A few weeks ago in Venezuela's capital city of Caracas, extremists were in revolt against the government at the same time that Venezuela's bridge team was trying to upset Argentina's domination of South American contract tables. Neither rebellion was given much chance for success, but whereas the political uprising was suppressed, the bridge revolt succeeded. Venezuela topped the six-nation field with its team of E. Lloynaz, M. Gonzalez-Vale, M. Onorati, R. Stragiota, R. Rossignol and its veteran star, D. A. Berah, with R. Benaim as nonplaying captain. The upset victory may persuade Venezuela to send its team to the World Bridge Olympiad in New York next May.
Shown below is one of the deals that contributed strongly to Argentina's loss to the new champions by the decisive margin of 180-74 International Match Points.
Argentina's redoubtable Santamarina brothers put up a strong bidding barrage against their vulnerable opponents, and East's jump to five hearts was worthy of a better fate. West's opening bid had announced his hand as weak defensively; East's holding was sure to reduce the defensive value of what strength his side held in hearts. So East tried to make it more difficult for the opponents to get together in bidding the slam he suspected they could make.
Berah's five-spade overcall with the South hand is self-evidently correct. But North's decision not to bid for a slam is reminiscent of the story of the youngster reputed to be the town moron. Offered his choice between a nickel and a dime, the lad invariably took the bigger coin. One day a kindly neighbor undertook to explain to the backward fellow that the dime was worth twice as much. "I know that," admitted the supposed dimwit. "But if I took the dime, how long do you think people would keep on giving me my choice?" Rossignol strongly suspected that his side could make six spades. But he knew that if he bid it freely, the nonvulnerable opponents would sacrifice at seven hearts, and the profit might well be less than the value of a mere game. So Rossignol decided to accept the "nickel," reserving the bid for the bigger reward until, if the enemy saved at six hearts, it might appear that he was bidding six spades somewhat reluctantly.
South trumped the opening heart lead, crossed to the king of diamonds and finessed the 10 of spades. West ducked the trick so that when spades were continued dummy would not have another trump to ruff a second heart lead. But South had a six-card spade suit and was able to withstand another pump, draw trumps and make the rest of the tricks without difficulty when the queen of clubs dropped. Venezuela made six and scored 680 points. Theirs was the best result possible. Had they bid the slam, the opponents would have sacrificed at seven hearts and been set no more than three tricks, 500 points. Actually, when the Venezuela players held the East-West cards in the other room they were allowed to play at six hearts doubled, losing 300 points, so the winners gained 380 points, worth 9 IMPs.
The winning player doesn't try for the best possible result; he tries for the best result possible. Semantically, the difference may be small; in bridge it is apt to be great.