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Naturals v Scientists

The Year 1992 saw disappointing finishes in the January invitation events, after which there followed the famous Naturals vs Scientists match.

As a Natural, Tony Forrester and I were allowed no conventions, other than a notrump range (we chose our normal 14-16), a take-out double, and Blackwood. No Stayman, no Transfers, no Fourth Suit Forcing, no Unassuming Cue Bid (the latter two being the biggest losses).

£50,000 was the prize for the winning team, our sponsor being Portland Club member Demetri Marchessini, who championed the Natural cause. Sad to report, the Scientists took the loot (back to their native USA). However it was generally agreed that inferior cardplay was as much to blame (for our loss) as lack of bidding methods.

West Deals
None Vul
J 10 5
K 10 8 7
K Q 8
7 5 3
7 3
J 9 2
A 10 9 2
A 10 6 4
W   E
Q 8 2
A 4 3
5 3
K Q J 9 2
A K 9 6 4
Q 6 5
J 7 6 4
West North East South
Pass Pass 2 ♣1 2 ♠
4 ♣ 4 ♠ Pass Pass
  1. 11-15 with five or usually six clubs (precision-style).


Take this missed opportunity by your author. In a shaky Four Spades, the defence began with two rounds of clubs. I ruffed, and realised that I would be fatally shortened if I drew trumps and then tried to knock out the red aces. Instead I led the jack of diamonds at Trick Two.

I was hoping to create the impression I held a doubleton diamond, and the ruse was successful. West ducked the jack, but, on winning a second diamond, failed to give his partner a ruff. Doubtless he thought that East’s count signal - indicating an even number - was based on four cards rather than two. He led a third club. I ruffed the club and led a heart. West played a deceptive jack (I would have finessed the ten), so I covered with the king, ducked by East. I now led a trump to the nine, the finesse successful, and cashed the ace of trumps.

On this trick, East, Eric Rodwell, made the fine play of dropping the queen, the card he was known to hold. Leaving the last trump outstanding, as I had to, I led a heart to the ten, which East again ducked, and a third heart to East’s ace. East continued his fine defence by leading a fourth club, on which I discarded a diamond from hand and ruffed in dummy.

In the two-card ending, dummy held the thirteenth heart and a top diamond; I held a top trump and a diamond. With the benefit of hindsight, it should have been clear to lead the last heart, playing East to have the last trump (and to have false-carded with the queen). East would ruff, whereupon I could overruff, cash the diamond, and (so I was later told) win the Brilliancy Prize for Best Played Hand.

Sadly I led the king of diamonds, and East pounced on the trick, ruffing. Down one. Truly a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

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