There was one interesting question to be considered in Boston last week in the Spingold Knockout Team Championship: How good are the world champion Dallas Aces? True, the Aces had won the world title at Stockholm in June easily, but the competition, said detractors, was lackluster. Were the Aces really worthy champions? Well, the Aces did not win the Spingold, but by getting to the finals after beating some of the top bridge teams in the country, they demonstrated again that they are certainly among the best in the world.
Strangely enough, the finals of the Spingold turned out to be almost a replay of Stockholm, for once again the Aces found themselves up against the Chinese system—that is, the Precision Club created by C. C. Wei, an oil tanker magnate whose ideas and training methods brought lightly held Chinese teams to the world championship runner-up spot the last two years. This time, though, the Precision Club was wielded with surprising effectiveness by a young American team made up of Steve Altman, Joel Stuart and Peter Weichsel of New York City, Tom Smith of Greenwich, Conn. and Dave Strasberg of Rockville Centre, N.Y., which defeated the Aces by 59 international match points.
In the finals the Precision Club had to beat off the Orange Club, an adaptation of various Italian systems that is used by Jim Jacoby and Bobby Wolff. The Wei bidding method is a more natural system by standard American concepts—once you pass the foundation stone of an artificial one-club opening on a minimum of 16 high-card points and a one-diamond response with fewer than eight. But on this key hand both systems led to an unmakable three-no-trump contract, and it was left to the individual brilliance of Peter Weichsel, who played impressively throughout, to provide the big difference in the result.
In the other room the same contract was reached by the Precision team after South opened with a weak one no trump (13 to 15 points), and declarer went down one rather gracefully following a club opening lead and a diamond shift.
But when Weichsel held the West hand things went somewhat differently. He too led a club, but when Smith won the king and returned a club, the queen losing to Weichsel's ace, the defense was in a precarious position. Weichsel recognized the danger of leaving the queen of hearts as a potential entry to the spade suit, and made a fine shift to a low heart, even though this meant violation of the bridge commandment "never lead away from a king." Without the heart shift, Jacoby would have had time to knock out the ace of spades and later get to dummy with the heart queen to make his contract. All the defenders would get would be a heart, a spade and two clubs.
After the heart shift, however, Jacoby had no chance. As it turned out, he would have fared a bit better if he had guessed to put up dummy's queen, but instead he played dummy's 10 and East's jack forced the ace. Jacoby then led the spade 10 and overtook with dummy's jack, hoping to induce East to win the trick, but allowing for the chance to take the diamond finesse if East ducked, which he did. But the diamond finesse lost and Weichsel got out with a spade to East's ace. East returned a diamond and South led a low heart. Weichsel took his king and got out with a diamond. Declarer cashed his heart 9 and led his last heart, hoping to end play West in clubs. But East won the trick with the 7 and cashed two good diamonds to set the contract four tricks for a net gain of 300 points. This was worth seven IMPs as compared to a possible loss of 12 if Weichsel had not shifted to hearts.