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Guessing a Queen

One of the sharpest card players of all time was the late John Crawford. Legend has it that he never misguessed a queen — he had such incredible table feel that he could always tell who held the lady.

One day a fellow gambler offered Crawford a bet: “You leave the table and I’ll arrange the trump suit. When you come back, I’ll bet you $100 you can’t tell me which defender has the queen.” Sure enough, Crawford accepted the bet.

When he returned to the table, Crawford stared first at his left-hand opponent, and then at his right-hand opponent. Puzzled, he looked at each opponent again and again. “Darn it!” he said, “Neither one of ‘em looks like he has it. I can’t believe this!” Crawford was just about to concede the bet when the gambler tossed him a hundred-dollar bill — he had removed the queen of trumps from the deck.

How good is your queen guessing? Can you find the proper play to make this 4 H contract?

4 H by South

None Vul
S 7 6 4 3
H K 9 8
D 10 4
C K 5 3 2
S K Q 5 2
H Q 3
D Q 9 7 6
C Q 10 9
TableS A 9 8
H 5 4 2
D 8 5 3 2
C J 8 7
Lead: S KS J 10
H A J 10 7 6
D A K J
C A 6 4

West

Pass
All Pass
North

2 H
East

Pass
South
1 H
4 H

After winning the S K, West leads a low spade to East’s ace, and you ruff the next spade with the H 6. The typical play is to ruff your third diamond, cash the H K and finesse East for the queen. As you can see, this would not be a success.

Would an expert actually guess this queen? Well, not exactly. An expert would not lead trumps! After ruffing a diamond, the proper play is to cash both top clubs ending in dummy; then lead the last spade and ruff it in your hand. Now exit with a club. Voila! Whoever wins will have to lead trumps (or a diamond) which guarantees your contract.

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© 1996 Richard Pavlicek