Last month audiences gasped—some-with horror, some with sympathy—as they watched great stars, playing in a world championship, make the kind of mechanical errors that would cause the average social player to blush. For example, Italy's Giorgio Belladonna led out of the wrong hand, but, fortunately, it cost him nothing.
In another hand, Benito Garozzo revoked—with the strange result that Bobby Nail of Houston "pulled the wrong card" for a loss of 14 IMPs for North America. The deal is shown at right.
Garozzo's overcall was on the thin side, but he was not vulnerable against vulnerable opponents. When Forquet showed strength with his two-no-trump response, Garozzo decided to compete further after the opponents confessed weakness by stopping at three spades. Nail's double of four diamonds was a combination of relief at getting out of what seemed a misfit, warning to Mathe not to bid again and hope that the contract could be defeated.
Mathe covered dummy's heart queen with the king and declarer won with the ace, returning a spade. Nail put in the ace to lead a trump—the winning defense against declarer's threatened cross-ruff. Dummy's 7 held the trump lead, and when the heart 2 was led, East won with the 9 and West discarded his remaining spade. East continued with the heart jack, forcing dummy to ruff. Garozzo thought a while, then led dummy's spade queen. Mathe thought even longer and elected to play low, correctly deducing that best defense would be for West to ruff and continue trumps.
Here, after another brief huddle, Garozzo revoked. He discarded the club 5. But before West had played, Garozzo announced to the referee, Al Sobel, that he had a spade. The renounce, as this play used to be called, was corrected without penalty; South simply withdrew his club and played the spade 3. Nail now went into the grandfather of all trances, and the longer he huddled the surer we commentators became that he was about to make a mistake. We had already pointed out to spectators that Nail was about to justify his double by ruffing and continuing trumps, thus leaving only one trump in dummy to take care of two remaining hearts. Instead, after minutes that seemed like hours. Nail discarded the 4 of clubs, permitting North's spade queen to win the trick.
With a clear count on East's hand, the rest was easy for Garozzo. He let Nail win a club, won the trump return in dummy, ruffed out East's club ace and trumped a losing heart with dummy's last trump. His remaining heart went on the club king and declarer's trumps won the rest for a score of 510.
When the session was over, Nail said, "You know, it took real courage to walk through the lobby." But experts, though highly critical of even a correct play that fails to bring home a makable contract, are tolerant of errors that demonstrate the difference between a man and a machine.