One of the worlds finest bridge champions passed through Florida recently. Gabriel Chagas had just arrived from Europe before going on to New York. He was with his wife Leda and family for a short vacation. He had time to play and win a quick tennis match in Boca Raton. Chagas is one of only 8 players in the world to have won the Grand Slam of bridge - the Bermuda Bowl as well as the teams and pairs Olympiad .He is well known for his ebullient personality. A gourmet in both food and wine his appetite for good food is legendary.
I was playing rubber bridge when he called me. Maggie and you must come down to Miami and join Leda and me for dinner. I knew we would not be dining at Macdonalds so I took a little extra care with the game contract I was playing . We met them at his hotel in Coconut Grove and followed them to the restaurant, Baleens one of Floridas finest he confided.
The restaurant was tastefully decorated and was filled with beautiful candle displays .The waiter ushered us to a booth as Gabriel handed him his special wine carrier. He always brings two bottles of fine wine with him when he dines at a good restaurant. Often there is a story to the wine that he tells with relish just as he would describe a bridge hand.
After studying the menu he decided to go for fish. He ordered oysters followed by stone
The conversation turned to bridge and I asked him about his most memorable win and most tragic loss. He savoured the wine while describing the scene in 1976 -Monte Carlo. USA had just won the Bermuda Bowl against Italy and immediately after the Olympiad was played. Our team was doing well and played the favorites Italy. At the start of the game I felt there was something wrong and asked the tournament director to check on our starting positions. He told me not to worry. We had a great game but sure enough when we went to score with our teammates both teams had sat the same way. They were going to give us a 10-10 draw but as I had questioned the seating earlier the score was amended to our average and 12-12 was given.
With one round to play it looked as if Italy were certain to win .They were 11 ahead and needed only a draw against Greece to ensure the Championship. Brazil had to play Canada. As Kehela and Murray the top Canadians had not played against Italy the Canadians kept them on the bench against Brazil. Brazil won a blitz.
Meanwhile Italy suffered a sensational defeat at the hands of Greece that allowed Brazil to win their first World Team Championship.
In effect the following hand determined the winners.
Franco - Garozzo bid to 6 and Franco had to play after the lead of the J. How would you play? Franco ducked the club and won the continuation . He drew trumps in three rounds before playing A K and a third heart ruffing in hand. Now if the spades divided or the hand with four spades held four hearts he would be squeezed-a reasonable line but no luck for Italy.
To make the hand you duck the first club and win the continuation. A club ruff is followed by the A. A K and a third heart ruffed. Now A is followed by ruffing dummy's last heart with the Q. Trumps are drawn and two more high spades make 12 tricks. It was a dummy reversal but lucky for us declarer did not play it that way beamed Chagas.
The next occasion was at another World Championship. We were playing Norway in the semi -final. Our table was finished and we went upstairs to await the result. It looked good for us s we had a big lead and good results to come. . The captain offered me champagne but I refused. I never celebrate it till I know we have won. With one board left our lead had been reduced to single figures but we had had a great last board. The opposition could make 4 and we had bid 5 which was doubled. This was off the trump AK the heart ace and another couple of tricks. We had gone only one down. We got the commentary from the closed room and heard that the final contact was 5CX. Now the captain offered me champagne and I thought it was safe to drink it. The Brazilian led out his A. His next move was to play the trump ace dropping his partners stiff K! After this he made the only switch to allow declarer to make the hand. Chagas blamed himself - he had done the unforgiveable by tempting fate and celebrating early.
The waiter came to take the dessert order. The girls declined but I said I would share the apple Napoleon with Gabriel. He said good idea and ordered a second dessert for himself.
He quickly scribbled a hand on a bit of paper. 843, 6, Q108, AKQ642 You hear 1 on your left 2 on your right and you try 3. The next bid is 7 from your LHO and your partner doubles what would you lead. Partner either has a void spade or the A I ventured. Before I could say any more he laughed loudly bad luck!
Your LHO hand was A K 10 9 8 6 5 A 10 9 4 - 5 3
Partner held the A. Of course I was your LHO he smiled. I saw that even although he was getting older he was still up to his old tricks.
The meal was exquisite, the company fun and the bill had a lot of numbers on it -credit cards are a great invention.