The Grand National, newest of the four big team contests conducted annually by the American Contract Bridge League, is unlike any of the others. It starts in grassroots competitions, which this year involved more than 5,000 teams, proceeds through district and regional playoffs and ends in an eight-team final just prior to the Summer Nationals.
There were 318 original entries in the Los Angeles district, where the 1974 winning team began its march. In fact, it was in one of the early rounds at home that Eddie Kantar, Billy Eisenberg, Paul Soloway, John Swanson, Larry Cohen and Dr. Richard Katz had their closest call, even though they were heavy favorites. From there on, however, the Los Angeles squad breezed to the title, although it never had to face the team from New York captained by Sam Stayman, which had been installed as co-favorite at the start of the quarterfinals. Stayman & Co. were routed in the semifinals by a Detroit squad captained by Stanley Smith. But when Detroit met Los Angeles in the final, it lost by such a wide margin—233-71—that the last set of boards might never have been played except for an ACBL rule disallowing forfeits. In all, the Kantar team won 16 matches, and when you are going well whatever you do seems to turn out right, as was demonstrated by this deal against Detroit.
West's bid of two clubs was a weakish request for partner to bid one of the majors. This made North's bid of two hearts a sort of cue bid even though it was based on a real suit, and South needed no further encouragement to bid his way to five clubs. Kantar's best reason for doubling instead of bidding five spades as a sacrifice was something he thought of only in the postmortem. As it was, declarer was able to ruff two spade losers in dummy, take a winning diamond finesse and concede a diamond, making one overtrick for plus 950.
Later, when the scores were being compared, Kantar grinned and asked Swanson, who played the South hand at the other table, "Did you bid the slam?" "Of course," Swanson replied, and he went on to recite the auction: