For the first time in the history of the event, there are six teams representing five international zones competing for the Bermuda Bowl, symbol of the World Team Championship now getting under way in Taiwan. Also for the first time, two of these teams are ours, making North America the favorite to retain the bowl that the Dallas Aces captured last year in Stockholm after a 16-year American victory drought.
Primed by an overwhelming win in the national Vanderbilt Cup championship (SI, April 12), the Dallas team, now known formally as The Aces, is expected to put up a strong defense of its world title. Our second North American entry, a team spearheaded by seasoned Lew Mathe with experienced internationalist Lee Hazen as nonplaying captain, is considered by many to be almost as strong, despite a disappointing Vanderbilt showing.
But this is not to suggest that an American triumph on May 16, the day of the world championship finals, is a sure thing. Of the remaining four contenders, only Brazil and the host Far East team can be regarded as true long shots. Both France and Australia, the newcomer to the scene, must be conceded a chance to upset either or both American teams on a head-to-head basis.
On paper the French look very impressive, especially with the return to action of Pierre Ja�s and Roger Tr�zel, once acclaimed as Europe's most formidable pair. One might select them to take it all, except for the fact that in the past the French have frequently turned out to be no more than paper tigers.
If there is to be an upset of the Americans, I'll be a sentimentalist and suggest that the Australians are the knaves to watch in Taipei. This is the Aussies' first Bermuda Bowl try, although they have twice participated in the World Team Olympiad, the quadrennial alternate to the world championships. In fact, Australia looked like a surprise finalist in the 1968 Olympiad until the late-round illness of one of its best players, Dick Cummings, caused the team to lose its momentum.
Since then a young third pair has been added to the squad, Jim and Norma Borin, the first married couple ever to take part in the Bermuda Bowl event. (Norma becomes the third woman to play for the world title, preceded by Helen Sobel in 1937, '57 and '60 and Dorothy Hayden in 1965.) Cummings is back, along with Dennis Howard and Roelof Smilde. And finally there is Australia's best player, one to be reckoned with, Tim Seres.
Bridge experts have long been impressed by the brilliance of Seres' play. As an example, consider the deal shown below, taken from a match in which the Aussies defeated a powerful American team that toured Australia last year.
In one room Australia's North-South pair tried to make three no trump from the North hand. East opened a diamond, North took West's king with the ace, led a heart to dummy and a spade to the king and ace. East continued with another low diamond, leaving West with a third diamond to return if later he was able to win a trick. Declarer played the percentages when he came to his hand with a club and took a losing finesse to West's jack of spades, but the contract was defeated.
At the other table, Americans Robert Jordan and Arthur Robinson reached the more comfortable contract of four spades, played from the South hand. Jordan, the declarer, won the heart lead, played a spade to the king, taken by East's ace and won the heart return. He crossed to dummy's club ace in order to take the same losing spade finesse, but when Seres, who was sitting West, won with his jack, he was hard put to find an effective lead from this position: