Here’s my father’s third extant bridge column. It’s one of my favorites, as he loved to quote the first paragraph over and over. I’d forgotten about takeout doubles and overcalls, but it all begins to come back to me now…
Mathematical Genius, or, Points Are Points
By Jerome J. Schneyer, M.D.
June 1, 1967
A group of research scientists have recently announced that they have discovered a certain type of animal of measurable, but limited, intelligence. It is able to count to thirteen and twenty-six, but is completely unable to count as high as forty. What I would like to know is how that animal so frequently gets situated across the bridge table from me. Let the scientists answer that one.
♠ 7 5 4
♥ 10 8 3 2
♦ 5 4 2
♣ A Q J
♠ K Q J 9
♥ K J 6 4
♦ K 7 6
♣ 8 2
♠ 6 3 2
♥ 9 7
♦ J 10 9 8 3
♣ 9 6 4
♠ A 10 8
♥ A Q 5
♦ A Q
♣ K 10 7 5 3
Rubber bridge S W N E
Vulnerable: none 1♣ dbl pass 1♦
South deals 2 NT pass 3 NT pass
Opening lead: K♠
First, as to the bidding: whether or not North should bid 2♣ over the takeout double is a matter of debate; with a hand as square as North has, it is usually better to pass and await developments.
South hesitated a few seconds after the dummy went down; North, being slightly theatrical, had put down the beautiful club suit last of all and South was trying to reswallow his heart after thinking the dummy was trickless. Having done this, he began to think, in this case a very fortunate circumstance for the opponents, of how to play the hand. Eight tricks were cold and finesses were possible in both red suits for a ninth, he pondered. Furthermore, there would be no point in holding off in spades, since both finesses must be taken into West; finally, he thought, diamonds must be the suit to try, since West is likely to have both majors, and East bid diamonds.
The cogitation over, South scooped in the first trick with the A♠, crossed over to the dummy J♣, and led a small diamond, finessing the queen. West gobbled up this trick, ran his three good spaces, and got out with a club. South then expended a considerable amount of time and energy in worry, but to no avail; West was certain to get a heart trick and the contract was doomed.
As the cards were being dealt for the next hand, South, in an effort to placate North, whose wattles were flushed a delightful shade of crimson with rage, commented to the effect that “they can’t all be on-side” or some other such trivia. That did it. North proceeded to comment acidly on South’s ancestry, place of origin, legitimacy, intelligence, and other assorted attributes and, in the course of his Phillipic, happened to mention the correct way to play the hand, briefly thus:
West made a takeout double, a bid requiring 14 points. Inasmuch as south is looking at 26 points between his own hand and the dummy, and there are only 40 points total in the cards, it is obvious that both finesses are bound to lose, since East cannot possibly hold a king (unless someone has slipped in a funny deck). This being the case, South should merely run his five club tricks and then lead the spade ten, allowing West to run his three tricks (West doesn’t likely have a five-card spade suit, else he would have overcalled rather than making a takeout double). West must then lead away from one of his red kings and the contract rolls home.
So please try to remember to learn to count to forty; surely you don’t want the scientists investigating you.
And here’s the column in its original printed form: