In current weeks, members of our State Department stationed in many far-flung capitals are wrestling with some ticklish problems concerning kings and queens. Some must be handled with finesse, but none requires diplomacy, for the kings and queens are the familiar ones to be found in every deck of playing cards. And for once the role each monarch is intended to play has been carefully prearranged.
The occasion is the second annual World-Wide Bridge Tournament sponsored by the Department of State—U.S. Information Agency Recreation Association. By means of 16 prepared "par" hands, U.S. Government personnel from Kalamazoo to Timbuctu will be able to compete among themselves in a little world championship without traveling from the area where each is stationed.
Here is a typical deal from last year's tournament. I believe that it will give you a good idea of the kind of problems which will be met.
The creation of par hands is a delicate art but one at which Geoffrey Mott-Smith, who prepares and scores this tournament, has become adept through long experience. A par-maker's plan is often upset by unexpected bidding resulting in an unforeseen contract or making the "wrong" hand declarer and thus altering the effect of the opening lead. In this deal, however, whether South rebids one no trump or two clubs (in which case North should raise to three clubs) he should become the no trump declarer. It is on this assumption that the playing problem has been built into the hand.
Declarer tries to win the first spade by playing dummy's queen, but East covers with the king. It doesn't much matter whether declarer ducks this trick or wins the ace at once. He can hardly hope to shut out the opponent with the long spades, and if he gives up a trick to the ace of hearts the opponents will run enough spades to beat him. That boils the problem down to the comparatively simple one of finding the best chance to win four tricks each in clubs and diamonds.
One menace is the possibility of finding an opponent with four clubs including the jack. South can guard against this danger only if the length is with West. So the correct play is to cash the ace and queen, retaining dummy's king and 10 for a possible finesse. But West's jack drops under the queen, and that worry is eliminated. Now what more does declarer need than to find East with the king of diamonds?
The answer is that he may need to make three diamond leads from dummy. And here is where the careful player is distinguished from the card pusher. When the jack of clubs appears, declarer should overtake his own queen with dummy's king. Then, when the diamond finesse succeeds, he gets back to dummy by playing the 7 of clubs and overtaking with dummy's 10. The diamond finesse is again taken successfully, and now South leads the club 2 and overtakes it with dummy's 6. This vital third reentry is the key to the success of the entire play, for it enables South to take a third diamond finesse—without which he would be unable to win the needed four diamond tricks.
If you would like to take a crack at playing the same hands which will decide the 1958 State Department tournament, you can obtain diagrams of all 16 deals, plus a copy of the analysis of how the hands should have been bid and played in order to win the pars, by sending 10� to Tournament Hands, P.O. Box 54 A, Mount Vernon 10, New York. (Please do not write to me or SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.)