The monster of the Midi

June 22, 1958

Bridge is one game in which the designation "amateur" applies only to one who plays ineptly. This does not mean that there is no such thing as a simon-pure; only that there is no such thing as a pro.

One reason why there's no distinction is that the American Contract Bridge League—which conducts all important tournaments in the United States and sanctions many local tourneys as well—frowns upon cash prizes and disapproves of betting among the contestants. Even the "play for pay" experts, of whom there are a few, must pay to play in these events.

By contrast, both the tournaments on the Riviera which I attended last month—a pair tournament at Juan Les Pins and an individual game at Monte Carlo—hung up prizes that ranged as high as 100,000 francs for the top scorer on each of three days, and 400,000 francs to the grand prize winner. Furthermore, the 64 experts—one at each table—who played in the Monte Carlo event were the invited guests of the Casino for the three days they spent in that happily tax-free principality.

Claude Reichenbach, star of the Swiss international bridge team and a frequent partner of mine on my European jaunts, was the winner of the grand prize at Monte Carlo, where the game was conducted much like a Progressive Rubber tournament. Perhaps it might have been read as a favorable omen that in the Juan Les Pins duplicate tourney played a few days earlier he was the only declarer to achieve a plus score on the hand that I have dubbed "the monster of the Midi."

The only bidding method geared to cope with such monstrous freaks is the now obsolete Sims powerhouse opening three-bid calling on partner to display his aces. On learning that North did not have the ace of diamonds, South would sign off at six clubs—the only slam contract that could not be defeated.

Whatever West leads, South can get rid of his six diamonds by trumping one and discarding five on North's top cards. Unfortunately for all the South players, however, clubs and diamonds are lower than hearts and spades; no South could win the contract at a bid of less than six no trump or seven clubs. The latter was the contract when I held the East hand. Feeling grateful that the enemy had landed in my best suit, I didn't double lest they find a more suitable stopping place. The 50 points we collected turned out to be nearly bottom on the board. Reichenbach got his plus score by permitting his partner to play at six hearts, fulfilled against the opening lead of the diamond ace.

All over the Eden Beach Casino the ax fell on seven-heart and seven-no-trump contracts. One-North player, outraged that an opponent would dare to double such a rockcrusher, redoubled his commitment to take all 13 tricks at hearts. East hit upon the devastating opening lead of a club.

Undoubtedly the most frustrated of the declarers, however, was the North who played at 7 no trump doubled.

East's ace-of-diamonds opening set the contract at the go-off, but worse was to follow. East led another diamond. North might have saved a trick by going in with dummy's queen and later throwing East in with the fifth club. But North assumed that the clubs would break and tried to salvage something from the wreckage by finessing dummy's 8 of diamonds.

West grabbed the 9 and surrendered his sure second trick in the suit by returning a diamond to put dummy back on lead. After winning the diamonds and the four top clubs, the 11th trick was lost to East's club 10. It wasn't until the 12th trick that North, with his powerhouse, was able to take a trick in his own hand!

EXTRA TRICK
The primary purpose of an opening two-bid is to make sure you get another chance. But a freak hand like South's can safely be opened one club without fear it will be passed out.

Vulnerable: Neither side Dealer: South

NORTH

[Ace of Spades]
[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[6 of Clubs]

WEST

[Queen of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[9 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

EAST

[Jack of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[10 of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]

PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)