Kantaring through the Grand National

July 28, 1974

The Grand National, newest of the four big team contests conducted annually by the American Contract Bridge League, is unlike any of the others. It starts in grassroots competitions, which this year involved more than 5,000 teams, proceeds through district and regional playoffs and ends in an eight-team final just prior to the Summer Nationals.

There were 318 original entries in the Los Angeles district, where the 1974 winning team began its march. In fact, it was in one of the early rounds at home that Eddie Kantar, Billy Eisenberg, Paul Soloway, John Swanson, Larry Cohen and Dr. Richard Katz had their closest call, even though they were heavy favorites. From there on, however, the Los Angeles squad breezed to the title, although it never had to face the team from New York captained by Sam Stayman, which had been installed as co-favorite at the start of the quarterfinals. Stayman & Co. were routed in the semifinals by a Detroit squad captained by Stanley Smith. But when Detroit met Los Angeles in the final, it lost by such a wide margin—233-71—that the last set of boards might never have been played except for an ACBL rule disallowing forfeits. In all, the Kantar team won 16 matches, and when you are going well whatever you do seems to turn out right, as was demonstrated by this deal against Detroit.

West's bid of two clubs was a weakish request for partner to bid one of the majors. This made North's bid of two hearts a sort of cue bid even though it was based on a real suit, and South needed no further encouragement to bid his way to five clubs. Kantar's best reason for doubling instead of bidding five spades as a sacrifice was something he thought of only in the postmortem. As it was, declarer was able to ruff two spade losers in dummy, take a winning diamond finesse and concede a diamond, making one overtrick for plus 950.

Later, when the scores were being compared, Kantar grinned and asked Swanson, who played the South hand at the other table, "Did you bid the slam?" "Of course," Swanson replied, and he went on to recite the auction:

SOUTH
(Swanson)

1 [Diamond]
4 NT
6 [Diamond]

WEST
(Hamilton)

2 [Diamond]
5 [Spade]
PASS

NORTH
(Soloway)

3 [Spade]
6 [Club]
PASS

EAST
(Starr)

4 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

West's cue bid in diamonds had the same meaning as the two-club cue bid at Kantar's table. North's jump to three spades was a "splinter," showing a singleton or void in spades and good support for diamonds. The rest was natural except that after the interference bid of five spades, Soloway's bid of six clubs showed one ace in response to Swanson's Blackwood four no trump.

"Good," crowed Kantar, pretending he had planned it that way. "We gained 420 points—nine IMPs—by doubling them before they could bid their slam."

"But how come you bid the slam at diamonds when you had a much better club suit?" Eisenberg inquired of Soloway, backing up his partner's ploy.

"Well," retorted Soloway, "you may have noticed that East-West has a cheap save at six spades. But opponents never take saves when you are in an inferior contract."

Nobody cracked a smile as the conversation moved smoothly along to the next deal.

ILLUSTRATION

Both sides vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH
(Burger)

1 [Club]
4 [Diamond]
5 [Club]
PASS

WEST
(Eisenberg)

2 [Club]
4 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Perlman)

2 [Heart]
PASS
PASS
PASS

EAST
(Kantar)

3 [Spade]
PASS
DOUBLE

Opening lead: king 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)