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The man more often introduced as Dr. Zhivago than as Omar the Actor would really prefer to be introduced as Omar the Playmaker. The bridge playmaker, that is. Acting may be Omar Sharif's career, but it finances his avocation—the quixotic pilgrimage around Europe and America known as the Omar Sharif Bridge Circus.
Anyone who suspects that this might be a publicity stunt hasn't seen Omar play bridge. On the tour he scarcely mentions any of the films he has made that await release, or his new one—he will play Che Guevara—for which he is letting his hair grow wild.
How good a bridge player is Omar? He is not quite as good as the four international stars he has wisely assembled to perform as his supporting cast. Giorgio Belladonna and Benito Garozzo, who do not play as partners on Italy's world championship Blue Team, are cementing on this tour what is already the world's greatest bridge partnership. Claude Delmouly played on the 1968 French Olympiad team and on the 1960 team that won the only world championship Italy hasn't captured during the past 12 years. Leon Yallouze is a veteran Egyptian international star now residing in Paris.
But Omar is also a topflight player who has mastered the Blue Team system of bidding, and he has an unmistakable flair for play, demonstrated on numerous occasions. In Toronto, for example, Sharif was on lead against 6 diamonds with [Ace of Spades] [8 of Spades] [6 of Spades] [3 of Spades], [8 of Hearts] [7 of Hearts] [6 of Hearts] [5 of Hearts], [10 of Diamonds] [3 of Diamonds], [Queen of Clubs] [10 of Clubs] [8 of Clubs]. The opposing bidding had gone:
What would you have led? At the other table, West opened the ace of spades, and the slam rolled. Omar opened the 3 of spades! Dummy held [King of Spades] [9 of Spades] and declarer [Jack of Spades] [10 of Spades] [5 of Spades]. South guessed wrong and Omar's daring underlead of the ace defeated an "unbeatable" contract.
Against the young Dallas Aces on the deal shown opposite, he escaped a trap that might have enmeshed a declarer of lesser skill.