The I/N Crowd

By Rod Bias
Phoenix, Arizona

When to Give the Goldfinger to a Rule of Thumb


Paul Goldfinger is an honest-to-God, real, living human. This Canadian traveled to the 2015 North American Bridge Championships (NABC) in New Orleans, where I encountered him, shared a lunch with him and, eventually, purchased his book: Goldfinger’s Rule of Thumb. Seemingly, Paul’s objective was to reduce to writing (in a form logical to him) various bridge tips he had found valuable. Most newcomers and intermediate players might benefit from such a writing exercise, even if it were never published in print. Maybe it’s time for you to write down your thoughts on bridge (hint, hint).
By this time in your bridge career you have learned bunches of guidelines masquerading as “rules:” second seat - play low; third seat - play high; cover an honor with an honor; yada, yada. Have you thought about them? Do you know when to follow these guidelines and when to ignore them?
Whole chapters in books have been written about exceptions to such “rules.” In fact, whole books have been written. One recent example is David Bird’s 25 Bridge Myths Exposed. In Chapter 16 he discusses why to, and when not to, “cover an honor with an honor.”
At Phoenix College, about 54 years ago, my friend (Diane) “Charlee” Bunch was so excited when her Philosophy 101 instructor told his class, “A man does not truly ‘know’ what he cannot logically
explain.” (Yes, those were less politically correct times than these. Today you should say: “One does not truly ‘know’ what one cannot logically explain.”) Be that as it may, this Phil 101 dictum resonated with her and stuck with me. Can you explain why to “cover-an-honor with an honor” and (more importantly) when and why not to do so? If not, think about learning the answer and writing your own set of notes.
Although I am rational at times, I am not a rationalist. Even back then, I would have taken exception with Charlee’s instructor’s flat, epistemological declaration. People do ‘know’ things they cannot logically explain. You may recall the famous concurring opinion by the former U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice, Potter Stewart: “I shall not today attempt further to define [pornography] … But I know it when I see it …” Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964).
We all know things we may not be able to logically explain. Call it a “gut” feeling. Call it “intuition.” Bridge players may call it “table presence.”
Please notice: I did not say people ‘know’ things that cannot logically be explained. I said they know things ‘they’ cannot logically explain. Being able to explain certain things may fix them so firmly in your mind that you quickly, smoothly, and instinctively act on them without focusing attention on them.

You are defending 3NT after a 1NT-3NT auction. Your partner leads the Devil’s Bedposts (♣4). You “know” this auction begs for the lead of a major suit; can you explain why? Never mind. The dummy is landing on the board. Without hesitation, the declarer calls for the ♣Q. You hold ♣K873. Do you “cover an honor with an honor” as the Rule of Thumb requires? Or, unlike the declarer, do you stop and think after the opening lead and the display of the dummy – before you play? You are allowed to and should hesitate here when the declarer did not.
In part, whether you cover depends on what you see in the dummy. This time you see ♣QJ1096. Declarer’s first bid (1NT) marks her with at least two clubs. Partner’s lead (♣4) probably marks her with two clubs.
Look in dummy again. Look in your hand again. Look at the lead. You can see ten clubs. The missing clubs are ♣A52. Your partner seems to have begun with ♣42 and declarer with ♣A5. Congratulations! You are seeing through the backs of the other players’ cards.

Covering an Honor

Covering an honor with an honor is wrong – this time – although it is usually right. Give the Goldfinger to this Rule of Thumb … this time.
In the example above, the only way you can fail to win your ♣K in this 3NT contract is to play it before declarer plays the ♣A. How astoundingly difficult one finds it not to cover an honor with an honor. This observation was made by Joseph Bowne Elwell (the “Mr. Bridge” of 1900-1920) in his 1904 book entitled Advanced Bridge.