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Chalk one up for youth
Charles Goren
October 06, 1969
It's so easy to start a bridge argument that I hardly need to give advice on that subject, but if you're in complete agreement with the players in your group about bidding systems—which, admittedly, seems highly improbable—you can always stir up some excitement by a discussion of the relative merits of youthful stamina and veteran judgment in tournament play. Leaving aside consideration of the Italian Blue Team members, who are something else again, you might make a good case for youth by citing Patrick Huang, star of the Chinese team that finished second to Italy in this year's World Championship in Rio. Huang is only 26, but he is a veteran of more than 10 years of international competition, having played in the Far East Championship when he was only 15.
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October 06, 1969

Chalk One Up For Youth

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It's so easy to start a bridge argument that I hardly need to give advice on that subject, but if you're in complete agreement with the players in your group about bidding systems—which, admittedly, seems highly improbable—you can always stir up some excitement by a discussion of the relative merits of youthful stamina and veteran judgment in tournament play. Leaving aside consideration of the Italian Blue Team members, who are something else again, you might make a good case for youth by citing Patrick Huang, star of the Chinese team that finished second to Italy in this year's World Championship in Rio. Huang is only 26, but he is a veteran of more than 10 years of international competition, having played in the Far East Championship when he was only 15.

Still, Huang was far from the youngest player at Rio. Indeed there were three younger players on Brazil's team of South American champions. They finished fifth and last, but not without throwing a last-minute scare into the fourth-place French. And their youngest player, Roberto Figueira Mello, an 18-year-old engineering student at Guanabara State University, did not appear the slightest bit abashed either by the company he was keeping or the fact that his youth was setting a Bermuda Bowl precedent. For a sample of his coolth, here's a deal in which he and his partner, Decio Coutinho, the oldest Brazilian at 47, were pitted against the top French stars, Henri Svarc and Jean-Michel Boulenger.

South's two no-trump overcall was a conventional bid in the Roman System, which is as natural to Brazilians as standard American is to players in this country. This particular bid showed a two-suiter in the black suits. The French proceeded to find what would have been a reasonably profitable save against four spades, but Coutinho went on to five spades because his hand was defensively hopeless and because his length in clubs would nullify much of partner's defensive strength. It was obvious that Coutinho thought he was taking a save, and it was therefore natural for Svarc to double on the strength of his trump trick.

After winning the first trick with the ace of hearts, Boulenger shifted to the king of diamonds. Declarer ruffed and promptly led the jack of spades! Svarc agonized but, fearing that his partner held the one king or ace, he played low, and the jack held the trick. Mello then cashed the ace and king, dropped the blank king of clubs by cashing his ace and wound up making a doubled overtrick. The Brazilian audience went wild at the success of their young hero's apparently impudent coup, and it did seem that Svarc had fallen into a brilliant trap.

The fact is, however, that declarer's play was his best bet to escape disaster if the black suits were not favorably divided, which was a distinct possibility. Mello wanted to leave at least one trump in dummy to take care of a second round of diamonds. He also wanted to establish dummy's 10 of spades as an entry, reserving a possible finesse for the king of clubs if that play appeared essential. True, Mello's contract could not be made if one opposing player held four trumps to the queen and the clubs were divided 2-0. But in that case the opponents could have made five diamonds, and South's objective was to avoid being set more than the value of the opponents' vulnerable game.

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