Life status for a prodigy

March 14, 1966

If the game were only basketball, the halls of Galileo High in San Francisco would be overflowing with all of the scouts who have had little to do since Lew Alcindor decided to go to UCLA. The object of their attention would be Kyle Larsen, a 16-year-old junior who has become the youngest Life Master in bridge history.

Kyle's unique achievement is not taken by his parents as a sign of a misspent youth, for both Alane and Kai Larsen have won their share of bridge championships and they know how much imagination, memory, discipline and nerve is involved. Somehow, by his mid-teens, Kyle accumulated enough of these attributes to excel at a game primarily dominated by players 20 to 50 years older.

Kyle's bridge style is patterned after his father's—natural and freewheeling with a minimum of artificial conventions. He has forced himself to adhere to this system, avoiding the trap of exotic bidding which usually retards the progress of new players. In two years of tournament competition he has developed into a tough opponent for any expert.

Last summer in Chicago Kyle had his first success at a national championship when he won the Teen-year Pairs. Then last November, at the Fall Nationals, he teamed with Richard Eichler to win the four-session Men's Pair event for non-Life Masters.

Here is an innocent-looking deal in which Kyle combined sound bidding with a touch of fakery to eliminate a guess and insure a contract that brought a top score. With a minimum no-trump opening and even distribution, North might have rebid three no trump, but he decided it was best to show his strong spade support. Encouraged by an apparently excellent fit, and holding 17 points of his own, including one for his doubleton, Kyle went directly to slam.

After that, all Kyle had to do was find the best way to take 12 tricks. When West led a spade and dummy came down, it appeared that the hand would depend upon guessing who held the queen of clubs. But any bridge player likes to give himself better than a 50-50 chance. Like a professional—and a guileful one—Kyle found the extra possibility.

He won with the 9 of spades in his hand and led a diamond toward dummy. West ducked, and dummy's jack won. Next Kyle came back to his hand with a trump and led another low diamond. West knew that declarer still had the diamond king and it seemed to him he could afford to duck the trick. West figured that South was making the standard play from a four-card diamond suit including the king and that declarer probably held a singleton club and three hearts to the ace and was trying to establish his fourth diamond. If such was the case, taking the diamond ace would enable South to later unload a losing heart from dummy on the high diamond.

With only a mildly suspicious glance at the beardless youth in declarer's chair, West played low. If East had indeed held the doubleton 10 of diamonds, this might have been the only way to set the contract. As it was, when dummy's queen of diamonds held, Kyle cashed the ace and king of hearts, ruffed dummy's last heart and then played his king of diamonds, which West had to take with the ace. West was now compelled either to lead a red card, which would let Kyle sluff a club in one hand while he ruffed in the other, or a club. In either case, the need to guess the position of the club queen was gone.

Neither side vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

[King of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[Six of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

NORTH

1 N.T.
4 [Spade]
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Larsen)

3 [Spade]
6 [Spade]

WEST

PASS
PASS

Opening lead: 7 of spades

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)