Stansby's law by Brian Glubok

Partner opens a strong notrump and I hold:

S K5 H AT974 D T3 C AKQ9

I respond 2D, forcing Stayman. Partner bids 3D, I bid 3H and partner raises to four. His failure to cuebid suggests that he doesn't have a maximum, but slam still looks like a good chance. After a hundred accidents with Roman Keycard Blackwood, I've abandoned it, so I simply raised to 5H, general slam try. Partner bid six and we played slam on the following setup:

H K53
C 654
S Q986 S J7432
H 6 H QJ83
D Q7542 D 9
C J82 C T73
S K5
H AT974
D T3

Billy Cohen led a low spade and I considered my options. Obviously I would win in hand in order to preserve dummy entries for the diamonds, but what next? If I ban king-ace of hearts, I'd be cold on 3-2 trumps, scoring my 12th trick with a fourth-round club ruff on the table. Unfortunately I would be down if the trumps split badly.
If I guard against that with a safety play (king, then low to the Ten), I might go down on a more normal lie of the cards. West would win the second round of trumps and play a second spade to force dummy's ace. Now I would have to draw the third trump and rely for my last trick on (1) 3-3 clubs, (2) a doubleton Ten or jack of clubs behind me, allowing a third-round finesse of the 9, (3) the DQ onside, or (4) a show-up squeeze, which will operate if there are four or five clubs behind me and the DQ is offside doubleton.
Altogether (1) through (4) equal 75-80%. The safety play guards against three of the T 4-1 splits an original chance of 8.4%. Of course, on many (11 of 20) of the 3-2 splits, a heart honor will appear on my right on the second round. Apples and oranges and bananas. I delayed the decision, led to the HK and then back toward the ace. If the queen or jack showed, I wouldn't have to guess. No heart honor appeared, however, so I did a cursory calculation and figured it was close. Then I recalled something I'd heard from Bart Bramley: "Lew Stansby said, `If you're cold for a contract on 3-2 trumps, and you take a different line of play, and you go down when the trumps are 3-2, then you misplayed the hand.'" Well, Lew has won a
lot more world championship than I have, including the last one. Why should I take a safety play and go down on normal breaks?
I rose with the HA and went set. Ten minutes later Hall-of-Famer Edgar Kaplan joined us. Obviously he's in good form. I wrote the deal for him, and he wrote back that he would safety-play trumps. "Too many extra chances," he said.
In retrospect, I think Edgar's right. For one thing, West may not continue spades when he wins the second round
of trumps.

That night I saw Lew and his wife Joanna in the lobby. I charged up to him and complained, "I went down in a slam today because I followed Stansby's Law." "I'm sorry," said Stansby. "What's Stansby's Law?"



The Game Above the Rim by Brian Glubok

All four members of the Las Vegas Grand National teams are consistent high finishers in North American Bridge Championships. Recently they have been doing especially well: Marc Jacobus won the Vanderbilt in Phoenix, and the rest of the squad, along with Steve Zolotow, Ron Smith and Chris Compton, surprised the pundits with a trip to the finals at the International Team Trials in their hometown last month. They thrashed our New York squad in the semifinal Friday. Consider this exhibit:

H QT975
C Q86
S K52 S JT
H KJ6 H A43
D T542 D 9873
C AK5 C J942
S 98743
H 82
C T73

Glubok Cohen Radin Nagy
1D 1H 2D Pass
Pass Dbl Pass 2S
All Pass

Textbooks recommend leading an ace-king whenever you have on, but sometimes I don't. I figure playing the ace-king might help declarer in that suit or provide too much information about other honors. Besides, I reason, if you don't lead an ace-king declarer will never play you for that holding. Imagine my annoyance then when Nagy flew queen on my low club shift at trick four.
I led a diamond on the go. Nagy cashed ace-king and played a heart from the table. I won the jack and nonchalantly shifted to a low club. Billy Cohen reached for a low club, but Nagy stopped him. He had decided I would have shifted to the jack from ace-jack third or king-jack third, so after long thought he rose with dummy's queen and scored +110.
"Dammit, Nagy," I complained, "first I don't lead a club, then I shift to a low club from ace-king and you still fly queen? You're too good. If you come to New York, you can just forget about playing in our money game."