A few months back Richard Anthony Priday lost his claim to the title of London's most eligible bridge bachelor, and shortly thereafter he and his bride, the former Jane Juan, won The Flitch. Though it sounds vaguely bizarre, The Flitch is an appropriate name for a most unusual tournament. A flitch is a side of bacon, and that was the traditional prize awarded by the town of Dunmow in West Essex to its most happily married couple. When the London Bridge Association established a bridge championship for husband-and-wife pairs, it decided to name it The Flitch.
Since they were still virtually on their honeymoon, the newlywed Pridays may have been the happiest married couple to play in this year's Flitch, but that is not necessarily the reason they won the event. The fact is that there probably has not been a more formidable husband-and-wife partnership since the days of Ely and Josephine Culbertson.
Priday, a bridge columnist for the London Sunday Telegraph, was on the British team that won the European Championship in 1961 and played in the World Championship in New York in 1962. Jane currently holds two world titles—the Women's Team Olympiad, won in New York in 1964, and the Women's World Pairs, won last spring in Amsterdam. She is also a member of the current women's European championship team.
Even before they married, Tony and Jane had developed a very successful bridge partnership. The true test of such a partnership is how it cooperates on defense. To fully appreciate what they did to the declarer in this hand, put yourself in South's seat and cover the East-West cards.
The bidding was standard. South had a 16-point, 4-3-3-3 hand; North added 12 points with the same balanced distribution. But sometimes the flat distribution that is recommended for no-trump contracts fails to produce the necessary nine tricks, even with more than the recommended 26 high-card points. Such was the case here, largely because of the excellent defense.
Jane won the first spade trick with the ace and returned the 4. Tony won this trick with the king and led a third round, East discarding the 3 of hearts. With eight tricks in top cards, declarer played a low club, planning to set up a ninth trick while trying to keep West from getting the lead. He intended to cover West's card with the 6 or 10 as necessary, but Tony foiled that by playing the jack of clubs. Declarer now had to win the trick with dummy's king. Dummy's club 10 was returned, again with the intention of ducking the trick if East covered. But Jane played the 9 of clubs under the 10, a move that seemed impossible unless she did not have the queen because, with the 10 led, covering with the queen would insure a trick for the 9-spot.
So South, sure that West held the club queen, went up with the club ace. When the queen failed to drop he fell back on the diamond finesse as his best chance for a ninth trick. But the queen captured the jack of diamonds and Tony cashed two more spade tricks to set the contract.
Now take your thumbs off the East-West hands and see for yourself the swindle that Tony and Jane perpetrated on poor South. Tony had made the fine play of the club jack, without which the contract would have been easy. And Jane had made the remarkable move of refusing to cover the 10 of clubs, having calculated that if she did so, declarer would surely make the hand. No wonder they decided on marriage.