Terence Reese of Great Britain is essentially a conservative person whom many people consider the best bridge player in Europe, if not the world. For years Reese played straightforward bridge; if he bid a spade, he had spades. When players from other European countries, especially Italy, began using synthetic systems, Reese protested, but his protests were ignored. Finally, in the hope that by burlesquing the complexities of such artificial systems he could have them all outlawed, Reese invented a bidding system of his own and called it the Little Major. It was all a gag at first. No bid meant what it seemed to mean. A bid of one club showed, obviously, hearts. A bid of one heart was strong, or weak. One diamond meant spades, or perhaps no trump. Reese played the Little Major with subdued cynicism until, to his amazement, he realized that he had become entranced with his own creation. He taught it to members of the British team, who used it to win the European Championship. Reese and his frequent partner, Jeremy Flint, used the Little Major to win the British Masters Pairs. And at the recent World Olympiad in New York, Reese, using his cockeyed system, helped Great Britain finish first in the 29-nation round robin and almost beat Italy, the champion, in the semifinals. Reese's system made such news that a bridge-wise waiter in a New York restaurant told one of the British players: "We have a Little Major kitchen. You order corned beef and you get pastrami."
The hand shown is from the Olympiad battle against Italy in which the Little Major both helped and hindered Great Britain.
Reese opened the bidding with one diamond, showing his spades. His partner, Boris Schapiro, raised to two diamonds, showing his suit. When Reese bid clubs, a natural bid showing real clubs, Schapiro raised Reese's spades. Well, not raised, really, since Reese had not yet bid them. Reese had merely indicated spades with his diamond bid. And this is what confused Giorgio Belladonna in the East position. When Reese bid four spades, doubled by West, Belladonna led a heart out of turn. With the help of this error and the penalty it evoked, declarer could have made his contract. Reese, one of the world's greatest playing technicians, might have brought it home. But Reese's own bidding system made him the dummy. All he could do was helplessly watch Schapiro go awry.
Barred from leading hearts, Avarelli opened the 3 of diamonds, and East's king went to declarer's ace. South led the trump 9, West covered with the queen and declarer made the good play of letting him hold the trick. West shifted to the ace and another heart. Declarer won and cashed his third heart, discarding diamonds from dummy, which was left with four trumps and four clubs. South led the trump 3, West put in the 7 and dummy won with the jack. But the club ace was ruffed by West who returned the king of spades. Defenders still had to win a trump and a club trick and the penalty was 500 points to Italy.
Schapiro could have made the contract if he had not discarded diamonds. After winning the second heart, he should have led the 3 of trumps. West does best to play the 7 and dummy wins with the jack. Declarer then returns to his hand with a diamond and plays the spade 8, covered by the 10 and ace. After that, Schapiro need lose only one more trick to the king of trumps. He and the Little Major would have picked up 10 IMPs, enough to have beaten Italy.