Next week, at the Shamrock Hilton in Houston, 16 pairs of experts duel for the three places on the team that will represent us in the world championship team matches to be played in New York in February. Ever since 1955, when our uninterrupted string of victories in world competition suddenly came to an end, there has been grumbling about the somewhat arbitrary method of team selection. It was determined, therefore, to hold a special competition in Houston, November 18-22.
The 16 pairs qualified by finishing first or second in one or more of the major championships staged in the past year. The list includes one Canadian, Eric R. Murray of Toronto, who played with Charles Coon of Boston on the team that won the Vanderbilt Cup tournament last spring. If Murray makes our international team, there'll be no such furor as arose when Alex Olmedo of Peru played Davis Cup tennis for the U.S., for the American Contract Bridge League's representatives play as the champions of North America.
This was one of the swing hands that helped Murray's team to victory. At the other table his teammates, Arthur Robinson and Robert Jordan of Philadelphia, were defending against the same six-heart contract. There, although it seemed from the bidding that East's double called for a diamond lead, West opened a club. Dummy ruffed and, thinking that East's double had announced a spade void, declarer tried to cash a top diamond. This attempt cost two tricks. East not only ruffed the ace of diamonds but then returned a trump, thus preventing declarer from ruffing an additional club with one of dummy's trumps. South might have held the loss to 500 points but, flustered by his miscue, he played badly and ended by going down 1,100.
Against Murray, East got the diamond opening he had hoped his double would elicit. Although this seemed to be the killing lead, it in fact helped insure the contract because Murray diagnosed the situation correctly and played a low diamond from dummy. East ruffed, and not even his trump return could succeed against Murray's perfect timing of the play. He put in an honor to win the trick in his hand, trumped a club in dummy, returned to his hand with the spade king and ruffed a second club. After cashing dummy's ace of spades, the South hand was re-entered by ruffing a third spade. Two more trump leads exhausted East, and the last trump play ruined West.
West's earlier discards had brought him down to four cards including the high spade and the queen-jack-7 of diamonds. Dummy held the ace-king-10 of diamonds and the 9 of spades. On the last trump lead, if West let go a spade, dummy's 9 would be high; if, instead of the spade, West discarded a diamond, North would win the last three tricks with the diamond ace-king-10. Making the doubled slam was worth 1,660 points which, added to the 1,100 collected at the other table, produced a swing of 23 International Match Points.
When declarer has reached a slam voluntarily, a double by the defender who is not on lead asks partner for an unusual opening and commands him not to lead the suit the doubler has bid.