The strongest foreign contingent to play here in years competed in the Blue Ribbon Pairs championship in Pittsburgh last week, and some of these famous performers had a tough time of it, both in official and unofficial competition. The Blue Ribbon was won by Charles Coon and Richard Zeckhauser, two New Yorkers who are fairly well known in bridge circles. But the winners received nowhere near the attention given to such entries as Benito Garozzo and Omar Sharif, or Jeremy Flint and Peter Pender.
Flint is the newest British bridge star. Ten months ago he began a tour of the American tournament circuit and, among other achievements, earned Life Master ranking in a mere 11 weeks—an incomparable record. Fie and Pender, who is from San Francisco, made the final round of the Blue Ribbon but slipped to 18th with two poor closing sessions.
The glamour pair of Garozzo and Sharif had even worse luck. Garozzo is a strong member of Italy's World Championship team, and Sharif, who is most familiar as the star of Doctor Zhivago, is as good a bridge player as he is an actor. Garozzo and Sharif were among the first pairs eliminated in the Blue Ribbon event, so while the tournament continued they decided to have a private all-night bridge game for stakes that would suit a movie star. Here is a hand that showed the visitors at their best. Playing with Garozzo was Leon Yallouze, who was sitting in at the moment for Sharif. The East-West pair was Phil Feldesman and Ivan Erdos.
Feldesman's jump overcall was weak but it had tactical overtones. He hoped that, by crowding the bidding space, he would make the opponents blunder into a poor contract in hearts. This might have happened, since Garozzo had reasonable heart support. However, when Erdos added to the jam-up by raising to four spades, Garozzo made an unusual use of the four-no-trump bid to ask his partner to choose the suit. Yallouze picked a brand-new suit, and Garozzo decided it was probably better than hearts. It was, but Yallouze had to play masterfully to bring it home.
The spade opening gave Yallouze the chance he needed. He let it ride and won with his queen. Next came a spade to the ace and a low diamond ducked by East and won by South's king. Declarer figured that West should have six spades for his jump overcall and ruffed the third round of spades with dummy's 10. East ducked a second trump lead, and South won with the queen but discovered that he would have to cope with East's having the ace-9 of trumps.
Yallouze solved the problem with the aid of a seemingly unnecessary finesse in clubs. He led a heart to dummy's king and returned a low heart. It would do East no good to ruff, because this would take care of South's heart loser at the cost to East of a possible trump trick, so East discarded a club. South won the ace, finessed dummy's queen of clubs, cashed the ace, discarding a heart, and led a third club, which he trumped with his 2 of diamonds. Declarer was left with a losing heart and the jack-3 of diamonds. He exited with his heart, letting West win the trick. Whatever happened, South now was sure to make his 11th trick with the jack of diamonds.
It was one of the few high points for the invaders. When the game broke up at 6 a.m. the score sheet suggested that their loss in the Blue Ribbon Pairs was not the only foreign defeat of the week.