Hall of fame

The Bridge Hall of Fame was started by the Bridge World magazine in 1964. The founding members were Ely Culbertson and Charles Goren (the only two bridge authorities to be totally dominant in their times) and Harold Stirling Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt, who died in 1970, was the inventor of the modern game of bridge. Known to friends and family as Mike, he was the great-grandson of the shipping and railway tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. He invented contract bridge in 1925, but it was as a yachtsman that he hit the cover of Time in 1930 when he won the America’s Cup. He repeated this success in 1934 and then, in 1937, with his wife as the first female fully-fledged member of an America’s Cup team. (The two of them were posthumously elected to the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in 1993.)

Additions to the Bridge Hall of Fame in 1965 included Oswald Jacoby (of Jacoby 2NT and Jacoby Transfers fame) and Milton Work (inventor of the Milton Work count, more commonly known as High Card Points). Then the magazine discontinued its work on the hall, and no members were added until the American Contract Bridge League re-established the program in 1995. Additional members have been added each year since then.

One addition was Paul Soloway, considered by some experts as a candidate for the world’s best bridge player, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002. Soloway won five World Championships, with four different partners.

Bob Hamman (inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999) has commonly been called the world’s best bridge player, but it was his partner Soloway who had to help the defence onto the right track on the following hand:

          NORTH
          S 98
          H 2
          D AKQJ84
          C JT84
Hamman              Soloway
WEST                EAST
S A                 S 642
H QT863             H KJ9754
D T973              D 52
C AQ9               C K2
          SOUTH
          S KQJT753
          H A
          D 6
          C 7653

Lew Stansby, sitting South, opened 4S at favourable vulnerability. This game-level pre-empt is correct with this sort of hand - although there are only seven spades, they are good ones, and in a 7-4 shape.

West, Hamman, chose to lead a heart. Declarer had four losers off the top – three clubs and a spade – so after winning the heart lead he immediately played diamonds for some quick club discards. However Soloway ruffed the third round of diamonds, forcing declarer to over-ruff.

Next, Stansby led a low spade from the South hand, won perforce by West’s ace. Up to this point, the play at the other table which was part of this teams match had been substantially the same. At this point though, the West player at the other table exited fatally with a diamond. This compelled East to ruff, allowing declarer to over-ruff then lead a low spade to get to dummy, after which the two last diamonds could be cashed for club discards and the contract.

When in with the SA, Hamman did better, foreseeing the need for a club switch. If he plays partner for the CK, and accordingly leads a low club away from his ace, the defence is able to take three quick club tricks. However, Hamman instead led the CA.

This appears to block the suit – if the CA wins, and then the next trick is won by East’s CK, after that East will tragically have no other club to lead and declarer again prevails. Soloway, however, rose to the occasion.

He could see that three quick tricks were needed from the club suit – there were no tricks to be had anywhere else – and that the actual layout of the suit was the one he required. Under partner’s CA, he played the CK! This allowed Hamman to continue with the CQ, and then a third round of the suit for Soloway to ruff, thereby finding an alternative way to score that extra trick to defeat declarer’s game.

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