The circus under Omar's tent

September 08, 1968

The man more often introduced as Dr. Zhivago than as Omar the Actor would really prefer to be introduced as Omar the Playmaker. The bridge playmaker, that is. Acting may be Omar Sharif's career, but it finances his avocation—the quixotic pilgrimage around Europe and America known as the Omar Sharif Bridge Circus.

Anyone who suspects that this might be a publicity stunt hasn't seen Omar play bridge. On the tour he scarcely mentions any of the films he has made that await release, or his new one—he will play Che Guevara—for which he is letting his hair grow wild.

How good a bridge player is Omar? He is not quite as good as the four international stars he has wisely assembled to perform as his supporting cast. Giorgio Belladonna and Benito Garozzo, who do not play as partners on Italy's world championship Blue Team, are cementing on this tour what is already the world's greatest bridge partnership. Claude Delmouly played on the 1968 French Olympiad team and on the 1960 team that won the only world championship Italy hasn't captured during the past 12 years. Leon Yallouze is a veteran Egyptian international star now residing in Paris.

But Omar is also a topflight player who has mastered the Blue Team system of bidding, and he has an unmistakable flair for play, demonstrated on numerous occasions. In Toronto, for example, Sharif was on lead against 6 diamonds with [Ace of Spades] [8 of Spades] [6 of Spades] [3 of Spades], [8 of Hearts] [7 of Hearts] [6 of Hearts] [5 of Hearts], [10 of Diamonds] [3 of Diamonds], [Queen of Clubs] [10 of Clubs] [8 of Clubs]. The opposing bidding had gone:

SOUTH

1 [Diamond]
2 [Heart]
4 [Heart]
5 [Heart]

NORTH

2 [Club]
4 [Diamond]
4 NT
6 [Diamond]

What would you have led? At the other table, West opened the ace of spades, and the slam rolled. Omar opened the 3 of spades! Dummy held [King of Spades] [9 of Spades] and declarer [Jack of Spades] [10 of Spades] [5 of Spades]. South guessed wrong and Omar's daring underlead of the ace defeated an "unbeatable" contract.

Against the young Dallas Aces on the deal shown opposite, he escaped a trap that might have enmeshed a declarer of lesser skill.

Sharif had to time his four-heart contract carefully. West led the king, ace and another club, the third round won by declarer's queen. If Sharif now led trumps, West would go up with the ace and lead his last club. Declarer would have to ruff in dummy to prevent East from scoring a trump trick, and West's queen of trumps would be promoted into the setting trick. So Omar first played three rounds of diamonds, discarding his last club.

Now he was ready to draw trumps, and it was tempting to come back to his hand with the spade ace to lead the jack of hearts through. That could have been fatal. West could step up with the heart ace and lead his last spade, leaving declarer to guess whether to re-enter his hand by ruffing a spade or dummy's last diamond.

Sharif made the guess unnecessary. He cashed the spade king before leading to the ace. When West took his heart ace he would have to return a suit that would enable Omar to ruff in his hand and lead another heart to pick up the queen and his contract.

Omar says of Sophia Loren's poker-playing that she hates to lose. The same is true of Omar's bridge. Winning eight of his 10 matches in this country has encouraged him to come back for an even longer tour in 1969. The presentation may be somewhat different, but the object the same—beat the circus. With Omar and his All-Stars in top form, that's going to be hard to do.

West dealer Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

WEST

1 [Club]
PASS
PASS

NORTH

DOUBLE
4 [Heart]

EAST

PASS
PASS

SOUTH

2 [Heart]
PASS

Opening lead: king 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)