Five straight times the world bridge championship has been won by Italy's famed and fancy-bidding Blue Team. Now three teams, the U.S., France and Argentina, are off to St. Vincent, Italy to see if one of them cannot at long last confound the Blues and take away the title. The nine-day tournament begins on June 15, and I think the Italians are in for their sternest test yet. But who will press the favorites the hardest? Not Argentina; despite or because of the drastic change in its team this year, it has to be figured as fourth.
Baron Robert de Nexon, the nonplaying captain of the French team, has expressed great confidence, and there is quite a bit of support for his squad among overseas bridge experts. The French are led again by their experienced partnership of Pierre Ghestem and Ren� Bacherich, called "The Snails" because of their slow play, but much admired for the kind of skill displayed in this hand, played in the 1961 World Championships against Peter Leventritt and Howard Schenken, who are on the U.S. team again this year.
Ghestem elected to bid with a hand that most American players would pass, and he pressed on to game with it. Against a declarer who has bid two suits, a trump opening is often best, but in this case Leventritt's lead of the three of hearts killed a defensive trump trick and gave Ghestem his chance.
After studying the opening lead for a few minutes, as usual, Ghestem played low from dummy and took the queen with his king. Some 15 minutes later he led his low diamond. If West rose with the ace, a ruffing finesse against the king would let declarer set up a diamond trick. When West ducked, East won the jack with his king and returned the 10 of spades, covered by the jack, queen and ace. Declarer ruffed a diamond, returned to dummy via the jack of hearts and ruffed another diamond, felling West's ace. The ace of hearts drew the remaining trumps, and declarer led a low spade.
To win the trick would have left West with an impossible lead, so he ducked. Dummy's 7 won, a club was discarded on the good diamond and Ghestem cashed dummy's ace of clubs, preparing to throw West in with the club king. To let this happen would insure dummy a 10th trick with a good spade. West's only remaining hope was to dump the club king under the ace, but this desperate play established South's queen as his 10th trick. It was a magnificent performance by a partnership that will surely prove tough to face in St. Vincent.
Even with Ghestem and Bacherich, however, I can't go along with the European feeling that the French are the main threat to Italy's domination. My vote for that role goes to the U.S. 1 do not know if we can beat the Blue Team, but nobody has a better chance.