The strength of a bridge team, like that of a chain, is measured by its weakest link. American methods for selecting an international team often have been criticized because we frequently end up with a team that includes one or two players whose abilities are not up to the standards of the rest. But we are not alone. Although the French team won the 1966 European Championship handily to qualify for the World Championship in Miami Beach late this month, there have been rumors that one of its pairs may be replaced.
The French pair in jeopardy is L�on Tintner and Jacques Stetten, the oldest on the team. Their detractors in Europe suggest that they have become increasingly guilty of errors in technique. As an illustration, these critics might point to the following unusual—and to the average player, comforting—hand which occurred in the World Pairs Olympiad last year in Amsterdam. I don't think I have ever before seen an international star make as many as four errors in one hand, each of which was his failure to play the very same card. The culprit was Tintner, and by way of a partial alibi for his lapses I might note that he was playing against Italy's famed Benito Garozzo, who has hypnotized defenders before.
Though Garozzo was playing with Federico Mayer, who is one of Italy's lesser bridge lights, he nevertheless was in contention for the championship all the way. In this hand he manufactured a forcing response of two clubs with his three-card suit but, despite his 16-point holding, he made no move toward slam because his partner's failure to open with one club meant that North held fewer than 17 points. However, South's club bid served to steer West away from a club lead, which South would have liked. Instead, Tintner led a heart that did not help South a bit.
The trick was won with dummy's jack. Cashing the ace and king of diamonds assured Garozzo that the suit would break, and he next led a spade toward dummy, giving Tintner a chance to win a trick with the spade king. Tintner ducked this first of four chances to get the king of spades out of his hand, and dummy's queen won. Two high diamonds were cashed and, although Stetten had tried earlier to cue his partner by playing the jack of spades under dummy's queen, Tintner passed up a second chance to get rid of his spade king, this time on the fourth diamond. Instead, he threw a low heart.
Garozzo came to his hand with the ace of spades and Stetten completed his signal in the suit by playing the 9, but Tintner decided against dumping his spade king under the ace. South's next move was to lead up to dummy's king of clubs. Tintner ducked. Now declarer cashed two good hearts, and Tintner again maintained his allegiance to the king of spades. Perhaps he was unwilling to throw it away just because he had earlier failed to win a trick with it. At any rate, clinging to it now cost him the vital trick that allowed South to make a top score. Garozzo led his last spade and Tintner was on lead at the 11th trick with nothing left in his hand but the ace-10 of clubs. His forced club lead gave Garozzo a trick with the club queen and enabled him to make five no trump, for an excellent match-point score.