By Ken Masson


A great way for advancing bridge players to further their skills is by watching top players in the heat of battle. Since the advent of the Internet this has become easier than ever with websites such as Bridge Base Online regularly covering high-level matches showing the play as it happens and with expert commentary for the benefit of viewers.

Three times each year the American Contract Bridge League organizes North American Bridge Championships in cities across the continent. These tournaments attract some of the leading players from around the world competing in a variety of events including a grueling knockout team game that is as much a test of stamina as bridge expertise.

The illustrated deal occurred in the final round of the team game at a recent NABC. While most of the play in the final was of a high standard, the players showed that even at this lofty level, mistakes can (and do!) happen. The bidding began quite normally with North’s opening of 1 spade and South’s response of 2 diamonds which in their system was forcing to at least game.

But at this juncture the commentators could not decide what exactly 4 diamonds meant. Some thought that it was a straightforward jump raise while others felt that it was Roman Keycard Blackwood. If it was the latter, then the response of 5 NT would have shown 2 keycards (the heart ace and the diamond king) plus the diamond queen and a useful void. But whether a void in partner’s first bid suit could be considered useful is highly debatable and it is quite conceivable that at this point North and South were actually on different bidding planets!

In any event, North now threw in a bid of 6 clubs that convinced South they belonged in a grand slam so he promptly bid 7 diamonds which West just as quickly doubled. As you can see, dear reader, there was just one flaw in this contract, that being the absence of the ace of trumps.

The North-South partnership were naturally crestfallen by this result as the match had been virtually tied at this late stage of the contest and this was very likely a major swing against their side. After all, surely their counterparts at the other table would avoid the same mistakes they had made and arrive at the more sensible small slam contract in diamonds.

But as that esteemed philosopher Yogi Berra noted, it is never over till it’s over and the North-South pair at the other table actually contrived to have their own flight of fancy and actually arrived at the same 7 diamonds contract, though by a slightly different route. But either out of a misguided sense of sportsmanship, or just a feeling that it wouldn’t make any difference, West neglected to make a penalty double and saw his team take a small loss on the board!

There is hope for the rest of us if the world’s great players make mistakes that we and Great Aunt Gladys probably would get right.

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