The Fall National contract bridge championships at Houston produced an assortment of storybook endings, but none was more dramatic than the result of the Women's Team championship. After taking the lead in the first of three sessions, the defending champion women's team had a bad second round and went into the finals in seventh place. Then Bee Schenken and Roberta Erde of New York City, Barbara Kachmar of Bronxville, N.Y. and Sally Johnson of Westport, Conn. rallied for 19 points in the last round to retain their title by a mere half point.
Earlier Dorothy Hayden, Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., and Helen Portugal, Los Angeles, took the Women's Pair title and with it won a trip to Cannes next spring, when they will play for the U.S. in the Women's Team event. Here the drama lay in the fact that these partners from opposite coasts had had little opportunity to play together since meeting for the first time as partners in the 1960 World Bridge Olympiad in Turin, Italy.
In the fiercely competitive world of top-level bridge, I found it doubly admirable that, when I asked Mrs. Portugal and Mrs. Hayden for one of their best hands, they chose one from the Team play in which the star was Mrs. Kachmar.
Looking at the combined North-South hands, the contract seemed to have a good chance if declarer could locate the queen of spades or found the king of clubs favorably placed in front of the ace-queen.
After winning the first trick with her ace of hearts, Mrs. Hayden was successful in locating the spade queen. She led a low one to dummy's jack and when this held she cashed dummy's king. West, Mrs. Kachmar, dropped the queen! This fine false-card stilled declarer's fears about a possible heart ruff. She returned to her hand with the diamond ace and ruffed a diamond. Then she led a low heart to her hand with the intention of next drawing the outstanding 9 of spades. To her dismay, however, West produced that card to ruff the heart. To her everlasting credit as a sportswoman, Dorothy Hayden didn't wait to see whether the club finesse would win or lose. Impulsively, she extended her hand in congratulation and said: "Barbara, if you win the tournament on that play you will really have deserved it."
The club finesse lost, the slam went down, Mrs. Kachmar's team won the board and, since they won the tournament by only half a point, it did mean the Team title. It is, perhaps, anticlimactic to point out that if West hadn't dropped the queen of spades, declarer would have had no choice but to establish the club suit rather than trump out her losing diamond. She would have come to her spade ace, lost a finesse of the club queen, won the diamond return, gone over to the club ace and trumped out the club jack. The heart 10 would remain as a re-entry to dummy to bring in the good clubs and the slam would have made.
When previous play has marked your hand for a known card, it is often deceptive to drop it on the next play of the suit, even though it is not necessary for you to do so. Why let the opponents know more than they already do?