You won't find his name in the reports of the World Championships, but you've got to call Eugene Schwartz of Mercer Island, Wash. an international bridge player. In any week you are likely to find him playing the game in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Manila, San Francisco, New York or various metropolises in between. Captain Schwartz has been a Northwest Orient Airlines pilot for 22 years, flying mostly the long overseas routes. That means plenty of long layovers, during which he whiles away the waiting time with a bridge game, so that the clubs in all these cities have become his homes away from home. Sometimes he's engaged in serious tournament competition; sometimes the game is catch-as-catch-can rubber bridge; in either, he is well able to give a good account of himself.
I used to meet Gene regularly at West Coast events. Last year I saw him at the Spring Nationals in Seattle, where he was a member of a team of local stars that came very close to knocking the North American International squad right out of the Vanderbilt Cup event. Naturally, we postmortemed a lot of bridge hands, but the one that interested me most was this example of jet-assisted takeoff tactics by Gene in a rubber game played in San Francisco.
I am not going to tell you that Gene had any part of his four-heart bid, but in this kind of wild game I am not entirely out of sympathy with his tactics—-soar into the wild blue yonder, let the opponents think you are trying to steal something and force them to guess instead of giving them plenty of time to exchange information. It was not inconceivable that a preemptive bid might lure West, on a different kind of hand, into raising East's spade suit instead of trying to find a minor-suit fit at the five level. However, West was well content with the suit South had suggested as trumps; his prompt double made it appear that the gamble had backfired, and Gene was getting ready to apologize to his partner when North laid down the dummy. My friend the high-flying captain saw that things might have been far worse.
He won the spade lead with the ace, crossed to dummy's ace of clubs, ruffed a diamond, trumped a spade in dummy and led a club, successfully finessing the jack. Then he cashed the king of clubs and, with six tricks already in, led a third spade, giving West a choice of three different ways to surrender. If West trumped with his king and returned a trump, dummy's jack would win and Gene would ruff a diamond. His ace and queen of hearts would bring his total to 10 tricks.
If, instead of ruffing high, West discarded a diamond, dummy's jack of hearts would capture the spade lead, Gene would ruff a diamond and West would then have to trump a spade lead and return a trump into declarer's ace-queen. Finally, if West tried to avoid the end play by ruffing the third spade lead with a low heart, dummy would over-ruff. Gene would trump a diamond and get off play with a spade. East could win this trick and return a trump. But Gene would follow with his remaining low one and West would have to win and lead into declarer's major tenace after all.
Gene's closing comment was: "When you write up that hand, Charlie, make sure you tell 'em that I don't fly the way I bid."