Last year, for the first time since 1956 when Tobias and Jan Stone finished first and second, a husband and wife have both placed in the top 10 in the McKenney Trophy race, the annual competition for most master points. The successful pair in this case was Richard and Rhoda Walsh of Los Angeles, who finished eighth and 10th respectively. The Walshes' achievement, like the Stones', was accomplished in the first year of their marriage.
Rhoda, a lawyer, has taken only two and a half years to win more than 1,400 master points, while her husband, a stockbroker, has accumulated close to 5,000 in his 11 years of tournament play. Their success together during 1966 was due in large measure to an extremely complicated bidding system, the kind that I do not usually approve of but one which is likely to work well when two good players have frequent opportunity for discussion away from the bridge table. You do not, for example, often bid and make a grand slam with only 22 high-card points, but the Walshes did with this hand.
Preemptive bids are designed to upset the opponents' auction, but they rob you of bidding space, too. Since there are three different kinds of hands on which preemptive openings may be proper, the Walshes have put together a method of distinguishing among the three. A plain old weakish four-heart or four-spade hand is opened normally. A preemptive bid that includes a solid suit is opened with a four-club bid that demands a four-diamond response. Opener's next bid reveals his long solid suit and partner can stop or go on as his hand indicates. The third type—a hand rich in controls but not including a solid suit, such as South's in this deal—is opened with two clubs, which the Walshes use as their all-purpose forcing bid.
Most players would respond with a positive bid on a hand including two aces, but the Walshes tend to give positive responses only with strong suits, so Dick marked time with a negative two-diamond response. The jump to four hearts revealed the strong-type preemptive and North's four-spade bid was asking, accepting hearts as trumps. When South bid five spades over East's double she marked herself with a void and enabled North to bid five no trump—a grand slam force, asking partner to shoot the works if she has the two top trump honors. Partner duly "shot."
After ruffing the spade opening, South's problem was how to play the diamonds to avoid losing a trick and to minimize the danger of losing a trump trick. (In the actual hand, both hearts and diamonds broke, but I have altered the cards slightly to illustrate the percentage play.) South cashes the ace and king of diamonds and leads a low diamond at the fourth trick. If West follows, declarer must decide whether to ruff with the 8 or the queen—the 8-spot offering a slightly better mathematical chance since it works if diamonds split or if West holds the jack of hearts. With West showing out on the third round of diamonds, however, nothing can stop the grand slam unless all four missing trumps are in one hand. Rhoda easily made the slam, one that nobody else came close to bidding.