A player who does well in a bridge tournament is rewarded by the American Contract Bridge League with a grant of master points. You can't spend them but the total you amass goes on the record to indicate that you are a good player. Your total also decides whether you are qualified to play in master events.
The system works well enough when applied to American players. The trouble is that we do not have a system of foreign exchange whereby the exploits of a foreign star can be translated into an equivalent number of points—not for the record but for the purpose of qualifying newcomers and visitors to the events in which they deserve to play.
There is something incongruous, for example, in labeling as a nonmaster the player who starred as declarer in the following deal.
South was Bela (Mike) Kassay—one of the leading bridge players of Hungary as well as one of the leaders in the anti-Communist revolt of 1956—as a result of which he is now playing his bridge in the U.S. Even though he brought with him all the skill that made him a great player in Hungary, he ranked here as a nonmaster until he won 50 master points in American competition. Whether this was fair, either to Kassay or the lesser players against whom he had to compete, you may judge from what happened in this deal.
The opening lead gave declarer a problem. With two top trumps missing, it appeared that the only chance was to win a heart finesse. But East's takeout double and West's lead of hearts convinced Kassay that the king must be offside, so he won the trick with dummy's ace. He cashed the ace and king of clubs, discarding a heart. Then he ruffed a third round of clubs.
Returning to dummy by ruffing a spade, declarer played a fourth club and East discarded. (It would scarcely have helped the defenders for East to ruff with the ace of diamonds, for this would give South a chance to ditch his remaining heart.) South ruffed the club, got back to dummy with another spade ruff and played the fifth club, which now was high.
Once again, East realized that it would be futile to ruff with the diamond ace. When he discarded, South threw his last heart. West ruffed with a low diamond, but after declarer trumped the next heart lead he played a trump, and East's ace and West's king won this trick with a resounding redundancy. South lost tricks only to the 5 of diamonds and the ace and so brought home his doubled contract.
Although South deserves full credit for his fine play, East could have defeated the hand with a superbrilliant defense. Had he realized the situation, East could discard one heart on the fourth round of clubs and throw the king of hearts on the fifth club. This would enable him to trump the second lead of hearts with his ace of diamonds and would have spared his partner's bare king from the embarrassment that followed.
I mention this, however, only to forestall those keen-eyed readers who will have noted the possibility and may already have taken their pens in hand. It would indeed have been a colossal play, but not even East's partner has thought of a good reason why East should have realized it was necessary.