The huge turnout of bridge experts that swarmed over hospitable Jackson, Miss, last month had dwindled to six teams in the 11th and final day of play for the Vanderbilt Trophy and the National Contract Bridge Team championship. Then came an astonishing hand.
It was a deal on which North and South had a lay-down grand slam at clubs. Yet no player on either of two of America's finest teams ever mentioned the suit. According to some modern bidding styles, the hand—with 13 points, including the three for a void in spades-qualified only as an optional bid. But the holders of the hand soon discovered that it is dangerous not to exercise the option. Once both players sitting North had passed, neither was able to recover. They never did find a chance to bid the club suit.
East's weak two-spade opener stole the bidding. So, having passed originally, North, Russ Arnold of Miami, playing with Mrs. Kemp on the von Zedtwitz team, found himself in a spot where he would have to go past three no trump in order to show his clubs at all. Even if I could have seen three no trump as a sound bid in this round—and I am fairly certain that I could not have—I would have bid five clubs later. But I would not have waited so long to show my clubs; I would have opened with one club at my first turn.
After winning her ace of hearts, Mrs. Kemp put her partner in with the ace of diamonds. A heart return for South to ruff would have defeated the four-spade bid one trick. But North continued diamonds, East trumped, and the king of trumps was the only other trick the defenders took. Four spades was made for a score of 790—but that was hardly North-South's biggest loss. Analyzing their hands, they saw that seven clubs was a laydown for a score of 2,140. So, depending on events at the other table, the von Zedtwitz team might lose nearly 3,000 points.
At the other table, the opposing team, now holding the same fateful clubs—and 13 points—had an equal, if totally different, disaster, because it passed the perfectly sound opening club bid. The bidding went: