The Summer Nationals, held in Toronto, are now over, and it is a pleasure to report that for most of the 10-day tournament, the Canadians were perfect hosts. They coped efficiently with the problem of massive participation—there were 11,144 tables—listened sympathetically to complaints about the weather (it was steamy hot) and were gracious enough to lose every major event until the last one, the highly important Masters Knockout Team championship.
There were 108 teams entered, including many topnotch ones from the U.S., but in the end it was two Canadian teams that were fighting for the trophy. One was headed by Eric Murray, the other by Bruce Gowdy.
In the seventh round Murray pinned a first defeat on Gowdy by 12 International Match Points. But under the conditions of the event a team is not eliminated until it loses twice. So the Gowdy team continued on, to come up against the defending champions, led by Clifford Russell of Miami Beach, in the semifinal. This seesaw match ended (below) on a note of high excitement. With the Gowdy team ahead by 12 IMPs, Waldemar von Zedtwitz and Edith Kemp of the Russell team were still playing when it came to the last deal.
Before the hand was bid, the players waiting outside figured that the match was over. North-South for Canada had bid four hearts, making five, and that appeared to be the limit of the deal. But Von Zedtwitz, realizing he was behind, decided to shoot the works and bid six.
The spade opening gave hope to the slam when South let it ride to his hand. East won the second trump lead with the ace and returned a spade, thereby breaking what would have been an inescapable squeeze. This forced out dummy's ace and left no reentry. Declarer then tried for a pseudosqueeze, returning to his hand with a high club. But on the run of South's hearts, West, guided by his partner's discards, threw all his diamonds, keeping his high spade and his stopper in clubs. The slam went down, the Russell team went out, and the stage was set for the all-Canadian final.
Meanwhile, the Murray team had kept winning. The last U.S. victims were Danny Rotman and teammates, a midwestern outfit. But Rotman's chances exploded early on the deal shown at right.
Had East been allowed to play two diamonds, he probably would have been set two tricks. But when Murray doubled for a takeout and his partner, Sammy Kehela, removed to two spades, it looked as if the Canadians had fallen squarely into the trap baited by Rotman's pass of his partner's weak two-bid. The highly partisan audience watching the play groaned in unison—but the groans were soon to turn to cheers.
Kehela won the heart lead with dummy's ace and led a club. Charles Coon played his ace to return the diamond jack. This haste to lead diamonds helped Kehela guess that East did not have the king. Kehela ducked, and West had to play that card, captured by dummy's ace. A club to the queen was followed by the lead of the spade queen. West grabbed the ace and gave East a heart ruff—but this was one of Kehela's losers anyway. Coon returned the 10 of diamonds, covered by the queen and ruffed by West, but again this was undamaging. After that the defense was through, except for one more trump trick for West. South was able to ruff one diamond in dummy and discard another on the club king to make his contract.
Murray went on to win the match by a shattering 119-IMP margin, then proceeded to defeat Gowdy for the second time in what seemed an anticlimactic final. The margin of victory was 36 IMPs.
Murray's 11 straight wins marked the first time since 1959 that a team had gone through the event undefeated. And the all-Canadian final meant that of the 18 pairs that will compete for the three places on the 1965 North American team, no fewer than six will be Canadian. Fine hosts they turned out to be.