Early this month, in the picturesque Devonshire seaside resort of Torquay, Britain's contract bridge team withstood teams representing 15 countries to win the European Championship for the first time since 1954. In the intervening years France—who took second place in Torquay—won the title in 1955 and the World Olympiad in 1960. Italy—a scrambling fourth this year—won in four successive years, 1956-59.
Britain's triumphant sixsome—Nico Gardener, Albert Rose, Kenneth Konstam, Claude Rodrigue, Alan Truscott and Anthony Priday, with Louis Tarlo as nonplaying captain—will represent Europe in the world championship matches for the Bermuda Bowl to be played in New York City beginning February 10 next year. Do not, however, leap to the hopeful conclusion that Italy's four-time winners have thus been eliminated from that event. By winning in Buenos Aires last April, Italy gained her fourth successive Bermuda victory and automatically qualified to defend in 1962. Under the rules it was impossible for Italy to qualify another team for the February tourney; had Italy won in Torquay, the country finishing second would have sent its team to the U.S.
With France still crippled by the suspension of one international pair and the deliberate absence of another because of a current feud in French bridge politics, the powerful English team was favored in Torquay and piled up a formidable early lead. This was one of the deals that contributed heavily to its sixth-round victory over France, 107 to 79.
The bidding shown took place when the hand was played in the closed room, with Gardener and Rose playing North-South for Britain. South won the spade, knocked out the ace of diamonds and, when East returned a spade, declarer galloped off with 10 tricks—four diamonds, four clubs and two spades.
The contract was the same, but the story was different when the French stars, Pierre Ghestem and Ren� Bacherich, played the North-South hands in the Bridgerama—the room where the electric board was set up in one of 12th century Torre Abbey's outbuildings known as the Spanish Barn, because, according to legend, survivors of the ill-fated Spanish Armada of 1588 took refuge there. It was no place of refuge for the French pair, however.
Rodrigue (West), who once played international bridge for Egypt, hit upon the devastating opening lead of the heart 10, taken by East's ace. Konstam (East) returned the spade 9, which was allowed to force dummy's ace. Ghestem wisely decided to rescue as much as he could from the impending wreck and grabbed his four high clubs before leading a diamond, taken by Konstam's ace.
A spade return would have insured that the defenders won the rest. However, East returned a low heart. West won with the 8 and cashed the queen; then, fearing that East did not have a second spade, West took home his king before leading to East's jack of hearts. East cashed the fifth club to chalk up the third undertrick before conceding the last diamond. The 930 combined plus was worth 15 International Match Points and wouldn't have scored another point even if the contract had been set four.
Yes, five diamonds would have been cold. But interference bidding of the kind put up by West makes it difficult to reach the perfect contract—which helps to point up the value of the weak jump-overcall.