Opening lead: six of spades
It’s difficult to fathom some of the oddities that occur in worldchampionship play. Consider this deal from the 1966 match between Italy and North America.
At the first table, with Lew Mathe North and Bob Hamman South for North America, the bidding went as shown. Certainly the North-South hands justify bidding a grand slam in notrump, since that contract is sure to come home with a heart lead, or if the clubs are divided 3-2, or if the jack of diamonds falls as the A-K-Q are led, or by a heart finesse if that proves necessary, or, possibly, by a squeeze.
But it is much easier to proclaim the merits of seven notrump with the cards exposed than it is to bid it at the table. North’s four-club bid was Stayman, asking partner to show a fourcard major, and South’s four-diamond response denied having one. North then leaped to six notrump, knowing that the combined point count was at least 35 or 36 — a point or two short of the 37 that would make a grand slam mandatory — and that was the end of the auction.
When the deal was over and Hamman had wrapped up 13 tricks, it seemed likely that the Italian NorthSouth pair at the other table would either tie the result by also bidding six notrump or would gain 750 points by reaching seven notrump.
This was certainly a reasonable expectation, especially with the highly accurate Giorgio Belladonna and Walter Avarelli occupying the North-South seats. But when Eric Murray and Sami Kehela of Toronto held the East-West cards against them, the bidding surprisingly went:
West North East South
Pass Pass 1 ♥ (!) 3 NT
Pass Pass (!!) Pass
For details about local bridge events, go to the HK Contract Bridge Association website www.hkcba.org