Those who consistently perform well at the highest levels of the game certainly are deserving of the reputations they have earned. But the chances are that if you watched a top expert play, you would not be greatly impressed.
The fact is that an expert seldom does anything sensational. His most valuable trait is that he rarely makes a mistake. The ability to play one session after another without erring is his stock in trade, but it does not induce kibitzers to stand up and cheer.
Take this deal from a national championship. South was in four spades, and West led a heart. East took his A-K and returned a heart, won by declarer with the jack. South played the ace of clubs, ruffed a club and cashed the ace of diamonds. Next came the jack of spades, which lost to West’s king. When West returned a club, declarer ruffed and easily took the rest of the tricks.
What did South do that was extraordinary? On the face of it, nothing. He had to lose two hearts and a spade — and he lost them. Yet, upon closer study, South did something really good, and if he hadn’t done it, he would have gone down. He made the key play of cashing the ace of diamonds before taking the trump finesse.
And what did this accomplish? To see the difference, let’s say that after South ruffed a club at trick five, he had next led the jack of spades, losing to the king.
West would then have returned a diamond, and the contract would have been lost. South would have been unable to lead from dummy without losing a second trump trick to West’s ten, and he would have gone down one. Giant oaks from tiny acorns grow.