Two swings to a knockout

September 04, 1966

Two sensational slam hands provided the big "swings" at Denver in the battle for the Spingold Trophy, emblematic of the Masters Knockout Team title won by Ira Rubin's group. The first occurred in the semifinal between teams captained by Edith Kemp and George Rapée. Edith had benched herself with a headache and a 17-IMP lead after having played a magnificent third quarter with Cliff Russell that was watched by some 500 kibitzers via the giant Bridge-O-Rama. In the final quarter, however, Rapée's bombers rallied to win by 22.

The big shift in fortunes was the lucky result of a psychic bid by Harold Ogust of the Rapée team on this deal:

Both sides vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

[5 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Jack of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH
(Levitt)

1 [Heart]
4 [Spade]
6 [Heart]

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Ogust)

1 [Spade]!
5 [Heart]
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: 4 of diamonds

Ogust viewed his North hand as a liability if East and West got together in spades, so he decided to put in the first spade bid. Paul Levitt's natural enthusiasm for this response had to be corrected to five hearts. Levitt then assumed that his partner had slam ideas.

East won the first diamond and tried to cash a second trick in that suit. Declarer ruffed, cashed the heart king and led the top clubs, hoping to drop the queen. When that failed, he went to dummy with the ace of hearts, took a successful spade finesse, discarded North's jack of clubs on the ace of spades and tabled his hand, claiming the slam. Needless to say, the Kemp team settled for four hearts on their North-South cards—thereby losing 13 IMPs. That left the field to Rubin and Rapée for the 72-deal final, and though it took 71 more deals to make the result official, the match actually had been decided by the very first deal:

Neither side vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

[Jack of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[9 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH
(Lazard)

1 [Club]
3 [Club]
4 [Diamond]
5 [Heart]
6 [Heart]
PASS

WEST
(Root)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Rapée)

2 [Spade]
3 [Heart]
4 N.T.
6 [Club]
7 [Club]

EAST
(Roth)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: 9 of clubs

The consensus was that North's three-heart bid was the cause of getting to a grand slam that required taking the right finesse and getting some good breaks. Rapée didn't want to get to seven, but by the time the auction reached six clubs Sidney Lazard had not supported his partner's hearts.

Mathematically, the diamond finesse seemed to offer the simplest chance. If it succeeded. South could trump a third diamond, and any reasonable spade break would let him take three heart discards from his hand, making the heart finesse unnecessary. But the diamond finesse lost. The heart finesse would have won. West would have been unable to guard the heart suit and the diamond king as well, so that if South had guessed the situation he could have made all the tricks.

At the other table Ira Rubin and Curtis Smith stopped at six clubs and made it for a swing of 970 points—13 IMPs.

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)