Ray Lee

Bridge on Broadway — part 2

When David Silver dropped in to the MPP offices a few weeks ago for coffee and a chat, he brought with him something even more interesting than his usual ‘You hold…’ stories from recent games.  Unearthed among the effects of a recently deceased elderly uncle, it was a program from Henry Miller’s Theatre (sic) which stood at 124 West 43rd St. in New York.  Dating from May 1927, the program relates to a comedy called ‘The Play’s the Thing’ by Ferenc Molnar. (I looked him up later.  Molnar was a distinguished Hungarian emigre of whom I confess I had never heard.  Two of his plays were later adapted as musicals:  one became The Chocolate Soldier — an earlier version of which was based on Shaw’s Arms and the Man — and one became the rather better-known Carousel, by Rogers and Hammerstein.

The program itself is a delightful period piece — mostly it consists of advertising (which makes fascinating reading — cosmetics, cars, elegant hotels, a flower shop, tires, cigarettes, even bridge scorecards).  However, there are a few features designed to keep the audience amused, one of which is a ‘Prize Bridge Contest for Theatregoers’.  (Think how common a part of social life bridge must have been to warrant a full page in a Broadway program every week, not to mention the ad for scorecards.)  The contest setter was Sidney Lenz, and it seems to have been a regular weekly feature.  Readers were encouraged to mail in their solutions, and each week there were prizes.  First prize was two orchestra seats, second prize an autographed copy of ‘Lenz on Bridge’, and third prize a year’s subscription to ‘Auction Bridge’ magazine.

Contract bridge had recently been invented, but while it was on the upswing, clearly ‘auction’ was still the main variant being played.  Perhaps, though, in recognition of the ongoing changes in bidding and scoring, Lenz presented double-dummy play problems for his contest.  Here’s the one for the final week of April, 1927:


  S 10982  
  H 8  
  D A106  
  C —  
West   East
S 643   S QJ7
H AJ3   H K94
D K7   D 85
C —   C —
  S AK5  
  H Q106  
  D J4  
  C —  

Diamonds are trumps.  South is on lead, and must take seven of the last eight tricks against best defense.  Try it before reading on.



This is an exercise in timing.  With two dummy entries, the spades could be set up, but West can frustrate that plan by rising on a low diamond from the South hand, or ducking the DJ.  So something more subtle is needed.  The correct first move is a low heart from hand.  The defense wins, and a heart continuation is actually best.  This is ruffed low in the North hand, and East must cover a high spade from dummy. Back in hand, South leads a low diamond, and West must put in the king (otherwise declarer will win the D10, finesse in spades again, cash the high spade, return to the DA and enjoy the thirteenth spade).  After the DA wins this trick, East must not cover the next high spade from North, but the hand is over by this time.  The third round of spades lives, and declarer makes the D10 and DJ separately on a crossruff as the defenders underruff helplessly.


So — did you win the theatre tickets?

1 Comment

lindaMarch 19th, 2008 at 12:23 am

It is a cool hand because you know what you have to do and just have to figure out the right sequence of plays.

I wish they had those on opera programs now. It would give me something to do on those sad occasions when I have to accompany you to said performances.

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