VIVE THE FRENCH FINISH!

In a surprising reversal of form, a team of tenacious Gauls burst through with literally minutes to go to shatter the Italians' long mastery of world bridge
May 15, 1960

Italy's almost total domination of world bridge for the last three years ended last week when the Italians suddenly—and surprisingly-wentdown to defeat in the first World Bridge Olympiad at Turin.

The new world champions are a group of young, aggressive Frenchmen who, with one exception, are amateurs. Pierre Ja√Øs, a physician, Roger Trézel, a gentleman farmer, Gérard Bourchtoff, a paper manufacturer, Claude Delmouly, the one professional (he runs a bridge school), René Bacherich and Pierre Ghestem, merchants, swamped the Italians in the last round and, in fact, the closing minutes of the grueling 12-day, 14-round Olympiad.

Their triumph in this match however, did not assure victory. They were still tied with the English, who in one stretch had won 12 successive matches. But the English, to the lasting joy of the French, came a cropper against my weary teammates, who had gone through most of the final matches using only four players, Lew Mathe, Paul Allinger, Howard Schenken and Harold Ogust. A severe cold had knocked me out of action and left my partner, Helen Sobel, without a teammate whose style of play was familiar to her. Behind at one time by 17 IMPs, we rallied and in the closing hands forced the English to settle for a tie. It was no famous victory, but for the English—and the French—it was enough.

The wonder of the tournament was that the Italians lost. They had behind them three straight world championships and four straight European championships. Along with the English, they had gone through the qualifying rounds undefeated. But in the first playoff round, the two nations met, and the English (Terence Reese, Boris Schapiro, Albert Rose, Nico Gardener, Jeremy Flint and Ralph Swimer) won 66-58. The margin of victory was slight, but the Italians (Walter Avarelli, Giorgio Belladonna, Eugenio Chiaradia, Pietro Forquet, Giancarlo Manca and Giorgio Franco) never recovered. The next day they dropped another, closer match to the U.S. team combination of Sam Stay-man, Morton Rubinow, Ira Rubin, William Grieve, Oswald Jacoby and Victor Mitchell—one of three U.S. teams to reach the six-team finals. In the third round they defeated my depleted group but lost their last two matches by wide margins to the U.S. team of Sidney Silodor, George Rapee, Tobias Stone, John R. Crawford, B. Jay Becker and Norman Kay, and also to France.

THE ABSENT CAPTAIN

I asked Forquet, the flawless young playmaker of the ex-world champions, to explain the sudden turnabout in Italian fortunes. "I do not know," he shrugged. "It is not the fault of our new players [Manca and Franco]. Nor was it the loss of Guglielmo Siniscalco, once my exclusive partner. We missed him, of course, but Chiaradia and I have had a winning partnership too. Perhaps we were not joking when we called Carl' Alberto Perroux 'the great captain.' It must be said he is the big difference."

I have always rated Perroux, the nonplaying captain in all seven of Italy's recent European and world championships, as one of his team's greatest assets. He could call down "my primadonna," as he sometimes called Belladonna. He could take the pressure off the highly keyed Chiaradia. He could rally the team when it floundered, crack the whip when it appeared overconfident. But Perroux, taken ill just before the playoffs, left the team, and without him the Italians lost their winning touch.

It is perhaps significant that most of the members of both the French and the British teams play with few artificial conventions—especially since recent Italian victories have been attributed so largely to their highly gadgeted systems.

With the possible exception of my own team, Great Britain used fewer artificial bids than any other team that reached the finals. One of the few unusual conventions they used was the Texas transfer bid—a method by which the no-trump bidder remains the closed hand and has the benefit of the lead coming up to him, even though his partner has a long suit at which he wishes to play the contract.

The usual method for accomplishing this is for the partner of the notrumper to jump to four of the suit immediately below the one he holds. Thus, if he holds a long diamond suit, he jumps to four clubs; with hearts, he jumps to four diamonds; with spades he jumps to four hearts. Partner is then commanded to bid the next higher-ranking suit.

One grave trouble with this convention is that if partner just once forgets he is playing it, he is likely to lose more than whatever advantage he may have gained from using it in a half dozen deals. Even the best players do forget. Two of the top American teams passed partner in four hearts when partner intended them to transfer to four spades. The results were disastrous.

The English had the same difficulty with this convention as other teams. Even a system of fines, in which the player who forgot immediately had to hand over £2 to his partner, did not prevent frequent lapses of memory. So, in order to awaken the sleepy, the English adopted a South African version of the transfer. A jump to four clubs was to ask partner to bid four hearts; a jump to four diamonds asked for four spades. Since a jump to four in a minor suit is a most unusual call over a one no-trump bid, it has the effect of alerting even the most absent-minded player to the need for unusual action. By no means should he pass.

Here is a hand where the Texas convention gained for Great Britain in a crucial match against the Silodor U.S. team.

When Becker and Norman Kay held the North-South hands, Kay opened with one no trump, Albert Rose (West) doubled and Becker jumped to four hearts. East opened the 6 of diamonds, and West won the diamond queen and ace and gave his partner a diamond ruff, at the same time leading the lowest of the suit to tell him to return the lower of the other side suits, clubs. The king of clubs set the contract one trick.

At the other table, the bidding went:

SOUTH

1 N.T.
4 [Hearts]

WEST

PASS
PASS

NORTH

4 [Clubs]
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS

With the West hand, Stone opened the king of clubs and shifted to the 8 of spades. Eventually, declarer gave up two diamonds, but the contract was impregnable against normal defense when played from South's seat. The 720-point gain to England was worth six International Match Points.

A difference in meaning of the conventional slam double gave the winning French squad an advantage in this hand in a match against Stay-man's team.

