The Congress Cup runneth over the border

August 13, 1967

The Congress Cup, emblematic of the intercity bridge championship, is the latest piece of silverware to be taken away from the aces of U.S. bridge. For the first time since the event was inaugurated in 1960 the title went north of the border as Montreal's challengers defeated heavily favored Chicago.

Chicago's team had two international veterans as its co-captains, Billy Rosen and Ivar Stakgold, both of whom had played for North America in world championship events. Montreal had no such famous competitors, but Chicago, winner the last two times, was bucking a jinx. No team has ever been able to win the intercity championship three times in a row. Though the final score was 173-131, the match was reasonably close.

Montreal actually won by getting off to a very fast start. By the end of 27 deals in the 64-hand match the home team was ahead 86-43, in part because of its success with this interesting hand. Chicago's North-South pair seemed to have avoided serious trouble when it stayed out of a losing slam in hearts, yet not even five could be made when all of the trumps turned up in one hand. But the Montrealers ended up in six no trump, and they made their slam when West "disobeyed" a lead-directing double.

East was startled when, without long thought, his partner led the 5 of clubs. His double was the kind that is made against a slam, not in expectation of racking up points but because it calls for an unusual lead. In this case East felt it should have been apparent that he was calling for a heart opening, for a slam double also suggests the lead of dummy's first-bid suit. But as North put down his cards, East realized what had happened. North had a six-card heart suit. South must hold the other two hearts. West had disobeyed the command for a heart lead simply because he had no hearts.

Fearful of setting up more club tricks than declarer could make on his own if he happened to hold king-queen-small and was short on entries, East let dummy's jack hold. My panel of expert commentators was quick to point out that this might have been East's last chance to win a trick. If South had been willing to chance no worse than a 4-3 spade split, he could have run off dummy's five diamonds, discarding one heart and one club, then overtaken the queen of spades for five spade tricks. On the last of these, East would have to decide whether to pitch the ace of clubs or blank his king of hearts, and in either event East would never make a trick.

But South knew he had a good contract going for him and he took no chances on finding five spades in one hand. He prudently cashed the queen of spades, got to his hand with a diamond and discarded four of dummy's hearts on the good spades. Then he ran dummy's diamonds and the ace of hearts, cheerfully surrendering a heart trick in the end. In the other room the Chicago North-South played the hand at five hearts. East did not double for fear of chasing his opponents to a better spot. He opened with the ace of clubs and then sat back to wait for his two certain trump tricks, setting the contract. On this one hand Montreal was able to gain 15 international match points.

ILLUSTRATION

East-West vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

NORTH

1 [Heart]
3 [Diamond]
5 [Heart]
PASS
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS
DOUBLE

SOUTH

1 [Spade]
4 N.T.
6 N.T.
PASS

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: 5 of clubs

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)