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Following their fine performance in last June's World Bridge Olympiad (SI, Aug. 5), the Australians won the Far Eastern Bridge Championship played in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last month. In spite of that victory there is considerable doubt that Australia will be representing the Far East when the 1969 World Bridge Team Championship begins in Rio de Janeiro in May.
The question of the Aussies' appearance in South America comes down to a matter of money. Last time the Bermuda Bowl event was played in South America it cost the American Contract Bridge League $10,000 to send six players, a non-playing captain and a coach to Buenos Aires—and this did not include the tab for bringing the players together for several practice events before they left. However, the league expects to raise $14,000 or more from a single continent-wide event that was played in some 200 North American cities on Jan. 27, a contest in which any bridge player could take part. But no other national bridge organization can tap any comparable source of funds.
Australia, for example, has only 2,000 members in its bridge association. As a result—and this has been especially true in the Far East—teams must often be chosen to include players who can pay their own way. In some cases they must bear the costs for the entire squad. Thus only two members of the Australian Olympiad team, Tim Seres and Roelof Smilde, were on hand for the event in Kuala Lumpur. Going into the final rounds, they were in third place, and they knew that to keep alive any chance for the title they would have to knock off first-place Taiwan. So Smilde was making an all-or-nothing try when he and Seres lined up against K.R. Cheng and H.T. Lin on this hand.
Not many players would have chosen Smilde's daring three no-trump bid. Yet all South needed, assuming that West would not open clubs, was to find North with a bit of strength in whichever suit West did lead. The queen of spades was the only card of value in North's hand, but it was enough—not that declarer ever made a trick with it.
Smilde won the opening spade lead with his king, but because he had only two spades in his hand, he could not make direct use of dummy's queen. Nevertheless, the opponents could not avoid giving him his ninth trick. After winning the spade king, he knocked out East's ace of diamonds, won the club return and ran five diamond tricks. South then got out with his last spade, West did not have a club to lead and his heart return established South's king for the game-going trick.
When the hand was played at the other table the Chinese South wound up in two no trump, also making three. The net difference of 450 points was worth 10 IMPs to the Australians, who went on to win the match by a handy margin. This triumph later proved essential, as the Aussies nosed out the Chinese by only a fraction of a point in the final standings.
It will be too bad if Australia does not get to play in Rio. But, as Tim Seres himself pointed out, if the choice passes to Taiwan, whose team includes star members of the Olympiad squad that played in New York in 1964, the Chinese will be formidable contenders.