Two crimes, one punishment

April 04, 1960

Preparing to meet the Italian team again, I have been restudying the hands played in last year's world championship matches.

Analysts have blamed the U.S. defeat on inferior slam bidding (true), on loose understanding between partners (true), on the superiority of the Italian systems (highly doubtful), and on the failure of "standard" American methods (nonsense). Team matches are rarely won; they are usually lost by the team that makes the most mistakes. This last world championship was no exception.

Yet it is not possible to eliminate luck entirely. In the following deal, for example, both teams blundered. I will not attempt to decide which blunder was the more egregious, but the American was punished while the Italian was not.

The one-club opening showed a balanced 12-to-16-point hand; the one-spade response showed eight high-card points or more. As is customary, North bid the shorter of his suits first. For some reason—perhaps because he feared that too much of his high-card strength was in the suits in which North must be short—South never raised spades and the Italian pair got to an inferior no-trump game.

West led the diamond 4. East's queen was captured by declarer's ace. Declarer finessed the club 10, and East made the good play of ducking with the queen. But South shifted to spades, establishing two winners in that suit, and brought home his nine tricks—three in clubs, three in hearts, two in spades, one in diamonds. With the club queen offside, however, the no-trump contract would have been defeated if East had held a small diamond, whereas four spades was unbeatable.

The American North-South pair got to a spade contract—but, alas, they failed to apply the brakes in time. Their bidding, with Sam Fry Jr., North, and Sidney Lazard, South, could hardly be called standard.

NORTH

PASS
2 [Club]
3 [Diamond]
4 [Spade]
5 [Spade]

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH

1 N.T.
2 [Spade]
3 [Heart]
5 [Diamond]
PASS

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

Lazard (South) took a liberty when he opened with a no trump, holding a worthless doubleton in clubs, but I won't dispute his choice. The action turned sour when Fry, having made the artificial two-club response, was not satisfied with a four-spade contract and so manufactured the three-diamond bid as an interim move. However, Lazard was a bit pushy in going past the game level in spades.

West opened his singleton club. Dummy won the trick and led a spade, but East hopped up with the ace and returned a club to give his partner a ruff. Thereafter, declarer lost only to East's remaining top spade—but that was one trick more than he could afford to surrender, and the U.S. lost 700 points.

EXTRA TRICK
When you have a choice between an artificial convention and a natural bid that will give partner about the same information, choose the natural bid. Fancy bidding can be expensive, even when done by experts.

PHOTO

North-South vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

[Jack of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

WEST

[9 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[9 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[10 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]

EAST

[Ace of Spades]
[King of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]

When Avarelli and Belladonna held the North-South cards, their bidding, using the Roman Club, went:

NORTH

PASS
1 [Spade]
3 [Club]
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH

1 [Club]
2 [Diamond]
3 N.T.

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: diamond 4

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)