Los Angeles will present a slightly revised lineup when it defends the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED trophy and the title of Bridge Capital of the U.S. against Houston in that city Nov. 23 and 24. Ira Rubin, having returned to the east, is no longer eligible. Meyer Schleifer, with commitments which may prevent him from coming to Houston in time, has been named an alternate, along with Mike Shuman. From L.A.'s rich supply of fine players Nonplaying Captain Kelsey Petterson has added Marshall Miles and Erik Paulsen to his six repeaters: Oliver Adams, Ivan Erdos, Harold Guiver, Eddie Kantar, Lew Mathe and Morris Portugal.
No one can fault Petterson for sticking with a winning lineup, but the Los Angeles area is deep in talented reserves, including some of the country's leading women of bridge. One of these is Stella Rebner, who learned the game in Vienna.
In a recent Los Angeles tournament Mrs. Rebner and her partner, Bill Hanna (a member of L.A.'s first intercity squad), were not the only pair to bid the slam but were the only ones to make it. After the contest, when the North and South hands were shown to leading Coast experts, not one of them—tackling the hand as a problem—perceived the play that Mrs. Rebner had figured out under the more trying conditions of actual play at the table.
Most players won the trump lead with the king, crossed to dummy's ace, and were disappointed when the outstanding trumps failed to drop. They then discarded the three losing spades on the top clubs and reached the moment of decision. Some played for an even division of the clubs, planning to ruff two diamonds in dummy and discard one on the established fifth club—letting East make his high trump whenever he chose to take it. Others took the mathematically superior 50-50 chance of winning a diamond finesse. But neither play worked and both lost a diamond trick as well as a high trump.
Declarer's winning play was to enlist time on her side just in case the distribution was unfavorable. She won the first trick with her king of hearts and cashed the ace of spades before leading a heart to dummy's ace. If trumps had divided, she would have been in the same position as the less thoughtful declarers. When they didn't break, only she was able to make the contract.
The three low spades were discarded on the top clubs and a spade was ruffed. Next the diamond ace was cashed, followed by a crossruff of two diamonds in dummy and another spade to her hand. Finally, at the 12th trick, a club was led from dummy and East was couped en passant. If he trumped with the high heart, South would discard her losing diamond and win the last trick with the 9 of trumps. If East discarded his spade instead, declarer would use the 9 of hearts to win the 12th trick. Either way, her slam was sure to come home.
North and South got to their slam on good bidding that did not use a single convention, not even the comparatively simple but overworked Blackwood ace-checker. South was properly conservative when North's club rebid seemed to indicate too much duplication of values. But North correctly estimated that his singleton diamond was worth one more try and South gladly accepted the slam invitation.