You can find him
at every major international championship—a short, cherubic-looking man in his
early 30s, circling the lobby of the hotel where the tournament is taking
place. He has a story to tell, a hand that came up the night before, one on
which he failed to take the right line. Modest man, especially for a bridge
If a vote were
taken to determine the most popular international bridge star, Gabriel Chagas
would probably win. Chagas has been the leading member—indeed, at times it
seems as if he has been the only member—of the Brazilian bridge team which,
while proficient enough to beat the other South American nations, has not until
recently been much of a force on the international scene.
Chagas, who is in
the import-export business and has a master's degree in actuarial math, is well
liked because of his cheery personality, his sense of humor, his lack of
pretense, his ability at a bridge table and, possibly, because he has never
been a serious threat to win, owing to the lack of other outstanding Brazilian
But at the 1976
Olympiad, held last May in Monte Carlo, Brazil suddenly became a tiger. A week
earlier it had nearly displaced Italy in the final of the Bermuda Bowl—won by
the U.S.—and in the Olympiad, a 45-nation event, the Brazilians had battled
their way up from 10th to fifth at the halfway point and, with two sessions
remaining, moved into third. The Victory Point score was: Italy, 625; Great
Britain, 615; Brazil, 614. With 40 points still to be contested, 20 in each
session, Brazil's chances to win seemed better than they actually were. Italy
appeared certain to beat the Dutch Antilles, destined to finish 40th, 20-0, and
its final match was with Greece, a middling team. Brazil's next opponent was
Indonesia, with the feared Manoppo brothers, and then Canada, both fighting for
a spot in the top 10.
No wonder then
that the Brazilians were downhearted when they went to dinner the night before
their match with Indonesia. As team leader, Chagas had a job to do. "All
the contenders are nervous," he told his teammates. "I promise you if
we score our 40 points tomorrow we'll be Olympiad champions." (As he
afterward confessed, "All the players were convinced. Except
Italy blitzed the
Dutch Antilles as expected, but Brazil beat Indonesia to overtake Great
Britain. In the last round Brazil blitzed Canada—and Greece upset Italy 17-3.
Chagas proved a true prophet. Brazil won the title by six Victory Points.
How good a player
is Chagas? Judge for yourself from this hand that earned him a citation for the
most brilliant play of the 720 deals of the Olympiad. Chagas was West, trying
to defeat Turkey's one no-trump contract, obviously an impossible task. All
South needed was to get to his hand once and take a winning diamond finesse.
But South never got the lead.
On the opening
lead of the king of spades, East played the 10, denying the jack but indicating
his length in the suit. So, as part of his plan to keep the lead in dummy,
Chagas next led a low spade.
Dummy's queen won,
and the jack of clubs was led. Chagas dropped the 10! This gave declarer the
idea that he might win four tricks in clubs and avoid risking the diamond
finesse. He continued with dummy's 9 of clubs, and again Chagas ducked. But
when the third club was led and South played the queen, Gabriel produced the
Chagas cashed the
ace of spades and put East on lead with the 9. Dummy had to make two discards,
and declarer selected a heart and a diamond. East cashed the ace of hearts and,
although declarer could sense the handwriting on the wall, he had to keep the
queen in dummy or the next heart lead would give West two tricks in the suit.
So, when East led a second heart, Chagas completed his campaign to keep dummy
on lead by playing low. North had to lead diamonds and surrender a trick to the
queen. The king of hearts produced the setting trick.