Terence Reese, restored to good standing by the World Bridge Federation, could be playing in the World Championship again in 1970 in Stockholm. He seems about to surmount a second major hurdle in the path to that achievement by qualifying for Britain's team for the 1969 European Championship with Jeremy Flint as his partner. Flint set a record here in 1966 by becoming a Life Master of the American Contract Bridge League in less than 11 weeks of play.
Reese's comeback was more or less expected, but the British Trials did produce a real surprise: a slam deal reminiscent of one I concocted for some bridge-cruise passengers a few years ago. My idea was to run in a hand that would provide ammunition for a postgame discussion of bridge legerdemain, whereby declarer avoids one of two "sure" losing trump tricks that are held against him. Although quite a few good players come along on these cruises, I didn't really expect that many of the declarers would be up to the winning play.
I recall that one elder statesman, having reached the prescribed slam, laid down his ace of trumps, saw that the outstanding trumps were stacked against him and conceded down one, muttering, "Silly hand." But the situation, though rare, is so well known that I was astonished to learn that it ensnared two of England's top stars. Try your skill on the hand shown here.
Ralph Swimer, the nonplaying captain of the last British World Championship entry on which Reese played (in 1965), opened with an intermediate two-bid. After several rounds of bidding, he bid a grand slam, expecting to find just the right cards in North's hand. But the trump suit was inadequate. He needed an even split to bring home his grand slam, and when he won the first trick with dummy's ace of diamonds and led a trump to his hand, he disgustedly conceded, "Down two."
Jonathan Cansino, playing the hand in only a small slam, muffed a chance to make it in a play that is so standard you may already have recognized it. When Cansino led a heart to the second trick he muttered something very like the old gent did in my cruise game: "Damn silly; down one."
However, the hand isn't silly. In fact, because favorable distribution balances the evil break in trumps, declarer can make 12 tricks. Declarer's only hope is to find West with a 3-4-3-3 distribution. The winning play is to cash the club ace at trick three, lead to the club king and ruff a diamond. Next cash three top spades ending in dummy, ruff another diamond and lead to the club queen. Actually the cards need not be played in exactly this order so long as the six black winners are cashed and two diamonds are ruffed. The remaining cards are:
At the 11th trick, a trump is conceded to one of West's honors, and that disappointed player must lead away from his other honor and give South the last two tricks and the small slam. Fortunately for the honor of British bridge and for the team's chances in the next European Championship, no player went down in six hearts at any other table.