The largest city in Scotland with 600,000 citizens, Glasgow once was a shipbuilding and marine engineering center on the River Clyde. An industrial decline set in by the 1970s, but this gritty western port rebounded so well that it was designated the cultural capital of Europe in 1990 and hosted the 1994 Commonwealth Games. It’s a city of contrasts: here a modern building resembling nothing so much as a tornado, there an 12th-century Gothic Cathedral with a tomb for the city’s patron saint Mungo (didn’t he play drums for the Beatles?). Our guide on a bus tour said safety-conscious Catholics should avoid Protestant pubs and vice-versa. This established an interesting scenario in my mind:

Doorman: “Protestant or Catholic?”

Me: “Pardon?”

Doorman: I’m sorry, sir, but I have to ask if you’re a Protestant or a Catholic.”

Me: “Actually, I’m an American Jew.”

Doorman: “Oh! Come right in!”

At the St. Andrew Bridge Club, players kept apologizing for the rain, and we kept telling them the weather in the highlands was perfect for four straight days. This friendly establishment gives lessons for first, second and third-year players.

It made sense that the most interesting hand on the night we visited gave us a great teaching opportunity. South was dealing, with no one vulnerable:

♠K 7
♥6 5
♦ A K J 7
♣ Q 10 6 4 3

WEST                               EAST
♠ J 9 8                               ♠ 6 5 4 2
♥ J 9 8 4                            ♥ Q 10 7
♦ 9 8                                  ♦ Q 10 5 4
♣ K 7 5 2                          ♣ A 8

♠ A Q 10 3
♥ A K 3 2
♦ 6 3 2
♣ J 9

The bidding proceeded as follows:

South.          West          North           East
1 ♦               Pass           2 ♣               Pass
3NT            All Pass

Opening lead: ♥ 4.

Okay, now cover the East-West cards and answer the following questions:

How many hearts does West hold?. Assuming a fourth-best lead, four. West is leading the lowest possible heart, since you have the two and three.

How many hearts tricks are the defenders likely to take? Two.

How many tricks do you have off the top? Three spades, two hearts, and two diamonds for seven. (You don’t know how the spades will break.)

How should you proceed? Many beginners will cash the seven winners right away. Don’t! That strategy could create winners in hearts, diamonds and spades for East-West.

The correct path is to win the opening lead and play clubs. There’s no way East-West can prevent you from winning your eighth and ninth tricks in that suit.

My editor Paul Laliberte provides a good analogy:

“The lesson to be learned is that of the renowned French fable, Le Lievre et La Tortue (The Tortoise and the Hare). Slow and steady is indeed the best course of action when it is essential to develop tricks in NoTrump play. Don’t cash winners until you have promoted the tricks necessary for fulfillment of your contract. Initially, your winners should serve as a means of keeping suits under control while you establish length winners in one or more other suits. If you take the slow approach (that of the tortoise), you ultimately win the race for tricks. If (like the hare) you get off to a fast start by cashing all your winners prematurely, you may find that you’ve ‘come up short’ before you cross the finish line.”