If the ladies who played for the U.S. in the World Bridge Olympiad women's event in Deauville had been playing in a pair championship, the odds would have been mighty short that one of the three pairs would win the title. Running as an entry, they would have been something like even money in a 57-pair field. No wonder most of the observers on this side of the Atlantic—and quite a few on the other side—picked the U.S. women to win the Olympiad over the 18 other teams.
But they were playing in a team championship scored by international match points and they were meeting European teams entirely familiar with IMP tactics. The Swedes, who earlier had won the European championship in Dublin, walked away with the Olympiad title. The South African ladies, who finished second, had been drilled for two months by Peter Leventritt of New York's Card School, who was brought to Johannesburg especially for that purpose. He coached them on the fundamentals of IMP play and counseled them to be aggressive in bidding games, because that is the best tactic and because most of the opponents would not put up the best defense.
Our girls do not need an apologist; they finished a creditable third. But my fellow forecasters and I do need to apologize. We should have known that the Swedes, who play IMPs all the time, are very good and that Leventritt had not gone to South Africa for a paid vacation.
Perhaps the most important hand the Swedes played was this slam against the South African runners-up. Both teams were using the Texas transfer bid by which North's four-heart bid asked South to convert to four spades. Thereafter, North found out that partner had all four aces—a five-club response to Blackwood shows either all the aces or none—and one king. This was where the Swedish and the South African North players parted company. The South African North, Petra Mansell, counted up to 13 tricks in no trump if her partner's king was in clubs or if South held four hearts to the ace, so she bid seven no trump. The Swedish North, Britt Blom, felt that there might be an extra chance of ruffing out a long diamond suit to developing a 13th trick and so she bid the grand slam in spades.
Both contracts were played by South and both West defenders chose the neutral lead of a low spade. The declarer for South Africa counted 12 tricks on top and figured that the chance of a successful finesse was just as good in diamonds as it was in clubs. She look the diamond finesse and went down one.
The Swedish declarer playing spades had an extra chance of dropping the queen of diamonds in three leads, so she drew trumps, cashed two top diamonds and then ruffed her low diamond in the North hand. When the queen did not drop she ran off two more spades, planning to take the club finesse, which would have won. But when South discarded the jack of clubs on the fourth round of spades. West feared that her partner might hold on to some useless diamonds and, in order to let her know who had the high one, she discarded the diamond queen! This was an extra chance that declarer had not counted on. It made the winning club finesse unnecessary.
It was typical of the Swedes that they took chances in the bidding and found extra chances in the play. They are worthy winners of the Olympiad.