Today it is my purpose to pay tribute to what I regard as the shrewdest bid in many seasons. In doing so, I feel as if I were eulogizing an unknown soldier. East, the hero of my tale, must remain anonymous because, by the time his exploit was brought to my attention, he had departed from the tournament floor, and I have never been able to establish his identity.
Before revealing the entire deal, let me present you with East's hand (right) and an opportunity to share his glory.
Suppose that the opponent who dealt you these fine cards opened with a two bid and, under his own power, duly reached a contract of six spades. Without hesitation would you not choose the money-in-the-bank penalty double? Or can you think of something you would prefer to planning what you would do with the profits?
While you're dreaming of a long tropical vacation, let me lay out the cards as they were dealt.
The bidding went somewhat differently when I myself first encountered his hand in a recent tournament. Since I was playing the dummy's role, my only real lines were put into my mouth by my partner's opening two bid. After mouthing the required two no-trump response, I heard East pass, and South jump straightway to six spades. This bit of folly shocked East into taking another careful look at his hand before he doubled. I was far too weak to redouble and my partner far too shrewd to do so. By taking care not to revoke, East was able to hold declarer to his contract.
But let me tell you what happened at the table where the unidentified hero participated. The bidding occurred as shown in the diagram. At his first turn, East, suspecting skulduggery, leaped to four hearts. But when South promptly contracted for six spades, East chose the rather surprising call of seven hearts.
In making this choice, East quite obviously allowed his ears to overrule his eyes. When South bid a slam in the face of his partner's warning he might be trickless, East decided he had better take his vulnerable opponent's word that he could win 12 tricks unaided. In view of East's own hand, this could mean only that South held nothing but black cards, with both suits solid except for the ace of spades.
The rest was a matter of mathematics. A vulnerable small slam, undoubled, counts 1,430 points. In tournament play, where you are awarded one match point for each pair whose score you beat, if South's hand was as advertised, East could afford to go down five tricks for a loss of 1,400 points and show a substantial match point profit.
East undertook the sacrifice, bidding seven hearts. He was set only four tricks and thereby earned the best East-West score on this deal.
If you care to assist in the search for the hero of this tale, I have two suggestions to offer. You might start your quest on the floor of the Stock Exchange. Look for a successful operator among the bears. If you locate more than one, select the trader with the early training in poker.