Italy may drop an ace

May 12, 1963

One of the hardest things for the coach or captain of a successful team to do is bench a veteran. It is a sure way to incur the wrath of the fans, and there is the ever-present possibility, should the team lose, that this was the decision that cost it a victory. But such concerns have never disturbed Carl'Alberto Perroux, the nonplaying captain of Italy's bridge team. The Italians have won five straight world championships since 1957, and throughout this period Perroux has shuffled and reshuffled his lineup. With another world championship only a month away—it begins June 15 in St. Vincent, Italy—Perroux has now indicated he may sideline one of the most famous Italians of all, Walter Avarelli. Co-founder of the Roman Club bidding system, Avarelli may be replaced by the much less experienced Camillo Pabis Ticci. But that's the bold Perroux.

Still, it is risky to sacrifice experience in world championship play, as can be seen from this hand, one that helped North America gain an early lead in the 1962 matches against Italy.

West trumped the second round of hearts and gave up two club tricks, establishing dummy's suit and going down only 300 points. Bobby Nail was East for North America, and his judgment in sacrificing at six spades proved correct, guided, as it was, by the Italians' choice of the five-heart bid with the North hand. When both sides are bidding at a high level, the expert will often chance a set by going still higher.

WEST

1 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

NORTH

4 N.T.
6 [Heart]

EAST

5 [Spade]
PASS

SOUTH

DOUBLE
PASS

When North America was North-South, Lew Mathe held the big hand and the bidding was as above. Mathe's choice of four no trump had a dual advantage. It asked South to show aces and it at least partly concealed the freakish nature of his hand. East butted in with five spades to stop South from showing his aces, and this was doubled, exactly as it was by the Italians at the first table. But when Mathe went to six hearts, East was in no position to tell whether or not his side had a good defense. Neither was West. His singleton heart actually suggested that North might be running into trouble. West decided to let the six-heart bid play, and Mathe made seven easily by discarding a diamond on dummy's club ace.

It is interesting to speculate what might have happened if South had been able to show two aces by a bid of five hearts over the four-no-trump bid. Would North have gone to seven hearts—either voluntarily or if pushed by a six-spade save? Would East have doubled in order to ask for an unusual lead? Would West have come up with the killing diamond lead? All these questions lead to one conclusion: with freak hands, anything can happen. Therefore, it is usually best to buy the bid.

ILLUSTRATION

Neither side vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
— [Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

EAST

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

WEST

1 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

NORTH

5 [Heart]
6 [Heart]
PASS

EAST

5 [Spade]
6 [Spade]
PASS

SOUTH

DOUBLE
DOUBLE

Opening lead: ace of hearts

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)