Baseball's Minnesota Twins have done much to ease the fierce sibling rivalry between residents of the Twin Cities, and now, at the Hotel Leamington in Minneapolis, a bridge team will attempt to further the cause of local unity. A strong squad of Twin City contract bridge stars, six from Minneapolis and three from St. Paul, has challenged the defending Intercity champions from Houston for the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED trophy and the title of Bridge Capital of the U.S. They will play the 80-deal match in four sessions on Thursday and Friday, July 26-27. Last fall, in the third Intercity Championship, Houston beat Los Angeles. This year Houston will seat the same squad that so surprised the favored Coast team with its fine play in 1961: Ben Fain, John Gerber, Mervin Key, G. Robert Nail, Jerome Levy and Colonel Tim Willis, bolstered by Curtis Smith of Austin and Robert Wolff of San Antonio.
Nonplaying Captain Paul Hodge of Abilene will be leading the Texans against the Twin City team of David Clarren, Newton Dockman, Irving Levin, Herschel Wolpert, Morris Freier and Norman Justice of Minneapolis and Farrell Green, Donald Horwitz and Julien Philippy of St. Paul, with Jerry Lee as nonplaying captain.
Two of the favorite Houston players at the last Intercity match were Fain and Gerber, and the chances are that they will be at least as popular with Twin City spectators. Gerber enhanced his reputation by serving as captain of our team at the World Championship earlier this year. Fain, who won the Life Masters Pair Championship playing with Paul Hodge in 1955, still plays from a wheelchair because of a broken back suffered in a freak accident three years ago.
Twin City rooters hope Fain and Gerber won't have the same kind of success against the home team in the current tournament as they had with this hand played in the 1961 event. Early in the match against Los Angeles, Houston was 24 International Match Points behind and needed a dramatic break. The Texans got it with a boldly bid slam that was made only because their opponents became tangled up in their own exotic convention.
Usually the double of a slam means that the defender who is not on lead is asking for an unusual opening—often the first suit bid by dummy. Had East-West been using this convention, a diamond opening, a spade return and another diamond lead for East to ruff would have set the contract two tricks.
But this East-West team ( Harold Guiver and Erik Paulsen) uses a slam double to tell partner only that the doubler expects to win a trick, thus warning against a sacrifice bid if the doubler's partner also has a trick. West could still have set the slam by shifting to a diamond after the spade lead held, and Paulsen afterward gallantly took the blame for not having made this shift. However, he actually continued spades. Gerber ruffed, drew the trump and easily made the rest of the tricks, picking up 13 IMPs against Los Angeles, the second biggest point swing of the match.
Too many conventions can be worse than none. When a useful convention like the slam double has one clear meaning it is hazardous to tamper with it.