Tall tale and true

February 19, 1968

Exhibition bridge matches not directly connected with national and international team championships are playing an increasingly important role in the programs of top players. Recently a powerful American team went on a three-week bridge safari to South Africa, where it swept the board in matches against seven different teams and won two other events. The Americans included Peter Pender, the 1966 McKenney winner, and five other stars with considerable world championship experience: Dorothy Hayden, B. Jay Becker, Peter Leventritt, Billy Seamon and the big man of bridge, 6-foot-7 Bill Root. Although Root stands out in any crowd—Margaret Wagar, looking vainly for her partner in a milling mob just before the beginning of a Mixed Pair Championship, once mourned, "I wish I were playing with Bill Root"—his height, his reputation as a teacher and his patience in the shadow of mercurial Alvin Roth tend to obscure the fact that he is a superb player indeed. He will play with Roth in the 1968 Olympiad.

South African observers rated this deal as the best played in the entire three weeks of bridge action:

Psychiatrist Stan Turecki and Physician David Klugman make up one of South Africa's strongest pairs, and Root had to operate against keen defense. West continued with the heart ace at trick two as the move best calculated to prevent Root from setting up dummy's diamonds. Dummy had to ruff, and Klugman overruffed, returning the 3 of clubs, which Root won with the ace.

At this point it would take a computer to calculate the combined odds on splitting the trumps, splitting the diamonds, dropping the diamond queen in two leads, making the contract even if East had started with four trumps, etc. Root had neither the time nor the computer to make such calculations, so he calmly went about playing the hand the right way to make it. He drew trumps in two leads, cashed the ace and king of diamonds and led the jack of diamonds through East, ruffing out the queen. Although he did not have a visible reentry to dummy, Root had already made the play that won the game: instead of discarding his sure club loser on dummy's diamond king he had let go a heart and had kept the 4 of clubs.

After Root had ruffed the third round of diamonds and led another trump, this was the situation:

NORTH

[Spades—]
[Hearts—]
[10 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]

WEST

[Spades—]
[Jack of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[Diamonds—]
[King of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]

EAST

[Spades—]
[Hearts—]
[9 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]

SOUTH

[8 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[Diamonds—]
[4 of Clubs]

Root led his last spade, and West had to escape a trap. If he discarded a heart, South's two hearts would be good. If he discarded the 7 of clubs, a club lead would put him in and force a heart play into South's queen-9, giving Root the last two tricks. West's only out was to let go the king of clubs, and, after dummy's diamond was discarded, East had no successful defense against South's lead of the carefully preserved 4 of clubs. Whatever East did, dummy was bound to win a club trick and a diamond trick to make the contract.

THIRTY SEVEN ILLUSTRATIONS

Both sides vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

EAST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST
(Dr. Klugman)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Root)

PASS
[2 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]

WEST
(Dr. Turecki)

[1 of Hearts]
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Seamon)

[2 of Diamonds]
[3 of Clubs]
PASS

Opening lead: king 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)