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Alvin Roth: Cheater Trumped

During a high stakes game one day, the legendary bridge player Alvin Roth and his partner found themselves defending a "7 no trump" contract which required their opponents to win every single trick.

On the third last trick, the declarer (sitting in the East position, with the ace and king in the dummy hand) led the jack of spades. Roth's partner (sitting in the South position) unethically pretended to hesitate before playing his card; he hemmed and hawed, pulling out one card and then another, before finally playing low to the jack. The declarer, assuming that South must have the queen, took a chance and let the jack ride. Though Roth in fact possessed the queen and (playing last) could have won the trick (and thus the hand), he opted instead to play a lower card. His opponents won the trick and (with the ace and king from the dummy hand) easily made their no trump contract...

After the game, Roth was upbraided by his partner for blowing the game: "For God's sake, Alvin," he exclaimed, "why didn't you take the queen?" Roth, a famously ethical player, stared the man down and wrily replied, "I thought you had it."

[This was one of Eddie Kantar's favorite stories.]

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