All right, I blew it. In spite of two sure-thing hedge bets—Canada's powerful entry in the Open and the heavily favored U.S. team in the women's event—an American team did not win the World Bridge Olympiad in Deauville last month, as predicted here. Nevertheless, I am sufficiently unchastened to hazard another long-range selection. If I had to forecast where a future world championship will be played on the other side of the globe I would guess that it will be in Australia. But before the Aussies can become hosts to the Bermuda Bowl event they will have to overcome, in addition to their zonal bridge rivals, problems of finance and geography. However, I think they may do it.
The basis of my forecast is the performance of the Aussies in the recent Olympiad, which shed a new light on Far Eastern bridge affairs. During the qualifying rounds they knocked off every leading contender except the U.S. and had a clear shot at them—a shot that missed only because a slam went wrong on the last board of their match.
The Australians have two not-so-secret weapons: the New South Wales system, played by four of their players, and Tim Seres. Of the two, I am more impressed with Seres, surely one of the world's top cardplayers. Both weapons played a part in this hand from the crucial match with the U.S. Cover the East-West cards and share Seres' problem.
The New South Wales system is an adaptation of a method that won the first world bridge championship for Austria in 1937. Seres, who comes originally from Hungary, brought the system to Australia, and it is played with great speed and accuracy by the four members of the team who live in Sydney.
One club is a general-purpose forcing bid, denying possession of any five-card suit other than clubs but not necessarily promising more than a singleton in that suit. Therefore, North's response of two clubs was not merely a raise; it showed a substantial club suit of at least five cards and a hand not far short of an opening bid. Which explains Seres' rather startling leap to six on a three-card suit. He knew the partnership assets were enough to shoot for a slam and a club contract was likely to be safer than no trump.
Slam prospects were excellent. If clubs split, it would be a laydown. But when Seres won the first trick with his ace of diamonds and played the king and another club, West showed out. East had a trump trick and the slam hinged upon winning four tricks in spades. You can take it from there. To get rid of your heart losers, your obvious chances to win four spade tricks are: take a spade finesse against East, or try to drop the jack of spades in three leads. Look at the East-West hands and you will see, as the spectators did in Deauville, that neither of these will work. Nevertheless, Seres made the slam, gliding through the play as swiftly and smoothly as his countrymen might whistle through a couple of choruses of Waltzing Matilda.
Seres took dummy's ace of clubs and played a third club, putting East in. When East returned a heart, South never even considered the possibility that this might be a foolish lead away from the king. He took the ace, led a diamond to dummy's king, cashed two more rounds of trump, discarding hearts from his hand and then led the spade 10. There was a chance that if East had the jack he might cover; anyway, declarer wanted to unblock in case he decided to take the finesse later. Now, however, he put up his ace of spades, leaving this position:
[2 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[— of Diamonds]
[2 of Clubs]