In the room where Bourchtoff and Delmouly played North-South for France against Rubinow, East, and Mitchell, West, the bidding went:

NORTH

1 [Diamonds]
3 [Diamonds]
4 [Spades]
6 [Clubs]

EAST

1 [Spades]
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH

3 [Clubs]
4 [Clubs]
5 [Clubs]
PASS

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

A double by East would have asked for a lead of dummy's first suit, diamonds, so Rubinow passed. West led the 8 of spades, and the slam was made without difficulty. Declarer won the spade ace, trumped the spade 9 in dummy, cashed the top diamonds, discarding his losing heart, and then ruffed a heart in his hand. South's jack of spades was ruffed with dummy's last trump. The defense was able to make only the club ace.

In the other room, the American pair reached the slam by this bidding:

NORTH

1 [Diamonds]
2 [Hearts]
3 [Diamonds]
PASS
PASS

EAST

1 [Spades]
PASS
PASS
DBL.

SOUTH

2 [Clubs]
2 [Spades]
6 [Clubs]
PASS

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

As Ja√Øs and Trézel play the slam double, it calls for an unusual lead but leaves the choice to the leader. Ja√Øs decided that a heart lead was called for and opened that suit. Trézel collected his two aces and the slam went down 200 points for a total loss of 1,570 or 10 IMPs.

The Bridge-Rama in Italy, which is pronounced much the same as Bridge-O-Rama in the U.S., and has the same function—to keep spectators informed on the play of a hand—differs from its American counterpart in the way it operates. It gives no commentary during the play and little more than the result when a deal is over. Therefore, a player who makes an unfortunate lead is apt, in the eyes of the spectator, to become a scapegoat when, in fact, his choice may have been blameless.

Our team lost heavily as a result of Howard Schenken's lead in the following deal which helped France win the Olympiad. Yet, without knowing what the opponents held in their hands, I am sure I would have made the same lead. Certainly no alternative would have occurred to me.

The club opening cost the defenders both time and a vital trick. South won with the ace and returned the 10, establishing five club tricks while losing only one. Declarer established two diamonds and a spade, and these, along with the ace of hearts, were enough to bring home the game.

In the other room, a weakish notrump bid by the West player for France elicited a two-club response from partner and kept South out of the auction. West bid two hearts and East corrected to two spades, which became the final contract.

The king of diamonds was opened and allowed to win and, when North played the 7, East dropped the 6 to make that card appear as a come-on signal. South continued by leading the diamond queen, won by the ace. Declarer hastened to play the ace and another spade, and eventually brought in four diamonds, three spades and a heart trick to make his two-spade contract. Our total loss was 510 points or six IMPs—enough to have transformed our match from a loss to a tie and to have affected the entire outcome of the tournament.

Throughout the 12-day Olympiad, Great Britain played brilliantly. The team's top pair, Terence Reese and Boris Schapiro, were at the peak of their form, and they were never more deft than when they defended against a no-trump game contract bid by Stayman, always a difficult man to fool. The key play was a clever false card by Schapiro, but both defenders, it will be seen, made the most of their opportunities.

West opened a low heart. Against game contracts in no trump, skillful players often are disinclined to adopt an aggressive defense, lest the tactic present their adversaries with an early advantage in a deal. From this point of view, Reese's lead was impeccable.

South won with the heart king and led a diamond toward dummy's jack. West ducked and the jack won the trick. On the return diamond lead from dummy, Schapiro played the 10 and created an illusion from which declarer never recovered. His king lost to Reese's ace, and South assumed that the queen and 8 of diamonds were behind his 9-6, so that another diamond trick could not be established by force.

Reese shifted to the jack of spades. South won with the ace and returned the 6, finessing dummy's 8 and losing to East's 10. East returned the 6 of clubs, ducked by South and won by West's king—another false card that helped to complete the mirage in declarer's mind. West exited with a heart won by declarer, and a third heart was led to dummy's jack. In dummy for the last time, declarer had to cash the king of spades and choose a discard. He got rid of the 6 of diamonds and then tried another finesse in clubs. Reese captured the club and diamond queens to defeat the contract.

In the other room, against the lead of the 3 of spades, South went after the diamonds. East did not false-card and eventually South made four no trump, winning three spades, two diamonds, four hearts and one club. The swing of 480 was worth five IMPs to England.

Despite France's triumph, don't count the Italians out. They will be back. As 1959 European champions, they will play in the 1961 world bridge championship for the Bermuda Bowl in Buenos Aires next April. The other teams: the French, the Argentinians, who have won the South American championship three years in a row, and a U.S. team to be selected from among the winners and runners-up in our top tournaments this year. The competition figures, as always, to be intense, but I doubt that anything that happens at Buenos Aires or any place else in the next few years will match the excitement of France's 11th-hour victory last week at Turin.

PHOTOTRIUMPHANT FRENCH INCLUDE JAIS, BOURCHTOFF, NEXON (GLASSES), TREZEL, DELMOULY, GHESTEM, BACHERICH

Both sides vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

[Jack of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

SOUTH

[Ace of Spades]
[King of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

EAST

[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[6 of Diamonds]
[10 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

Both sides vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

[Ace of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[4 of Hearts]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

EAST

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

Neither side vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

[Ace of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]

SOUTH

[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]

EAST

[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[none of Clubs]

WEST
(Schenken)

1 [Club]
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Trézel)

PASS
3 N.T.

EAST
(Ogust)

1 [Spade]
PASS

SOUTH
(Jaïs)

1 N.T.
PASS

Neither side vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

[King of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

WEST

[Jack of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[9 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

SOUTH

[Ace of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

EAST

[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[10 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]

EAST
(Schapiro)

PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Stayman)

2 [Club]
2 N.T.
PASS

WEST
(Reese)

PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Rubinow)

2 [Diamond]
3 N.T.

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)