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Nowadays if someone aboard a cruise ship talks about the master of the bridge, he probably is not referring to the captain. So great is the popularity of shipboard contract bridge that scarcely a cruise liner sails without a bridge master to conduct lessons and organize the play. Nor is the fun confined to days at sea. Quite often, when a cruise ship anchors in a red-hot bridge port, the players on board play in a competition with the local experts, who are often internationally famous.
One of the most successful of the bridge masters is John Moran, a former member of the American International Team. On his most recent round-the-world jaunt aboard the Holland-America S.S. Rotterdam, he organized a ship-and-shore series when the ship touched Bombay. First, 24 members of the world-famous Willingdon Sports Club came aboard for an afternoon of duplicate and tea in which each played with a passenger-partner drawn by lot.
The guests included many of India's very best players, who next day turned hosts for an exhibition of golf and bridge. Johnny modestly cites a hand (below) from that match on which he was the victim of a wily defensive play by an outstanding Indian star, Y. Curmally.
Moran reports that it was very easy to get along with the Indian players. They were happy to play 15-to-17-point no trumps, nonforcing Stayman, Blackwood and strong jump overcalls. Or, as he put it, "practically straight Goren."
Hence, the bidding requires little explanation. North's two-club bid asked South for a four-card major, the two-diamond response denied one, and North had plenty of points to warrant jumping to three no trump.
Dummy's queen covered the opening lead of the spade jack, and East topped the trick with his king. East returned the 2 of spades, ducked a second time by declarer, and Curmally won and led another spade to South's ace.
Moran led the king of hearts, forcing out West's ace, and here West made a Machiavellian coup. Instead of cashing his good spade he simply exited with a heart.
Looking at the favorable location of the queen of diamonds, every reader will agree with Moran's observation that even a blind beginner would have made three no trump. But because Curmally had not played a spade, Moran was persuaded that he had no more.
"Like an idiot," wrote Moran, "I found a safety play in diamonds. I led low to dummy's ace, returned the 8, and when East failed to cover I ducked the trick to the 'safe' hand. Thus I found a way to lose to the doubleton queen of diamonds." Needless to say, Curmally now "remembered" that his 9 of spades was good.
If it is any consolation to Johnny, I can only say that no one but a good player would have fallen into this wily Indian ambush.