As one who occasionally misplaces his engagement book, I am sometimes embarrassed to discover that I am expected to be in two places at the same time. Hitherto, this has always required apologies, but recently, when my travel aides planned two overlapping Goren bridge cruises—to the Orient and the Caribbean—they not only booked me in two places simultaneously, they actually got me to both of them! On Tuesday, January 12, I was in Hong Kong. Yet on Tuesday, January 12, I was also in California—and two hours earlier in the day, thanks to a swift Japan Air Lines jet and a west-to-east crossing of the international date line.
As a result, I had no trouble boarding the TSS Olympia in plenty of time to set out for the Caribbean with a record passenger list of 380 bridge fans. One of them was Barclay Cooke, a former Madison Square Garden sportscaster and a socialite member of the Racquet and Regency clubs. Cooke is not only one of the best backgammon players in the country but a bridge player of considerable skill. When Helen Sobel was unable to make the trip, Cooke filled in as the fourth member of my cruise team. Thanks in part to his steady play, we defeated both our international rivals—teams from Puerto Rico and the Netherlands Antilles—by substantial margins. We did well on this week's hand because Cooke made a play that gave an opponent from the Antilles a chance to go wrong.
Gerrit Groters and Hans Dijkhaut were playing North-South for the Antilles. Boris Koytchou's three-club bid on the West hand was a preemptive weak jump overcall that succeeded in stealing sufficient bidding space to land South in the wrong suit; at the other table, Harold Ogust and I played the hand in diamonds.
Koytchou continued with a second round of clubs and South ruffed, leading the queen of hearts for a finesse. Cooke—who afterward confessed to be far more nervous in the bridge match than in his customary $50 a point backgammon game—ducked the trick without a moment's hesitation. A more suspicious declarer might have taken a bit of insurance by postponing a repetition of the apparently successful heart finesse for long enough to enter dummy with a diamond and ruff a third club with the jack of hearts. He would still have a small heart for a finesse of dummy's 10, but the extra club ruff in the South hand would have averted disaster: when East gained the lead with the heart king he would not have another club to return. But apparently Cooke looked like a guileless opponent, for South omitted this precaution. He continued by leading a second heart to dummy's 10.
This time Cooke pounced on the trick and returned the suit, leaving himself with the one outstanding trump. When he ruffed the third diamond, declarer had no answer to a club continuation and so was defeated.
And a lucky thing, too. As I mentioned earlier, Harold Ogust and I played the hand in diamonds—a contract at which game was a laydown. Unfortunately, we had stopped at four and stood to lose a bundle of points if our opponents made their vulnerable game.