem written in the ACBL Journal that I suppose is OK for me to repeat here. However, it shows a person bent on keeping all the rules when it isn’t the thing to do.
Here goes, and forgive me unknown author:
“Twas the duplicate Christmas party and needless to say
The punch the season had made us quite gay.
“Find your table and shuffle,” the director had said,
As visions of first place danced in my head.
When I checked our position I got dry in the mouth
We’d been assigned table l, North-South.
Just little old novices, my partner and me.
We’d placed fourth once, but never three.
We shuffled the cards without blinking an eye.
I dropped one on the floor and thought I would die.
As North, I was dealer, and though I was green
I knew to open you must have 13.
I spread my hand and counted, but alas
With only 10 points, I had to pass.
And frankly, I thought this was a shame.
I’d never before had thirteen spades in a game.
My left-handed opponent, East by name
Opened ‘two diamonds,’ and I thought what a shame.
My partner, South, was trembling with fear
And the bid of “two hearts” came to my ear.
My right-hand opponent now bid ‘three spades.’
You can imagine how I was amazed.
My partner, South, bid ‘four hearts’ and shoot
If they took the bid, I couldn’t lead her best suit.
My right-hand opponent studied his hand
And soon ‘seven no trump’ was his command.
It was my time to bid and just to save face
I doubled cause I knew they were missing an ace.
The next three bids were pass, pass, pass
So I was ready to lead a spade, but alas
My partner was nervous and she led the heart king
A lead out of turn—what a damnable thing!
The director was called, and I can still hear his voice
As he told declarer he could make his own choice.
With a singleton heart, you must understand
This could be the only entry to his hand.
So he turned to me and looking so smart.
He said, ‘Lead any suit, but don’t lead a heart.’
So, of course, I led my fourth-best spade
I guess it was the best lead I ever made.
‘Cause in this hand I never lost the lead
And our opponents (Life Masters) had to concede.
Thirteen tricks we took right off the top
When we won the board, I thought I would pop.
Now I ask you, with a board like this
The rest of the game, well how could we miss?
And I overheard the director say, ‘Who was the lass
Who had 13 spades and cleverly passed?’
After winning first place and still full of fright,
‘Merry Christmas,’ we called and they all said, ‘Good night!’”
Nancy Evins, of Lebanon, is a certified bridge instructor. Email her at email@example.com.