Haiti, that magic-loving island republic, is playing high-class international bridge these days, and no legerdemain about it. Tricks the Haitians have, but they are honestly come by. Playing in Port-au-Prince last month, fellow Miamians William Seamon, Harry Harkavy, Leland Ferer and I ran into strong native opposition. The Haitians, who are short on experience, got off to an uncertain start in a weekend of bridge that included a team-of-four match and a pair competition. But after that they were surprisingly tough.
My seasoned companions and I had come to Haiti to encourage and promote the game there. I am not sure that our mission was necessary but we had fun, and no one more so than-the irrepressible Harkavy, who demonstrated a little bridge magic of his own in the following deal from the team-of-four contest.
At the other table, where my partner and I held the East-West cards, our opponents and hosts settled in a comfortable contract of three clubs, making four when declarer lost a trick in every suit but spades. North-South scored 130 points (in tournament play, a bonus of 50 points is awarded for fulfilling a part-score contract). To everyone at our table this appeared to be a normal result, with small prospect for any great swing. But with Harkavy in action, there is virtually no such thing as a swing-proof deal.
North's one no-trump rebid usually designates a fair to middling hand. Harkavy (South) counted on finding perhaps 15 high-card points and a couple of spades in North's hand, which would have made his four-spade contract a reasonable gamble.
When West opened the king of hearts and dummy was put down, it seemed that South would have to lose at least one trick in each suit. But with the kind of juggling for which he is famous, Harkavy made one of these losing tricks disappear.
After his king of hearts held, West switched to a low diamond. Dummy's 9 was covered by East's jack and won by declarer's ace. A trump to dummy's ace permitted South to ruff a heart. Harkavy next led a diamond to the 10, forcing East's king. East returned a diamond to dummy's queen, and South discarded a club. Another heart was ruffed and West's ace fell.
After a successful finesse of dummy's club queen, the club ace was cashed. Declarer did not make the mistake of discarding his losing club on the good heart. West would have ruffed, led a diamond trumped by East's queen, and after South overruffed, West would have held the setting trick in his still-guarded 10 of spades.
Instead, declarer led dummy's last diamond. East ruffed with the queen, and South overruffed. This play stripped West of all his cards except the 10-8-4 of trumps. So, when South led the losing 8 of clubs, West had to trump the trick. This not only cost East his club trick, it also cost West a trump trick. For at the 12th trick West had to lead from his 10-8 of trumps to Harkavy's J-9.
In making a loser disappear, the hand is sometimes surer than the eye. Figure what cards your opponent has left and don't make the mistake of playing a good card for the sake of a discard.