Janet de Botton

Bridge | 25 March 2023

Maybe I’m wrong but I can’t think of another sport, Mind or otherwise, where you can play against world champions as soon as you have learned the basics. The American Nationals are probably the best events for superstar watching and there are always a few players in the bar happy to chat and encourage newbies.

My first National was in New Orleans. We played the Reisinger, made the final, didn’t come last and generally felt rather pleased with ourselves. I remember asking one of America’s best what he thought was the hardest thing for most keen players. He thought about it and said: ‘It’s very difficult to switch trump suit after you have found a fit.’

In the super-strong Vanderbilt teams in New Orleans, only one pair in the field managed to find the correct slam on this deal – Levin and Weinstein of the USA.

After the same start as everyone else – Jacoby 2NT, GF with 4+ Spade support – the Americans were able to introduce and agree on another suit, Clubs. After a couple of cuebids and RKCB, Steve Weinstein was able to ask for the Queen of Clubs with 5◆, and partner Bobby showed it along with the King of Diamonds. Steve could not guarantee that grand slam was making, but he knew that, if anything, 7 Clubs rated to be better than 7 Spades because of the extra discard.

And how right he was! After a Diamond lead, he had only to ruff a Diamond in hand to have 13 tricks on top – and a huge swing for his team.

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