A King, a Shock, a World Title by Phillip Alder

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What really happened at the table? Sitting West was Eddie Kantar….

Phillip Alder
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The New York Times September 18, 2006

Read how Eddie Kantar describes what he lived in the table during the hand Click Here

In Saturday’s column, the two declarers had to play a heart suit of Q-9-5 opposite A-J-8-4-2 for no losers. When they led the five off the board, the next player put up the king. The Irish declarer decided that this was a singleton. So he won with his ace and played a heart to the nine, picking up 10-7-6-3 on his left. But the French declarer was confident that if his right-hand opponent had started with the doubleton king-ten of hearts, he would have “falsecarded” by playing the king. And knowing that doubleton king-ten was more likely than singleton king, he played a heart to dummy’s queen and went down.aaxx 1

That deal recalled another one: No. 92 from the 96-board final of the 1975 Bermuda Bowl world team championship between Italy and the United States. When this deal was played, Italy enjoyed a lead of 196 international match points to 183.

The given auction was produced by the Italians Benito Garozzo (North) and Giorgio Belladonna. The two-club opening bid was natural but limited to 15 high-card points. Two diamonds was an artificial inquiry, with two spades, three hearts and three no-trump being natural. Four clubs showed support for the six-card suit and slam interest. Then the auction went off the rails. When North jumped to seven clubs, he thought that his partner had at least six clubs to the king.

West led his lowest heart, and declarer was horrified when he saw the dummy. He ruffed the heart in hand and played a trump, West’s king appearing. If this was a true card, South had to arrange a trump coup, which required that at Trick 12 the lead be on the board, with South having the jack-nine of clubs hovering over East’s ten-seven. But with the given distribution, if at Trick 3 South cashed dummy’s club queen just to check that West had not played the king from king-doubleton, the contract would be impossible to make, because East would ruff the fourth round of spades.

To make the contract, declarer discards a diamond on the heart ace at Trick 3, ruffs a heart in his hand, takes his two top diamonds ending on the board and ruffs another heart to bring about this end position:aaxx 1

Now declarer takes three spade tricks ending in his hand and ruffs the last spade on the board with the club queen, East being forced to underruff. Then the lead of either red card effects the trump coup.

What a brilliant — if lucky — way to make a grand slam and win a world title. But now I must be honest. West actually had this hand: S 7-6-5-2; H K-4-3-2; D J-5-3; C K-10.

Then, if declarer follows the stated line of play, he goes down because East ruffs the third round of spades.

What really happened at the table? Sitting West was Eddie Kantar, a two-time Bermuda Bowl champion who is one of the greatest players of all time. He thought that the club ace was going to be on his right, in the declarer’s hand. When he saw the ace-queen appear on the table, he was shocked. Still in shock, Kantar played his club ten, not the king, when Belladonna led a low trump at Trick 2. Declarer called for dummy’s queen and cashed the ace. When the king dropped, Belladonna sat back in his chair with a big sigh of relief.

At the other table, Bobby Wolff (North) and Bob Hamman reached six no-trump by North. Arturo Franco (East) led a low club, and Wolff won an overtrick.

Plus 2,140 and minus 1,460 gave Italy 12 imps. But if seven clubs had failed, the United States would have gained 17 imps — a difference of 29 imps. And the final result was Italy 215, United States 189 — a difference of only 26 imps.

Belladonna, who died in 1995, was an extremely likable, personable man. At the final banquet he was shown a layout similar to this one and was asked what he would have done if Kantar had played the club king at Trick 2. Belladonna replied that he would still be at the table, thinking.

Read how Eddie describes what he lived in the table during the hand Click Here

Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish

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