In bridge circles—which are not exactly the same as pro football circles—you would not normally belittle a man who weighs 170 pounds. But in Boston recently, when the largest field ever to contend for the Life Masters Pair title had finished three days of play, Mike Moss, one-half of the winning pair, became known as The Shrimp.
The reason Moss suffers this nickname becomes obvious when you turn at the table to meet his partner, Paul (The Whale) Heitner (above), who proudly announced in Boston that he had trimmed down to a mere 430 pounds. Not since P. Hal Sims, who weighed only 300 pounds when he and Waldemar von Zedtwitz beat out the Ely Culbertsons in the first Life Masters in 1930, has bridge had a champion of such stature. Heitner, a computer expert from Trumbull, Conn., and Moss, a New York investment counselor, edged Jim Mathis and Bob Freedman of Buffalo for the title, 1,208� to 1,191. One of the deals that led to this victory also illustrates why I have never been persuaded of the value of weak overcalls.
The Heitner-Moss partnership entailed a compromise of divergent methods, glued together in a one hour pool-side discussion only a couple of days before the event. Heitner is an original devotee of Animal Acol, so titled from the nicknames of its proponents—The Snail, The Seal, etc. It is an adaptation of a British system making use of featherweight opening bids plus early entry into the auction. Moss is a Roth-Stone conservative. Obviously the pair found a sound middle ground, which included the forcing artificial opening bid of two clubs—showing a whale of a hand—with which Heitner began the auction shown.
Since North had passed, South knew that the opponents must have at least a game, if not a slam. Nevertheless, his vulnerable two-spade overcall was an extremely risky proposition.
If Heitner had held a strong one-or two-suited hand, he would have rebid a suit, so his actual double was for penalty, not takeout. Accordingly, Moss passed, and he and Heitner then carefully cashed their top cards before presenting South with a chance to go wrong. They took their three club tricks, two diamonds and the ace of hearts before Heitner led his fourth club. Had the fourth club been led earlier, South could have saved a trick by discarding a loser rather than ruffing. South might still have saved a trick if he had guessed the exact trump situation and ruffed with the 10. Instead, he ruffed with the 8. West overruffed with the 9 and the defenders still had their two top trump tricks for a 1,100 penalty. Since none of the other East-West pairs bid and made the slam in diamonds, The Whale and The Shrimp earned top score.