Lille 1998: Rosenberg Wins Par Contest (Source: World Bridge Championships 1998 Bulletins)

Michael Rosenberg (USA) won the Par Contest, overtaking the leader, Cesary Balicki of Poland in the final session and holding off a strong challenge from fellow Americans Bart Bramley and Eric Rodwell. The Jean Besse Trophy was presented to Rosenberg by WBF President, José Damiani, along with the first prize of $35,000, at an awards ceremony attended by all the participants. Besse’s widow Rachel was also present at the ceremony. Awards were made to the top ten finishers by Damiani, Jaime Ortiz-Patino and Pietro Bernasconi.The other major prizes were $17,500 to second (Bramley), $10,000 to third (Rodwell) and $6,500 to fourth (Balicki). The prize fund of 100,000 Swiss francs was provided by the Jean Besse Foundation, which is chaired by Ortiz-Patino.
This was only the second par contest of the modern era. Ely Culbertson organised the first such event as long ago as 1932. Thereafter, the event was staged every year by the USA until 1941 when it was abandoned. Australian experts Michael Sullivan and Robert Williams revived the contest in 1961, but the last time it was held using traditional methods was in 1963.
The advent of the personal computer made it possible to use a new improved format, inaugurated at the 1990 World Championships in Geneva and won by Benito Garozzo. Each player sits at a personal computer terminal, provided by Compaq Computers. This allows for ideal conditions, with no outside disturbance or influence of any kind and without the need for live opponents or tournament directors. The computer displays the details of the problem. As the players type in their plays, the computer makes the defensive plays, tells the contestants when they have made an error, keeps a record of the time taken, and keeps the competitors’ score.
The 34-strong field (plus Matt Ginsberg’s GIB computer program) played 12 tough deals set by Swiss maestro, Pietro Bernasconi. In a Par Contest, declarer has to play in the theoretically correct manner – he cannot make a lucky guess to land his contract just because the cards happen to lie favourably for his chosen line.

Thanks to Pietro and his 13th Problem

Yesterday in the last Round of the Rosemblum´s Round Robin I received a special hand. Thanks to Pietro Bernasconi the hand had a happy end. Solving the 13th Par Contest problem I got hints on how to play the hand, without this help I would have never solved this particular hand. 

These were Zia Mahmood words and this is the hand: 


A 4 3
 J 7
Q 5 2

 K J 8 4 2 

K Q 5 2
 K J 6 4 3
A 9 7 6


 Q 10 7 5
6 4
 A 10 9 8 7
5 2


K J 9 8 6 2
A 10 9 8 2
Q 10

West North East South
  Rosenberg   Zia
Double Redouble 1NT 2
Pass 2 Pass 3
Pass 4 Double  The End

The lead was a little diamond, dummy played a little one and East played his 10, Zia ruffed and played the 10. West won with his A to continue with another diamond ruffed by declarer. Zia knew that the 4 missing trumps were in East hand and also knew that if he played a heart he will have to ruff a diamond return, remaining with less trumps than East.  

The solution that he found at the table was: Q, covered by dummy’s K, and ruff another diamond. Declarer decided that: to end with less trumps than East, just as in the 13th Par Contest Problem was the right track to follow. 

Afterwards he played a little heart and West with K and Q had to win the trick. But having the lead what could he play back? Zia had planned to play the 8 if West returned a club and if he returned a diamond he would ruff in dummy.In real life West returned a little heart and the J won the trick. The position was: 


 A 4 3
 J 8 4

 K 5 
 K J 
 9 7


 Q 10 7 5
 9 8


 K J 9 
 A 10 9

Zia continued playing the J, East ruffed and declarer pitched a heart. What could East do? If he played a trump, Zia wins in his hand and ruffs a heart with the A and trump finesse, plays a high trump and the the 10th trick is the A. If East returns a diamond. Zia ruffs in dummy, returns a club ruffed in his hand and ruffs a heart with the A continues with the spade finesse for his 10 tricks. In the other room the same contract went down one. GRAZIE PIETRO!!!