Barnet Shenkin

The Sunday Telegraph by R.A. Priday prev/next

Indian Summer

British bridge players who visit the United States are always astonished by the size and number of American tournaments. During the year there are three nationals, 79 regionals and over 760 sectionals licensed by the American Contract Bridge League- more than two tournaments a day.

Many of the sectional tournaments, which go under such unusual names as Indian Summer, Little Brown Jug and Tumble weed, attract an entry which would make the organizers of most British congresses green with envy.

Master points are still the great attraction for Americans and the more important tournaments last longer and offer a higher proportion of gold master points which are the most valuable. The three nationals last about 10 days, the regionals five days and the sectionals between three and four days. If, one year, a tournament boasts a particularly high attendance, it can run for an extra day the following year.

I recently attended the Philadelphia Super regional which was organized as part of the bicentennial celebrations. The tournament took place in one hotel, the Philadelphia Sheraton, and over five days there were 2,739 tables in play. Despite the numbers, the organization was efficient, strict time allowance was observed for play, iced water was permanently available and at least one-third of the competitors in the main events were permitted to play in non-smoking sections.

As part of the celebrations, an exhibition match was staged between an American team and four invited internationals from Britain. Although the British won three of the four 10-board sessions, we were, I regret to say, eventually defeated by 90-65 i.m.p. Above was one of the more sensational deals.

North's 2♦ was the Multi so East decided to bide his time. South could have bid 3 N.T., showing support for both majors, but instead he made an enquiry of 2 N.T. and North's 3♣ showed a weak two opening in hearts which was not minimum. East's 3♥ was intended as a form of take-out double but West failed to interpret this correctly or he would no doubt have bid 5♦ either directly over 4♥ or after East's subsequent double.

Dlr: West
Vul: N-S
N ♠4
♥K Q 10 8 7 3 2
♦9 5
♣9 7 4
W ♠9 5
♥J 5
♦K 10 8 7 4 2
♣A 10 3
 E ♠Q 10 7 6 3
♦A Q J 3
♣K Q J 6
 S ♠A K J 8 2
♥A 9 6 4
♣8 5 2

Bidding (Open Room):

Pass 2♦Pass2NT
Pass 3♣ 3♥ 4♥

At this stage the Americans had an unfortunate accident, of the sort which often occurs against artificial conventions like the Multi. Knowing that North held the long hearts and temporarily imagining that North was the declarer, East led ♣K out of turn. With his poor club holding South had no difficulty in deciding to forbid a club lead and the spotlight was now on West.

Close analysis show that, as he did not lead a spade, East will not hold both ♠A and ♠K but, after his double, he will certainly hold either ♦A or ♦Q. West might therefore have led a diamond and defeated the contract by one trick as East would win with ♦A and switch to clubs. However Blumenthal is a highly ethical player and, knowing that he should not profit from his partner's impropriety, he led ♠9, the card he would probably have played if East had not led out of turn.

Declarer won the first trick with ♠J and drew two rounds of trumps on which East discarded a diamond and a spade. Declarer was now able to set up the fifth round of spades and so made two overtricks.

In the closed room North South did not enter the auction so the British East West played in 5♦, making 12 tricks after a heart lead. The total swing was therefore 1,610 points or 17 i.m.p. - a fortunate gain for the British.