It usually takes years for a bridge tournament of less than world-championship importance to establish its stature, but The London Sunday Times International Pairs, with its invitational field limited to 14 or 15 of the best partnerships in the game, has become a prestige event since its founding only four years ago. This year's Times tournament, to which only one American was invited, Peter Pender of San Francisco, the top master-point winner of 1966, was won by Louis Tarlo and Claude Rodrigue of Britain, thanks in part to their success with the unusual hand shown here.
One reason I like this deal is that it shows once again the variety of things that can happen in the play of a big hand, even when the competitors are the very best.
Let me tell this story by eavesdropping on a luncheon conversation between Egmont von Dewitz, an esteemed player from Germany, and Herman Filarski, a Dutch writer and bridge expert who was covering the tournament. Von Dewitz was upset. While sitting South, he had played the contract at five clubs against an opening lead of the king of diamonds. He planned to make his 11 tricks with his two red aces and a complete crossruff of his nine trumps. All went well until the third round of spades, when West overruffed declarer with the club queen. Von Dewitz was able to score only eight of his nine trumps and went down one. "Did I really play it so badly?" he pleaded, seeking sympathy. Filarski took a calculated bite of lobster and deftly sidestepped the question by telling Von Dewitz what had happened when the tournament winners played the hand against the runners-up, Holland's Bob Slavenburg and Hans Kreyns, holders of the World Olympiad Pair title.
Having established the trump suit with his leap to four clubs, Kreyns dared to cue-bid his ace of hearts. Slavenburg, who never declines such invitations unless he has opened with a psychic, promptly bid the slam. Tarlo then decided to try a sacrifice, and the Dutch defenders doubled and won six tricks: heart ace, spade ruff, heart ruff, spade ruff and their two minor-suit aces. Tarlo mourned that—900 would be a bad score—which it was—but not as bad, Slavenburg reassured him, as letting the six-club contract be played. The way to make six, Slavenburg pointed out, is to establish dummy's spade suit by playing East for any two of the three missing spade honors.
Assuming the king of diamonds is led, South wins, leads a heart to the ace, plays the spade 10 and lets it ride if East does not cover. East should cover, however, and South ruffs. Next comes a trump to dummy's king. Declarer now leads the 9 of spades from dummy and ruffs out East's queen with his ace of clubs. A trump is led to dummy and, after East's last trump is drawn, a trick is conceded to the ace of spades. Slavenburg said he would do that because he is a generous fellow. Otherwise, instead of drawing a second round of trumps, he would enter dummy with a diamond ruff, ruff out East's last spade honor, reenter dummy with a second ruff to draw trumps and claim the high spades for a grand slam.
Von Dewitz said nothing when Filarski concluded his report. His lunch had been ruined.