It has been said that the skill of a bridge player is proportional to the number of cards of which he is aware. A novice sees only his own 13 cards; an average player can picture 26 cards, his own and partners; but a good player can envision all 52 cards.
This is not to say that peripheral vision is the key to becoming an expert. Picturing the entire deal is simply a thought process, developed over years of practice, that enables a player to make the proper percentage plays (good guesses if you prefer) when faced with a decision.
Todays deal illustrates this principle. Erwin Cutler of Margate was South, and a routine auction led to the sound game contract in spades. West led a trump and declarer quickly cashed three rounds of the suit, East discarding two diamonds and a heart.
A heart was led to the ace and a low club went to the 10 and queen. West tried to cash the heart king, ruffed, and the club king was led to Wests ace. West exited with a club to dummys jack, and declarer was faced with the problem of playing the diamond suit.
The normal percentage play in diamonds is to lead up to the queen and then finesse the 10 on the second round; but that is based on the suit in isolation. When the entire deal is considered, this would be a poor play. Easts spade void and his two diamond discards make him a strong favorite to hold at least five diamonds, and declarer used this information to his advantage.
Dummys last heart was ruffed and declarer led a diamond to the king, forcing East to win the trick. East was endplayed! He was obliged to lead away from his diamond jack or yield a ruff and discard; either way, declarer wins the rest.
© 1985 Richard Pavlicek