The recent Fall National contract bridge championships produced a tremendously popular victory. Let me hasten to add that I am not referring to the individuals involved, popular as they may be. I refer to the victory for the uncluttered convention card on which tournament players are required to warn their opponents of the unusual bids they use. Bridge players in general dislike playing against experts whose system is so begadgeted that their convention list reads like a Chinese menu.
Eric Murray, for example, plays what is called Colonial Acol in partnership with fellow Canadian Sammy Kehela, with whom he won the Men's Pairs. Acol—a forthright British system originated by Jack Marx and the late S. J. Simon—uses very few conventional bids that mean something other than they seem to. Colonial Acol is simply a Canadian modification of the English version.
Murray and Agnes Gordon won the Mixed Pairs title, and they were using an even simpler system. Practically the only item on the back of their scorecard was "Drury"—a convention that enables a player who has passed to check whether his partner's third- or fourth-hand major-suit opening bid was light. The passed hand bids two clubs and opener's rebid of two diamonds is artificial and warns that his hand is weakish.
B. Jay Becker, who won the Blue Ribbon Pairs with Dorothy Hayden, is even less convention-minded. He actually refuses to play Stayman! So, as it turned out, the higher they finished in the Miami Beach tournament, the fewer exotic conventions they used.
The hand at left, for example, shows the simple and direct method by which Becker and Mrs. Hayden reached a slam. South's free bid—that is, a bid immediately after an overcall that would have given partner another chance anyway—promised sufficient strength to make North sure his side could make at least five spades. The direct jump to that contract said: "Partner, I have a good hand but I have two losers in the opponents' suit; if you can take care of one of these—with the ace, the king or a singleton—go on to six spades."
Playing six spades was an absolute top on the hand. Some partnerships got to seven and lost it when the diamond finesse failed; some had to be content to take an 1,100-point penalty against a seven-heart contract doubled.
Another slam easily reached by direct action was one (right) from my own team's victory in the Open Team championship—in which, because of the illness of my usual partner, Helen Sobel, I played with Boris Koytchou and Harold Ogust. Our teammates were Howard Schenken and Peter Leventritt.
Although I had the least the law allows for my two-no-trump response, the valuable honor card holdings in my partner's suits justified the second-round jump to four hearts. This made the slam a straightforward proposition for South, because he knew the hands would fit well in the red suits.
One of the ironies of bridge is that the expert frequently beats his brains out trying to solve a problem that is simple to the kibitzer who can see three hands. With the three-three division in diamonds, 12 tricks cannot fail, but Ogust had to prepare for ill fortune.
He started off on a dummy reversal, planning to ruff three clubs in his own hand and leave dummy with the duty of drawing trumps. So, after West's trump shift, South ruffed a second club lead before leading another trump. The bad break scuttled the dummy reversal plan. After some agonizing thought, Ogust decided to test the diamonds without drawing the last trumps, so that if necessary he could trump his fourth diamond in dummy—provided, of course, the player who held the outstanding trumps had to follow to three rounds of diamonds. The diamond split revealed that all Harold's mental anguish had been needless. But winning tournaments involves lots of mental anguish—some of which pays off in victory points.