It would be exciting to report that behind the French victory in the World Bridge Team Olympiad at Turin last month (SI, May 16) was a marvelous new system of bidding that was so clever in its conception, so precise in its signals that the whole game of bridge had been revolutionized—and for the better. It is true that two of the French players, Ren� Bacherich and Pierre Ghestem, did operate with a totally different kind of bidding, but their method was so detailed (see box) that even they had a hard time keeping track of it. It is also true that the other French pairs employed the felicitous and in many ways delightful bidding wrinkle known as Canap�. But neither of these departures played a dominant role in the outcome.
The French—Bacherich and Ghestem, Pierre Ja�s, Roger Tr�zel, G�rard Bourchtoff and Claude Delmouly and their nonplaying captain, Baron Robert de Nexon—simply outgeneraled and outplayed the top stars of 24 other countries, including the four teams representing the U.S. And, in doing it, they exploded the myth that today only a complex bidding system can win the world title. Indeed, if there were one essential point to be made about the Olympiad, it would be that teams that stuck closest to natural bidding did the best.
The real surprise in the tournament was the collapse of the Italians. Using the same intricate "supersystems" that had brought them the world title three years running, the Italians won only one of five matches in the finals and finished sixth. One reason, I think, is obvious. They missed the leadership of their non-playing captain, Carl' Alberto Per-roux, who was taken ill on the eve of the finals. The Italians fielded their two strongest pairs session after session until one of them, through sheer exhaustion, played badly. Perroux, I am almost certain, would have substituted more freely and Italy would have done better.
The same might be said of the Americans. They had been convinced that only the Italians stood between them and the world championship. It came as a shock, therefore, that the French and the British topped them. But by the final rounds the Americans were weary and disorganized, too. Although our teams also were led by nonplaying captains, in no case did the captain wield the same sort of absolute authority given to the Europeans. It may be that before a U.S. team does finally win a world title again it will have to adopt the European idea.
Baron de Nexon, in fact, may have won the Olympiad for the Frenchmen by effectively juggling his lineup so as to rest the pair he thought was showing signs of wear. One point is certain. In studying the hands played in the Olympiad, I observed few cases where the exotic bidding method of Bacherich and Ghestem provided any substantial return for the brain-busting effort of memorizing the cryptograms in which they encoded each bid. Remember—in tournament play no pair can have secrets. The opponents need only ask a question to get the full import of every bid, and often this extra information helps them to defend.
The Ja�s-Tr�zel and Bourchtoff-Delmouly pairs, by contrast, used a style in which most of their bids meant exactly what they seemed to say. The principal difference between their methods and those followed by most experts were these: 1) in combination with the artificial two-club opening, which they employed as a game force on very big hands, they used opening two-bids in the other three suits to show hands not quite powerful enough to insist on partner keeping the bidding open even with a bust; and 2) in bidding strong hands they used the canap� method created by the late Pierre Albarran.
Canap� gets its name from the small tidbits served before the main course. In the Canap� bidding style, the shorter suit is mentioned before the longer and stronger one. This method has two main virtues: 1) it tells partner he can safely pass the second bid if he has a weak hand, 2) if responder makes a further bid, it indicates some real values. Nonusers of Canap� sometimes get overboard because responder, with equal strength (or equal weakness), goes back to the opener's first suit. Sometimes the opener's first suit isn't as good as his second; sometimes the opener is unduly encouraged by this "preference" and makes the one further bid that takes his side too high.
Occasionally, in order to make use of their canap� method, the French players first bid a three-card suit in preference to a good five-carder or even a six-carder. In the following deal from the crucial match against the hitherto undefeated English, the French hors d'oeuvre style served them well.
The deal also serves to illustrate another point in international team competition: a part-score deal will frequently create a substantial swing when reckoned in International Match Points.
Both sides vulnerable East dealer