A Helen Sobel Famous Hand

Charlie Goren, Helen Sobel, Sidney Silodor and a lesser known expert – Myron ...
Charlie Goren, Helen Sobel, Sidney Silodor and a lesser known expert – Myron ...

Source:  Bridge Column by Steve Becker

This was one of the favorite hands of B. Jay Becker, the former editor of this column. The declarer was the legendary Helen Sobel, thought by many to be the greatest woman player of all time.

Mrs. Sobel won the club lead with the ace and deduced at this point that East had the doubleton A-K of spades! So at trick two she led the spade three from her hand and eventually wound up making 10 tricks on a deal where many players might not make nine.

The question, of course, is how Mrs. Sobel could have known, at trick one, that the A-K of spades could be driven out without wasting a high card or using up her limited entries to dummy to lead toward the Q-J.

When the logic of the low spade play at trick two is examined, it is found to be flawless. There were only 14 high-card points missing, so East had to have the A-K of spades and king of hearts for his opening bid.

It was highly unlikely that West had as many as two hearts. In that case, he would surely have led his partner’s suit rather than his own, which could be only 10-9-x-x at best, since East had played the jack of clubs at trick one. Therefore, West had either one heart or none.

But West couldn’t have none. If he had no hearts, he’d have to have a fi ve-card suit somewhere, and if so, he would have led it rather than a four-card suit (as indicated by his lead of the club deuce). Hence, West had precisely one heart.

This in turn meant that West had a 4-1-4-4 distribution, leaving East with only two spades, which had to be the A-K! It was therefore unnecessary to waste a potentially important entry to dummy to start the spades. So Mrs. Sobel simply
conserved her resources and led a low spade at trick two!